It has been ages since I've been so absorbed in a book that I almost missed my bus stop. With this book I've been close about a half dozen times. Like my stop, she wasn't exactly spotted a mile away -- in fact it took three months for the secret to get out -- but "The Cuckoo's Calling", written under the pseudonym "Robert Galbraith", has all the hallmarks of classic Jo Rowling.
Fans who found themselves slogging through "The Casual Vacancy" (even if too proud to admit it)* will be quite buoyed by this effortless read. In "Cuckoo" Rowling's wit and ninja story-telling skills are stronger than ever. The mystery is deep, the suspense is goose-pimplingly gratifying, and the characterizations would make Jane Austen proud, all the more realistic for their lack of magic wands. Once again, Rowling has masterfully constructed a book that feels exactly the way reading should feel, effortlessly keeping the reader under it's spell.
Potter fans will love very subtle references to the series that brought Rowling her own wealth and fame. I giggled aloud when I read the phrase "you know who killed her", even if I can't be entirely sure it was intentional. Given Rowling's superhuman control of the language and a predilection for winks and nudges, I choose to believe that she was having fun with it.
Entertainment value aside, do not make the mistake of reading the book lightly. From commentary on racial tensions (bigotry seems to be emerging as one of the author's favorite recurring themes) to our culture's obsession with wealth and fame and returning once again to discuss death, if even in a lighter context than her previous works, Rowling once again brings to the table an enviable wisdom and morality without the slightest hint of preachiness.
The climax of the novel, while not some earth-shattering twist, is gratifying and not overly predictable. Ultimately, readers will likely find more satisfaction in the relationships between the characters, particularly that of Strike and his would-be secretary, Robin. We are left, inevitably, wanting more. Fortunately that desire will be fulfilled soon: in the FAQs on the author's pseudo-site, Rowling reveals that the sequel is due out next year. Overall, highly recommended (and yes, if you purchase through that link to the left I get a cut).
*not to say that it lacked any brilliance