Thursday, September 25, 2014

'The Cuckoo's Calling'

Years ago, when I was working at our local B. Dalton bookstore, young kids would come in and ask me if we had something called Harry Potter.

Then I asked myself, "Who in the hell is Harry Potter?  And why is he so popular?"  So, I went to the kid's fiction section, found a book entitled, 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone', and checked it out.

I was up until 3 a.m.  I couldn't put it down.  "Damn!" I said aloud.  "Why can't I write this well?"  Not only was the story so intriguing, the magic so fun, but the characters were very, very memorable. And that was the beginning of my love for Harry Potter, an experience that brought me back to children's fiction, which lead to my passion for Young Adult fantasy novels.  

J.K. Rowling is a gifted writer, no doubt about it, but I wondered if she would be able to veer off the fantasy course and write something for adults.  When I heard that she had finally written such a novel in 2012, I found a copy of 'A Casual Vacancy'...and was bored bored bored.

Did I mention I was bored with it?

But I didn't give up on her.  Like I said, she's gifted, and I know she had something in the works (although I was really really hoping it would be another Harry Potter book.  The hope is still alive).

And voila!  'The Cuckoo's Calling' (written under the pseudonym 'Robert Galbraith') arrived in 2013.  I couldn't put it down.

It begins with the death of a world-famous model.  When she falls to her death from the balcony of her London home, most people think she committed suicide.  But her brother, John, doubts the stories and hires private detective Cormoran Strike to investigate.

Strike is a war veteran who is wounded physically and psychologically.  Dumped by his fiancee and forced to live in his office, he thinks his life can't get any worse.  But he soon finds that his temporary secretary, Robin, is his lifeline.  Together, they find that the suspects' alibis aren't what they seem as they dig deeper...and closer to danger.

'The Cuckoo's Calling' is a great mystery; full of suspense and Rowling's trademark twists-and-turns, and even a touch of humor.  But underneath it all is a great character study of a man in despair.  A man who is aware of people's shortcomings (especially his fiancee) and isn't afraid to admit that he was still pulled in.  Yes, Cormoran Strike is brilliant and memorable, indeed, yet Robin, his secretary, is a character who will stay with you, too. Young, pretty, and recently engaged to a man who doesn't want her to work in such a dangerous profession, she has a clever mind and contributes a great deal to the investigation. They really make a good team.

So, although she didn't give us another Harry Potter book, and although she didn't return us to a fantasy world, Jo Rowling brought us a story that will gain her a new fan base.

The one-and-only J. K. Rowling
As for me, I'm eagerly waiting to read 'The Silkworm', number two in the series.

Thanks, Jo.  I knew you couldn't stay away.

'The Cuckoo's Calling' by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), is available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore. 'The Silkworm', volume two of the Cormoran Strike series, was published in 2014.

No comments: