Audiobook Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

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A week ago I listened to the audiobook for J.K. Rowling’s newest book, “The Cuckoo’s Calling”. She wrote the book under the alias “Robert Galbraith”, an ex-military man. She has stated that she found the use of the pseudonym to be useful to her writing process, to separate her writing from her fame. I will admit that I was drawn to the book specifically because it was written by J.K.R., but I appreciate the need for anonymity and the usefulness of a pen name. So while I realize that she was the one who wrote the book, I want to honor “Robert Galbraith” as the persona who drew out the fine writing.

Robert Glenister did a really nice job with the voices for the audiobook. I will not pretend to know much about regional differences between British accents, but it did seem like he hit every character spot on. His voicework meshed really well with the text, making the audiobook really enjoyable.

The story follows a down-on-his-luck ex-military private investigator Cormorant Strike as he investigates the 3-month-old suicide death of a famous model. It’s kind of a classic locked-door mystery, with the woman falling to her death from a 3rd floor balcony, with no witnesses beyond a cocaine-addled neighbor who claims to have heard voices arguing moments before the fatal fall. With few remaining physical clues, Strike has to rely on interviews with unreliable sources, stonewalling police, disinterested family, and drug addicted friends. To his benefit, he has one solid ally in the chase: his new secretary, Robin Elacott. As Strike investigates, he finds that the case is hardly closed, and that the killer may be close at hand.

I really liked the writing in the book. Galbraith did a good job emphasizing the small details that make any book great. Probably my favorite moment was the detective walking near a grizzled homeless man on the street who slowly opens his mouth and extends his tongue. It was such a strange and non-sequitur visualization, but it makes perfect sense given the odd things that happen in cities. The event was completely unrelated to anything else in the plot, but it added to the richness of the environment and made the novel feel realistic. While I loved the attention to detail, I did not like the structure of the book. The ending was a surprise, but I felt like it was written so that it could have been any of a number of possible suspects. I also did not like some details of the book that seemed cliché and out of place in such rich writing. I felt like the name ‘Cormorant Strike’ itself is a really cheap attempt at making the character feel more interesting from the beginning. Overall, I really enjoyed the audiobook and I am looking forward to the sequel, ‘The Silkworm’.

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