I adore mysteries. And I adore J.K. Rowling.
When I (very accidentally) came across the news that she had written another book--and that it was a mystery--I experienced a delicious thrill. You know the kind I'm talking about--butterflies in your stomach, but in a good way? It's pure flutter, no panic. Sort of the same feeling I get when I walk into an empty church or a hushed library. When I read the description, I was even more excited.
This book wouldn't send me down a long, dark alley of no return like The Casual Vacancy did. J.K. Rowling's reputation, her characters and description took care that I'd read her first adult novel quickly. But as a New York Times reviewer very aptly wrote, "...this novel for adults is filled with a variety of people like Harry’s aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley: self-absorbed, small-minded, snobbish and judgmental folks, whose stories neither engage nor transport us." Ex-actly. Gone were Harry and his friends, leaving me with a morbid cast of characters I couldn't stand. As a result, I read The Casual Vacancy with a sort of scared anticipation, waiting for the ball to drop.
The Cuckoo's Calling is nothing like that.
Celebrity Lula Landry has fallen to her death. Initially ruled a suicide, the case comes into question when Landry's brother pays private investigator Cormoran Strike to take a second look. True to form, Rowling creates an excellent cast of characters. Strike is rough and clumsy, but possesses an integrity that drew me in immediately. And after The Casual Vacancy, likable characters go a long way towards soothing readers (i.e. me). Strike's unwitting secretary-turned-assistant, Robin Ellacott, is the capable, girlish sidekick to Strike's Batman (a fact Strike alludes to himself). The story is a little slow at times, particularly when Strike interviews witnesses. But as all mysteries depend upon close scrutiny of the thousands of details surrounding the crime, I quietly forgave Rowling and continued reading. A reviewer from the Chicago Tribune hit the nail on the head: "Seasoned mystery readers may figure it out before the final revelation, but the real joy in engaging with "The Cuckoo's Calling" lies in the journey, not the destination."
Rowling's imagery is fresh and interesting and more than once, I found myself laughing, not because comedy was intended, but because her descriptions are so blatantly honest. This book was a treat; a sensory experience that has me hoping Strike returns for another go 'round.