Robert Galbraith’s debut novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, is among my favorite books of 2016. The Cuckoo’s Calling is a detective novel; it isn’t a thriller, so it doesn’t rely on scare tactics to advance the plot. Galbraith builds suspense instead of fear, creating compelling characters and intriguing clues. Galbraith’s masterful plot and character development is the most sophisticated I have ever seen in a detective novel.
Lula Landry is a supermodel with a troubled past. Her diagnosed mental health issues and drug-addicted boyfriend lead the police to believe that her fall from the balcony of her luxurious flat was a suicide. Several months after the case is closed, the model’s brother shows up at the office of private detective Cormoran Strike, hoping he will investigate what he suspects was his sister’s murder. Strike, the illegitimate son of a rock star and a war veteran with an amputated leg, agrees to investigate Landry’s death. He is aided by temp-turned-secretary Robin, a newly engaged blonde who has always harbored a secret wish to play detective.
The Cuckoo’s Calling takes place in London, England, which makes the novel especially exciting for an American like me. Given Lula Landry’s occupation, the novel is set against a backdrop of glamour. Strike interviews a number of eclectic characters: Guy Somé, the fashion designer who made Landry’s career; Ciara Porter, Lula’s friend and fellow model; Freddie Bestigui, the film producer who is anxious to fit any celebrity he can into his movies; Tony Landry, Lula’s uncle and successful lawyer at a prestigious firm.
Who is Robert Galbraith? The name Robert Galbraith is actually a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. Need I say more? While I never read her mystery novel The Casual Vacancy, because I wasn’t ready for a non-Potter novel by Rowling, I leapt at the chance to read the Galbraith book. Somehow, the Galbraith persona made the book seem more attractive. The Cuckoo’s Calling features many of Rowling’s talents, particularly her unique turn of phrase and her ability to craft lovable (or hate-able) characters. As soon as I finished The Cuckoo’s Calling, I rushed out to find a copy of the next book in the series, The Silkworm. This book is brilliant, and easily one of my favorite books of 2016.