The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Cuckoos Calling, Galbraith, book review Everyone knows that Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym used by J.K. Rowling in her recent venture into crime fiction.

I picked up her latest book, The Cuckoo’s Calling in my local library with some trepidation. Would I like it?

I’m not going to summarise the plot and spoil the book for anyone who has not yet read it, but I will pick out the things I liked and those I wasn’t so keen on.

What I liked about the book.

What really stood out was the excellent characters and fantastic dialogue.

The private detective, Cormoran Strike, has a wonderful name and is a compellingly interesting character with a great back story. I loved him and I am pleased that this is only the first in a planned series.

His sidekick and temporary secretary, Robin Ellacott, is likeable and easy to identify with as a reader. Interestingly, the first chapter opens from Robin’s point of view, establishing her as a primary character in the novel.

All the other characters, from the murder victim down to the minor witnesses, are real and three-dimensional. The dialogue sounded authentic, with a real sense of personality behind each line of speech.

What I didn’t like.

In a funny way, I thought that JK Rowling was trying too hard to sound ‘adult’ in her writing. I could have done without the Latin quotations that open each section, which seemed rather pretentious in what is a straightforward crime novel. In places the writing felt dense and the sentences were convoluted, particularly near the beginning, but the writing seemed to relax as the book progressed and she got into her stride.

There is a section where phonetic dialogue is used extensively. I found this intrusive and irritating. Just enough to give us a taste of a sarf larndon accent was all we needed.

But my main quibble with the book is this (and others may disagree): I found the ending too contrived. I don’t want to give it away but, safe to say, in any crime novel the eventual murderer is never one of the usual suspects. And although the motive and means were plausible, they were not very plausible in my view. In fact, I found the final reveal to be rather improbable.

I will, however, be looking forward to reading the next one in the series. The Silkworm is out in June 2014.

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