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Literature: The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling is a 2013 detective mystery novel by Robert Galbraith. Initially released in April 2013 to positive reviews but moderate sales, it became an overnight sensation three months later when it was revealed that "Robert Galbraith" was actually J. K. Rowling. Yes, that JK Rowling.

The beautiful model Lula Landry jumps from a balcony in a case that temporarily dominated the British Newspapers. Three months later, we meet Cormoran Strike, a Shell-Shocked Veteran turned private eye who is dead broke and suffering through a messy breakup. Robin Ellacott, a new temp, has just arrived at his doorstep when Strike gets a new client: John Bristow, adopted brother of his former childhood friend Charlie and of Lula Landry. John remains unconvinced that a woman with such a bright future ahead of her would take her own life, and, with no one else to turn to, Bristow implores Strike to help him find out what really happened.

The second Cormoran Strike novel, called The Silkworm, was released on June 19th 2014 in the UK and on June 24th 2014 in the US, again under the name Robert Galbraith.

This book contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Disorder: It becomes clear towards the end of the novel that John Bristow is not exactly right in the head. Cormoran offers a few suggestions as to what is wrong with him during The Summation, but recognizes that after all, he's a military man turned private detective, and not a psychologist, and feels that the police will do a better job diagnosing him.
  • Anyone Can Die: It's JK Rowling, people. Amazingly, she shows surprising restraint by killing off only one major character, Rochelle Onifade, obviously excluding Lula's Plot Triggering Death.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Freddie Bestigui, with good reason.
  • Big Fancy House: The Bristows lived in one, which gives young Cormoran the completely baseless impression that they're well-adjusted.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Bristow / Landry family.
  • Big Secret: All the major red herrings have one. Except Duffield, who is just much more of a softie than his drug-addled rocker lifestyle would have you think.
  • Book Ends: Robin and Strike are living bookends. Robin is introduced entering into an engagement while Strike is introduced exiting one. Even more telling, said events happen within 24 hours of each other.
  • Buy Them Off: Freddie to the many women he's wronged; John to Rochelle.
  • Cain and Abel: John actually kills both of his favoured siblings. Magazines apparently take note.
  • Chekov's Gun: Strike is receiving weekly death threats from a former client, usually threatening him with a knife. The murderer makes use of this by attempting to kill Strike in this way, hoping that the former client will be blamed for this.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: J. K. Rowling's post-Potter career is filled with these. Pretty much every character swears at some point, but probably the biggest culprit of all is Guy Somé.
  • The Confidant: Rochelle Onifade is the only person Lula guarantees will never blab about her to the press. Nonetheless, she's kind of a gold-digging scumbag.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Evan Duffield, before Lula's death is ruled a suicide. A major theme of the book is that public opinion can turn on a dime.
  • Country Matters: As with the Cluster F-Bomb, Jo is also fond of the word "cunt". It should be noted that in the British English in which the book is written, this is much less offensive.
  • Crash into Hello: How Robin meets Strike. He hastily prevents her from plunging head-first into the stairwell... by grabbing her boob. The romantic elements between them never actually rise above subtext, although Strike frequently notices her body.
  • Defective Detective: Strike is a war-wounded amputee with a tempestuous on-and-off relationship, death threats from a former client and debt up to his eyeballs.
    • Although what sets him apart is that he is surprisingly free of internal strife and self-destructive personality demons. All of his problems are external, not internal.
  • Deuteragonist: Robin Ellacott.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Matthew is presented as one, but as of the end of the novel, he's still with Robin - if unhappy about her career path.
  • Drink Order: Whether he's interrogating witnesses, setting up information swaps with the police, or simply relaxing, Strike will order a pint of Doom Bar, a Cornish ale that reminds him of home.
  • Enfant Terrible: John, who murdered his brother when he was very young.
  • Exact Words: Strike interviews Tansy Betrugui, who has been tabbed by the police and press as an attention-seeking liar and is going through a messy divorce, so she demands that Strike not write down any notes. He agrees... and instead surreptitiously switches on his phone's sound recorder.
  • Fall Guy: This was intended to be Lula's half-brother, Jonah, but Strike seemed very close to homing in on Tony, which the killer would probably have been satisfied with.
  • Gay Best Friend: Guy Somé for Lula, though he's devoid of most of the stereotypes.
  • The Ghost / Small Role, Big Impact: Deeby Macc is mentioned a lot, by almost every character and his impending arrival at Lula’s building proves instrumental in the way the murder was committed. However, the closest he comes to appearing in the flesh is a YouTube interview Cormoran and Robin watch.
  • Girl Friday: Robin, definitely. Cormoran thought about cracking a Batman and Robin joke, but didn't think it was very respectful.
  • Gold Digger: Several characters of both genders are accused of this, romantically and otherwise. Most definitively, Tansy and Ursula.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Robin, though Cormoran is no Pointy-Haired Boss.
  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: Lula Landry's suicide is a media gold mine, and only becomes more so upon proper examination.
  • It Is Pronounced Tropay: The narration usually notes whether Guy Somé's first name is being pronounced like the English "gai" or French "ghee". Strike deliberately switches back and forth depending on the social class of the person he's questioning.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Considered and rejected; the security guy was real, but unwittingly let the killer overhear the key code.
  • Kavorka Man: Cormoran Strike looks like a boxer who’s had his nose broken too many times, is incredibly hairy, lost half his leg and, at the time of the story, is overweight. And yet, his on-again, off-again girlfriend Charlotte is described as supermodel gorgeous and over the course of the story he has sex with an actual supermodel without even trying.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Lula.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Lula may have let fame go to her head, but witnesses tend to remember her as kinder than your typical troubled starlet.
  • Mama's Boy: John Bristow. Distressing his dying mother is a sure way to send him into barely concealed hysterics.
  • Meaningful Name: "Cormoran" is a giant in Cornish folklore, especially Jack the Giant-Killer. "Strike" is appropriate for one who had a fighting career. "Robin", as noted by several reviews, is an apt name for a sidekick.
  • Misery Poker: Yvette Bristow is a consummate player.
  • My Beloved Smother: Lady Bristow spoils and smothers her children.
  • Never Suicide: Well, duh.
  • Paparazzi: A looming presence throughout, taking on all sorts of plot and thematic functions.
  • Private Detective: Strike, natch. Robin thinks this is the coolest thing ever.
  • Profiling: John Bristow puts a special emphasis on a black man filmed acting suspiciously around the scene and time of his sister's suspicious suicide, nicknamed The Runner. His uncle Tony, who has had a great influence on the boy, is a total bigot. But actually, Bristow knows perfectly well who The Runner is - the guy with a legitimate claim to Lula Landry's inheritance - and is trying to frame him.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Lula is said to be a replacement for Charlie.
  • Rich Bitch: Naturally, a common presence in Lula's social circles.
  • Saved for the Sequel: Brian Mattherson likely is this for a future Strike novel. Given Rowling's reliance on Chekhov's Armory, it's probably a given. Mattherson may play into a future story.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!/Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: A mild example — Bristow persuades aloof celebrity witnesses to talk to Strike with copious bribes/tip-offs that Strike is the son of a rock star.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: "Cormoran Strike".
  • Stealth Pun: After their Crash into Hello, wherein Strike saves Robin from toppling backward by grabbing her chest, he states that it'll be easy to remember her name. He had been intended to refer to "Batman and Robin" but refrained, not thinking it very respectful. Robin blushes anyway. Why? Presumably because she thinks he means that she's a Robin redbreast.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Despite all the difficulties Strike is experiencing, he maintains some degree of discipline in confronting his demons. Its notable that most of his struggles are external, while his internal conflict is somewhat minimal.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Cormoran to a mild degree.
  • The Summation: In traditional Rowling fashion, Cormoran delivers this over the course of pages while alone with the killer, who makes no real attempt to stop him until he's done outlining all his points.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Lula was obsessed with finding her biological parents.
  • The Unfavorite: John feels this way, which drives him to kill.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Past: The novel is set in April-May 2010, with events from the leadup to the 2010 general election mentioned in passing.
  • Up Marketing: Guy Somé's entire fashion business, ranging from the sort of thing you buy at Neiman Marcus to items that are unique. Wearing his product can thus become a plot point.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: "Cormoran Strike" - justified given his mother's...eccentricities.
  • Yandere: Charlotte. Which Strike fully appreciates, while still not being able to let go of his obsession with her.

The Casual VacancyCreator/J. K. RowlingThe Silkworm
Crime and PunishmentCrime FictionDalziel and Pascoe
CryptozoologiconLiterature of the 2010sCupcake Diaries

alternative title(s): The Cuckoos Calling
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