When John Bristow wants to hire him for a substantial fee, Strike is hesitant. Bristow is convinced that his sister – the supermodel Lula Landry – did not fall to her death but was murdered. Strike isn’t convinced but he takes the case.
Soon Strike is propelled into the seedy world of celebrity, a world that he has more ties to than he would like to admit. The more he learns about Lula’s life leading up to her death, the more he is convinced that the media darling known as the Cuckoo may have had her own secrets. Secrets someone was willing to kill her for.
I had been looking forward to The Cuckoo’s Calling ever since I discovered the pseudonymous story, particularly since I am actively looking for new mysteries to read. I will admit that I did not anticipate liking it as much as I did.
Strike is a compelling protagonist with an unconventional personal history. The novel is written in third person, focusing mainly on Strike, as well as his competent and excitable temp Robin, who was also a nice segue to introducing his character. It was the strong narrative voice and intriguing protagonist that supported my attention throughout, and my interest in Strike as a character – his background with his parents and half siblings and his wreck of a personal life – convinced me that I will be reading more of his investigations in future.
What I particularly appreciated about The Cuckoo’s Calling is that it was very realistic to Strike’s profession as a private investigator. He is not a homicide detective called into crime scenes or an amateur sleuth tripping over bodies. The novel is very much a sequence of interviewing the suspects of Lula’s death. It could be perceived by some for this reason as being a bit slow or lacking in tension but I found it to be intriguing and all the more convincing.
Galbraith excelled at capturing the atmosphere and setting of the story, so that it felt more grounded in reality, without teetering into excessive description. The plot was far from predictable, with a range of suspects – including an excellent use of a red herring – that left me constantly hypothesising motives and reinterpreting information.
The novel is also an interesting commentary on the concepts of “class” and “celebrity.” Strike is looked down on by “high class” characters who snort cocaine. Lula was adored by people who didn’t necessarily understand her true priorities and ambitions. It was a fascinating look at idolisation and the judgemental nature of people, regardless of their social standing. Even Strike’s temp Robin romanticises his work. There are so many perspectives and opinions presented in the novel – particularly pertaining to Lula – and it made for a fascinating look at human nature.
What topped off my enjoyment of the novel was that I listened to it on audio, narrated by Robert Glenister. There was such variation to what he could do with his voice and it really helped to bring the characters to life. I hope he will continue to narrate however many Strike novels there may be.
I would recommend The Cuckoo’s Calling to anyone who likes a strong narrative voice and a mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.
In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer purchased this book. The opinions expressed are hers alone and no monetary compensation was offered to her by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Sphere and is used solely as an aide to the review.