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We all know by now that Robert Galbraith is the queen herself, J.K. Rowling. Fans are celebrating, but post-unveiling we are now left wondering – is the book any good?

The story is a straight up detective novel, in the English crime tradition. We open the narrative following the death of supermodel Lula Landry, whose apparent suicide has the press in a frenzy. Three months later, private detective Cormoran Strike is asked to investigate if, in fact, Landry was pushed.

Together with his new secretary, Robin, Strike navigates the murky waters of celebrity culture, attempting to put Lula Landry to rest, once and for all.

Potter fans be warned (as if The Casual Vacancy didn’t tip you off by now), The Cuckoo’s Calling is the next step in Rowling’s clear decision to try things overtly different from The Boy Who Lived.

That said, even given the cloak-and-dagger nature of The Cuckoo’s Calling, Potter fans are likely to find more they recognise in this secret side project than they did in The Casual Vacancy.

Within the writing, there are bursts of recognition, like flashes of a distant memory. There is a familiar focus on names (bird names take centre stage in this novel), and you can be sure that the most die-hard of fans will already be checking their various meanings and connotations.

The physical descriptions are like the wave of a friend, reminding you of Rowling’s immense skill in bringing a character to life with a few swift strokes of her pen.

There are also some characteristics that we wish Rowling had left behind in her Potter days, such as the pages and pages in which she dumps (admitedly necessary) information on the reader. These have certainly developed from the Harry/Dumbledore conversations in which an entire book would be summarised, but are still offputting in their frequency.

Of course, this kind of information dump is a mainstay in the crime genre, and the question and answer style implemented in The Cuckoo’s Calling reads a lot more authentically than some of the occasions when these occurred in Potter.

As the two main characters, Cormoran Strike and Robin (both bird-related names, for those keeping score) leave a lot of room for development. In The Cuckoo’s Calling there is something vaguely unsatisfying about the large, burly detective and his attractive, plucky sidekick.

You finish the novel hoping that there is more to come for these two characters because their own stereotypical nature is only heightened by the range of brilliantly drawn bit-players surrounding them. Rowling can do better than this trope, and if a series follows as planned, we hope that she does.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is an enjoyable, entertaining read. You read it with the certainty that all loose ends in the Lula Landry case will be resolved by the final page, as part of the contract between a detective novel writer and a reader.

Rowling follows the crime conventions to a T, and the structure she implements doesn’t impede her story in any way. The side characters, in particular, are well drawn and diverse. There is enough suspense to keep you turning the pages.

The detective genre really does allow Rowling to flex the muscles she did not always have occasion to use in Potter, as she addresses more ‘adult’ scenarios, and twists the plot in whatever direction she fancies.

Yet for all that, there is the unsettling feeling that Rowling is doing nothing here that hasn’t been done before by generations of writers. There is nothing in particular about The Cuckoo’s Calling that makes it stand out from the shelves of preexisting crime novels.

Had Robert Galbraith never have been unmasked, he could have gone on to publish many best-sellers without anyone really caring who he was. There is something comforting in the structured formula Rowling makes use of, but there is nothing ground-breaking in it.

With the hindsight that Rowling authored it, you can see the hallmarks of her writing, but without her name having been attached to the novel, it is most likely that you would have read the book with enjoyment, and not thought a lot about it after you finished it.

Grade: B+

  • laura

    sounds solid to me i am excited to get my copy

  • Adara

    I don’t think she should be expected to be ‘ground breaking’ with every book she puts out. Potter is a gem, she can’t really be held to that as an expectation to live up to/surpass. I’m incredibly excited to read The Cuckoo’s Calling.

    • http://tyrionical.tumblr.com/ Kyle

      I believe Marama’s point is that for those readers who *are* expecting something as groundbreaking or amazing as Harry Potter, they will be disappointed.

      The Cuckoo’s Calling is definitely a good read, but not something that I would ever mention in a “what’re your favorite books” conversation.

      • Mrs_Badcrumble

        But people have to be realistic. Jo is experimenting in very different genres, and it’s obvious that some people don’t like those kind of books. Not because they are badly written, just because it’s not their thing. Some people have to stop expecting every single book that she writes to be their favorite book ever. Or to expect them tom have any relation to Potter.

        “The Casual Vacancy” is a great book, but if people go read it because it’s a J.K Rowling book and they loved Potter, they will probably be disappointed, and the same will happen with all her future books.

  • Guest

    I’m going to be 15 in a couple of months and for anyone who has already read the book, could tell me if it’s extremely inappropriate or anything. Thanks :)

    I don’t think JK Rowling will ever write a book that will be as widely successful has Potter and I think everyone who’s already a fan expects too much for any of her other novels. Unfortunately, we can’t ourselves to judge or compare.

    • Stagegirl12

      This one is not inappropriate. You should be good at 15.

    • Janna

      As a 16 yr old, I would sat there are some moments that might be uncomfortable, but I thought it was good and nothing really inappropriate.

  • http://daydreamsandwhispers.tumblr.com/ Hermione Granger

    Interesting that you thought the conversations between Harry and Dumbledore were tedious or boring or whatever…those were one of my absolute favorite parts of the books and one of the things I missed most from the movies. I’m looking forward to reading this book! :)

  • Alex

    While the grade is fair. I can’t help but wonder If it would have been a different grade if marama/the hypable stuff didn’t knew it was a book by Jk rowling and had gone in to make a review by a new author named robert Galbraith- the same way you been reviewing all these new authors popping up. (emily Gale, Jennifer Kloester,etc,etc)

  • Laura Jurgensmeyer

    I do wish this was the type of book Hypable would have reviewed before knowing it was JK Rowling, just to see the difference. I have enjoyed reading reviews from others before they knew. However, this is a great review and pretty acurrately describes what I’m feeling so far while reading it! I can’t wait to finish.

    I also wish I had the UK cover. I like it better than US cover.

    • Daughter of Eve

      same here. My upbringing consisted of British books so I find North American versions (since I’m now living in Canada) to be disappointing and just different because I can always tell the difference.

    • Stephanie Boyd

      I ordered the UK version from http://www.abebooks.com & had it shipped to me. Was a bit of a wait for it to arrive, but I already had the ebook on my nook. I loved the UK cover & was happy to be able to get the UK edition without JKR’s name listed.

  • Ray

    What was the scientific name of this “strike” bird species? I have found northern shrikes (subtle by major difference).

    • Meowmeow

      I was thinking the same thing. I’ve never heard of a strike, and it almost sounds too convenient to be true. You’d think a simple google search would find something about it.

    • Adrienne Brintnall

      I couldn’t find one either, but I did find out that a ‘bird strike’ “is a collision between an airborne animal (usually a bird or bat[1]) and a human-made vehicle, especially aircraft”, which could be an allusion to Stirke’s military injury.

      Definition compliments of Wikipedia.

    • Monica

      I’ve never heard of a strike bird, but a Cormorant is a type of water bird, and Strike’s first name is Cormoran which is quite similar!

  • Darklord

    I believe it’s a wonderful read. The twists are there, the characters are fully developed and in the end everything made sense. Also, it is a great beginning for a crime series.

    Finally, we loved Harry Potter but it was a different genre designed for a different age group so it’s unfair to compare it with her new books.

  • http://willywonka-andthe-gingerfactory.tumblr.com/ John B. McLean

    I can honestly say that I am no longer excited to read Rowling’s work because of the Potter series. After The Casual Vacancy I truly became a fan of J.K Rowling as an author and was stoked to find out she had a book under a pen name. I was also excited to see that it was a murder mystery because she has long talked about it and I’ve long been waiting for it. I cannot wait for the book to come into the mail and am excited to fall in love with this new series.

    • Alex

      ??? wait what- are you excited or no longer excited.
      your statement is kind of confusing– typo perhaps?

      • http://willywonka-andthe-gingerfactory.tumblr.com/ John B. McLean

        What I was trying to say was that I am beyond excited to read this novel because of JK Rowling’s literary talents that she presented in The Casual Vacancy as opposed to only wanting to read this book because she wrote Harry Potter. I love Harry Potter as much as the next guy but that series was for children and you could tell in the writing. Thankfully though Rowling was able to prove that she has a true talent in the masterpiece she was able to create in the Casual Vacancy.

        • Tomas

          Harry Potter was not for children. It were books that could be read by children and adults, the writing in HP was great.

          • http://willywonka-andthe-gingerfactory.tumblr.com/ John B. McLean

            Harry Potter was a fantasy series that was written at a level with the target audience being 8-12. The stories are and will forever be brilliant, however the writing was wasn’t anything special. Take for instance the poor editing of book five, half the book is on caps lock and most of it could have been cut down. J.K Rowling has proven herself as an author with true literary talent and will now be able to contend with many of todays finest novelists.

          • May

            So her writing wasn’t anything special, but she is an author with true literary talent???

          • fawks

            this doesn’t make any sense.

          • http://willywonka-andthe-gingerfactory.tumblr.com/ John B. McLean

            What I was saying was that Harry Potter didn’t show her talents as a novelist. They just proved that she was a women with a cool idea that sold a lot of books, when she wrote The Casual Vacancy she proved that she had a true voice in the literary world and that she deserved respect that is given to every other established author out there. With these two new publications (Vacancy, and Cuckoos) she has made it clear that she is a force and a talent to be reckoned with.

          • Tomas

            That’s not true AT ALL. She proved in the Harry Potter novels that she was an amazing author.

          • Mark Robinson

            I agree with Tomas, the characterization, humor, and other elements in HP show that she was a very good to great author. I believe great literature can be and is written for children, and that’s why many adults enjoy children’s and young adult fiction. Another advantage of children’s literature is you don’t have to put up with some of the ‘adult’ themes and issues that you find in other literature. After reading a summary of several professional reviews, I’m probably going to skip The Casual Vacancy, even though I have it already checked out from the library. I did read The Cuckoo’s Calling, and enjoyed it, although not as much as HP.

          • Lindsey

            It was a childrens book though. It was always found in the childrens section and she was called a children’s book author. Children’s books can be enjoyed by adults. I don’t know why fans are so sensitive about that.

          • http://willywonka-andthe-gingerfactory.tumblr.com/ John B. McLean

            THANK YOU! They are books for kids! That’s the bottom line, yes people of all ages enjoy them but it doesn’t change the facts!

          • http://willywonka-andthe-gingerfactory.tumblr.com/ John B. McLean

            There was a reason The Casual Vacancy was her first novel for adults. Thats because the seven books she wrote before it had been for CHILDREN!

    • Mrs_Badcrumble

      I understand what you’re saying.

      No one knew if J.K. Rowling was a “one trick pony” – a lucky (albeit talented) woman with a great idea, or if she could write outside the fantasy realm, and “The Casual Vacancy” proved that she could, and really well! I liked her writing and characters, and appreciated the real nature of the troubled relationships between characters. I could also see where the story came from – Jo’s difficult life period before her success and all the issues she faced with Government subventions, all the preconceptions that come with it, difference of classes…

      She is not “only” the writer of the amazing Potter series, but a versatile, talented Writer that can work outside YA / fantasy fiction.

  • guest02

    It’s a crime novel so it’s not revolutionary but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s amazing how there are cliche elements but it’s still suspenseful and at times, edge on your seat/turn paging engagement. It’s pretty much a who dun’ it and so obviously one of the characters introduced must be the killer. I did consider what I guess is the twist at the end of the novel before it happened but she still makes you believe one after the other the next suspect is actually the killer. I feel it drags a little around when he receives the file and there moments where information is repeated (but from different sources) but it’s necessary to decipher who is ribbing and telling the truth. I do look forward to reading any sequels. So for jks been consistent with these new novels so I will follow whatever she writes even after hp!

  • Jack Bailey

    I don’t think Strike is a bird. Cormoran is the name of a Cornish giant in the ‘jack the giant slayer’ folklore though, and CormoranT is a type of duck.

  • Lindsay

    “…the large, burly detective and his attractive, plucky sidekick”

    So not only were Robbie Coltrane and Geraldine Somerville cast in the Potter movies, but now she has actually written an episode of Cracker :-)

  • Daughter of Eve

    I got into the Potter series because of the first chapter of GoF which had a “small-town-whodunnit” feel about it. I was so lost in that chapter that it didn’t even occur to me I was reading Potter. I’m excited for more of that streak from Rowling because she said in an interview once that she loves a good “whodunnit”.

  • NifflerFelicis105

    As a Rowling fan and a biologist, maybe I can provide some avian insight here?
    Unlike what was said below, cormorants are not ducks. Cormorants are cormorants. They usually live near lakes and estuaries, and are great swimmers, hunting fish. In the Galapagos island of Fernandina, there are flightless cormorants that have evolved wings too small for flight as they took to the water. “Strike” reminded me of “shrike”, a small bird which is known for being pretty brutal: they impale their dead prey on barbed wire, thorns, and the like. Also, I took interest in the term “Cuckoo’s calling”. Cuckoos are notoriously known to be brood parasites: female cuckoos will lay an egg in the nest of another species of bird when no one is looking; the other female, returning to her nest, incubates it and raises it as her own, often to the detriment of her own offspring because cuckoo chicks are enormous. The cuckoo chicks have been known to kick other hatchlings out of the nest to die and therefore compete for the most food, care, etc.
    I haven’t read the book and don’t know if she intended there to be behavioral traits of these birds in their coinciding character, but it could be interesting to dissect that and analyze the characters from that perspective. Anyone else read the book yet that could provide some insight?

    • Rams

      Thanks for the great! info. Any insights I gave would be spoilerific, though. It’s a great read.

  • Santipotter

    OMG I am so excited to read this. I haven’t still recovered from the news that Jo actually published a novel without our knowledge; I was really surprised. But what could be better than Jo and a crime novel put together? Being my favorite author and all, some may say I am biased. But I really think she is a very talented writer and a role model. I adore HP, and absolutely loved the casual vacancy even if being nothing like Hp. So I will definitely give this book a try the minute I can get it, and expect to love it just as well. Long live queen rowling!

  • John

    About a quater way through the novel and I love it so far.

    I’m a huge critic of writing including my favorite authors like J.K. Rowling or whomever. So, by no means do I believe my read is bias.

    The characters are interesting and fleshed out (surprised to be honest). The pace (which I was worried about) is so far a lot better than Casual Vacancy.

    Lastly, a lot of the writing reminded me of Potter. Especially certain phasing which was nice. Overall, pick it up and read it. Far better than most books out this summer.

  • Mrs_Badcrumble

    People have to stop looking at Rowling’s new projects through round glasses (Harry Potter style, that is). Yes, she is the author of the amazing Potter series that changed so many lives of readers out there, but reading her new books expecting the same form of writing, characters, plot… is a huge mistake, and quite unfair for the literary work itself.

    A lot of people complained about “The Casual Vacancy” because it was slow-paced and not a page turner as her previous books, but readers must understand that it’s a genre completely different from Potter. If people don’t like realistic modern novels, or crime novels, don’t expect to like these books just because they were written by Jo.

    • http://willywonka-andthe-gingerfactory.tumblr.com/ John B. McLean

      A perfect way to put it! Just because you liked Harry Potter doesn’t mean you are going to like JK Rowlings newest career moves. She is trying new things in different genres and that is something that every author does at some point. She can’t make every book about a boy wizard.

  • Janna

    Almost done reading it, and I love it- it’s not Potter, but I wasn’t expecting it to be and the plot is interesting and it has kept me reading. I would recommend!

  • Kat

    I found a copy of the book and hoping that it will be at least ALMOST

    as good as the Potter books.

  • http://hunyumstan.tumblr.com/ hunyum

    I have read the book, and though it’s not what you would expect from someone who has written a book like ‘The Casual Vacancy’, i can absolutely understand her writing.
    She could have written it in all the proper structure and made it as amazing as HP or TCV, but if she wanted that then she would have released it under her own name.

    As far as experimenting with different writing styles go, this novel works really well for her. and since this is the first installment, and now people know who she is, who knows maybe her future books will be much better?

    Instead of criticizing, people (those reviewers on goodreads and amazon who expected it to be the perfect book) should applaud her effort to try and write something different in a different way, and not cry about how it was not as good as HP or TCV (that is if you actually liked the book :P)

  • LexiH89

    Who is the girl on the cover of the U.S. edition supposed to be? Lula/Cuckoo or Robin? I assumed it was Lula at first since the paparazzi is in the background, but she doesn’t look half-black at all, and the hair is completely Caucasian. It looks more like Robin, I think. Since Robin is in it more than Lula is, it kind of makes sense, but I don’t know why they would put Robin in front of all those cameras. Although, maybe the publishers didn’t look into the art as much as I have.

  • Jj

    This book was decent. The characters and plot are well developed. But the big reveal could not have been more predictable, IMO. But apart from that, the book is good, and the characters are interesting and compelling enough to convince me to read a second book if JKR decides to write one.

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