The Cuckoo’s Calling
Whoa! Whoa, whoa, whoa, everyone. Stop the presses, y’all, because J.K. Rowling is back. Okay, under a different name, but the sharp pen is very definitely the same.
I always wondered what she would do once the “Harry Potter” franchise was done. She–very wisely, in my opinion–stopped the series after the planned seven books, although there’s been some branching out with “Fantastic Beasts” and “The Cursed Child.” Still, she quit HP while it was still fresh and alive.
But a writing talent like that isn’t going to be satisfied with one series. For her next trick (not counting “A Casual Vacancy,” which is also highly worth reading), she took up a pseudonym and started an entirely non-fantasy detective novel series.
The Cormoran Strike books aren’t a rehash of the Harry Potter books, but in many ways they are a continuation of the themes and writing style, in a very different and much more adult setting. Readers be warned: there’s a lot of bad language, sex, violence, and a general abandonment of the mores of the YA genre. Rowling has always been edgy–why do you think the HP books get banned so often?–and she’s only getting edgier as she ages.
The realist, adult setting doesn’t have the fantastical wonder of the HP books, but it does showcase Rowling’s keen eye for satire and her ability to set a scene with well-designed descriptive passages that are spare and dense at the same time. And there’s the same complex, almost-too-convoluted plotting style that fills up hundreds of pages and yet sucks the reader inexorably along.
I could say more, but I think I’ll save it for the next books in the series. Suffice to say, “The Cuckoo’s Calling” is a thrilling entry to the detective fiction genre. It’s longer, denser, and weirder than most of its kin, so be prepared when you go into it: this is neither Harry Potter nor Dashiel Hammett. It’s its own beast, which will either turn you off or satisfy you tremendously, whether you’re a fan of detective novels, literary fiction, or just plain good writing.