Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

cuckoo

No, I did not read this book just because it has a pretty girl on the cover.

One cool thing about the book is that it was written by J. K. Rowling, but under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Of course, it wasn’t long (3 months) before people figured out it was her. However, I still really admire her courage in trying to pull this one off. It was her experiment, an attempt to publish a book under some other name, to be able to get honest critical feedback, without her own hype getting in the way.

I knew she was the author going in because I Googled the book first, so I had very high expectations. I was in no way disappointed.

She is as skilled at writing crime novels as fantasy novels that we have all come to love (if you haven’t, you should hit yourself in the head with a hammer until you do). All the endless details, the plot twists, the characters and their widely varied flaws, and the subtle humour.

The plot is very juicy and definitely un-predictable, but it did require fairly long stretches of imagination to connect at a few places – something she clearly has way more than enough of.

Reading this book reminded me of Sherlock Holmes. Cuckoo’s Calling is not quite as twisted as complex in plot, but it does come REALLY close, and Rowling more than made up for it with her signature expressiveness and all the interesting minor plot elements.

Another interesting thing about the book is its portrayal of so many different kinds of prejudices – skin colour, wealth, reputation, beauty, and most interestingly, mental illnesses.

I wished she would expand more on the theme of mental illnesses, but just the fact that she gave 2 of the main characters in the book bipolar, and showed how people discredited them, is a very nice reminder of how prejudiced we are against people with mental illnesses, much more so than people with physical illnesses, for no good reason really.

People wouldn’t stop trusting someone because they have a broken leg, but many would stop trusting someone because they have bipolar, even though bipolar is a purely mood disorder and does not cause hallucinations and delusions (except in an extremely severe and rare form that’s basically bipolar combined with schizophrenia… IIRC).

The social stigma on people with mental disorders and the general taboo surrounding anything to do with mental disorders is really disheartening, and the fact that she made it a plot element is quite commendable. If nothing else, it would hopefully encourage some people to read up on mental illnesses, and understanding is often the first step to dissolving barriers.

On a lighter note, I have no idea what’s with J. K. Rowling and breasts. She seems to have a rather strange obsession with them, that she can’t ever write about women without describing their breasts in great detail…

STRIKE ABSORBED THE IMPACT, HEARD the high -pitched scream and reacted instinctively: throwing out a long arm, he seized a fistful of cloth and flesh; a second shriek of pain echoed around the stone walls and then, with a wrench and a tussle, he had succeeded in dragging the girl back on to firm ground. Her shrieks were still echoing off the walls, and he realized that he himself had bellowed, “Jesus Christ!”

The girl was doubled up in pain against the office door, whimpering. Judging by the lopsided way she was hunched, with one hand buried deep under the lapel of her coat, Strike deduced that he had saved her by grabbing a substantial part of her left breast. A thick, wavy curtain of bright blonde hair hid most of the girl’s blushing face, but Strike could see tears of pain leaking out of one uncovered eye.