Book Review | The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbriath (pseudonym), J.K.Rowling

Cuckoo's CallingThe long and short of this is not so long or short. 

First off, Robert Galbraith, if you hadn’t already heard six months ago, is J.K. Rowling.

Second, The Cuckoo’s Calling looks, sounds, and reads NOTHING like J.K.Rowling. There are no wizards, no witches, no muggles, no quiditch matches, no horcruxes, or any magic whatsoever.

What it is might surprise you, and you might just enjoy it.

Now, before I get much further, a caveat: because most of the books I read and recommend are largely family friendly, falling closer to rated PG than R, be forewarned that Rowling dips a bit deeper into the uncouth levels of society with characters, language, and situations that, frankly, are better kept to the pages of a novel and out of the living room of your family.

Yeah, there’s a bit o’ cussing here and there and, well, everywhere. And one scene I just skipped altogether. Call me a prude, but you have to be pretty dang persuasive to get me on board with a sex scene, especially when it happens on scene.

That said, I couldn’t put The Cuckoo’s Calling down.

Cormoran Strike is a modern day Sam Spade–albeit, more gritty, uglier, and just about as down on his luck as any PI out of central casting might be. An amputee and veteran, he’s one step from total impoverishment when opportunity walks through his door, and Strike (a name that sounds destined for the pages of a thriller or mystery–think Jack Reacher, Sam Spade, or Alex Cross) commences what appears at first to be a futile, and pointless, investigation into the apparent suicide of a world famous model.

Entering a world of the rich and famous only glimpsed through the long lenses of paparazzi cameras, Strike soon finds that the facts are not what they seem.

What makes the story work, and so fascinating to me, was Rowling/Galbraith’s deft touch on her characters, to build the conflicts page by page, while still dripping enough potential resolution to keep me curious. Her protagonists are difficult, but sympathetic. The plot is thick, but fast, and the pages turned easily.

In fact, this would make a great summer read for the beach.

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As I mentioned earlier, I have a hard time recommending The Cuckoo’s Calling to anyone because of the content. However, as proof that she can write more than for children, that she can create mystery just as ably as magic, I take my hat off to Rowling. I look forward to more from her.

The Cuckoo's Calling Book Cover The Cuckoo's Calling
Cormoran Strike #1
Robert Galbriath (pseudonym), J.K.Rowling
Mulholland Books
April 30, 2013
464 pages
A brilliant mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.


  1. Daniel – First, I did NOT know Galbraith was really JK Rowlings! And I’ve been following Galbraith for awhile now. So thank you for including that little tidbit in your review. However, my main reason for this comment is to commend you for having the courage to stand up for your convictions re: thinly veiled pornography and so-called “realistic” language, both of which are increasingly common in fiction. Some of that stuff gets stuck in your head and will not leave, and I wish I had been as judicious as you are in avoiding it altogether. You give me encouragement to be more cautious in what I read. Thank you for that,

    JaxGrampy, aka “Grampy”, aka “Grampy Lee”