“When a troubled supermodel falls to her death from the balcony of her London home, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts and calls in private detective Cormoran Strike to investigate. Strike is a war veteran – wounded both physically and psychologically – and his private life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s world, the darker things get and the closer he comes to terrible danger.”
-Synopsis from the back of the book
*fair amount of spoilers ahead*
You may have caught on from past posts that I’m currently doing a re-read of the Cormoran Strike series in preparation for the release of the latest novel in the series, Troubled Blood, which comes out this September.
I first read The Cuckoo’s Calling back in 2016, and wrote a short review of it that didn’t say much other than I loved it and would read subsequent books. The same sentiment still stands, but here I’ll take a moment to clarify just what exactly it is I love about this series, and this book in particular, because it all came into extreme focus for me when I picked this book up to read it a second time almost five years later.
The Cuckoo’s Calling gives the reader what I have always thought to be such an excellent first line of a first chapter…
“Though Robin Ellacott’s twenty-five years of life had seen their moments of drama and incident, she had never before woken up in the certain knowledge that she would remember the coming day for as long as she lived.”
-Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling
Although there is a prologue in this book, this is the first line of chapter one so I consider it to be the first line of the series. Is it particularly groundbreaking? Unique? Not really. But I remembered it all these years later. It stuck with me, which is all I think you’d hope and expect a first line to do.
There were some things I noticed while reading that surprised me, because I’d either forgotten them or never took notice the first time…
- We don’t learn about Strike’s missing leg/prosthesis until forty-pages in! That is a huge part of his character and I was surprised that it wasn’t mentioned sooner
- Detective Eric Wardle is supposed to be a ladies man? I don’t remember that at all. I only remembered him as being annoying because of how routinely rude he was to both Strike and Robin
- John Bristow had a girlfriend with him when he first came to see Strike, which I didn’t remember. Not only that, but she comes to play a pivotal role in the story, which I had also conveniently forgotten
- Robin shares very, very little about her job with Matthew. So far, in this book, he doesn’t have many reasons to dislike Strike personally (that is of course, until he sees Robin in the dress that Strike bought for her…)
- Finally, one detail about Charlotte. I forgot that her “secret” was revealed in this book; for some reason I thought the story behind their big fight wasn’t revealed until later books
Just the same, there were so many details I remembered perfectly. As much as I love action and dialogue, there’s something about those pensive moments with Strike that are equally as compelling, as he sits in his office contemplating the day, or walks about a crime scene speaking to no one, simply gathering information and mulling it over on his own.
“The dead could only speak through the mouths of those left behind, and through the signs they left scattered behind them. Strike had felt the living woman behind the words she had written to friends; he had heard her voice on a telephone held to his ear; but now, looking down on the last thing she had ever seen in her life, he felt strangely close to her. The truth was coming slowly into focus out of the mass of disconnected detail. What he lacked was proof.”
-Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling
Throughout these books, we see a lot of Strike thinking but we don’t get the details as to what’s on his mind until much, much later. It’s easy to skim over these moments where seemingly nothing is going on, but everything clicks later when he reveals what he knows. I’ve learned to pay attention to these moments because they can be quite telling once you get to the ending.
Suffice to say, this re-read was successful and made me even more excited about the series as a whole than I already was. In June I’ll be reading the second installment, The Silkworm.