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The Cuckoo's Calling is a 2013 detective mystery by Robert Galbraith, and the first Cormoran Strike Novel. It was revealed that "Robert Galbraith" was actually J. K. Rowling. Yes, that J. K. 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, John implores Strike to help him find out what really happened.

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The second Cormoran Strike novel, called The Silkworm, was released in 2014, again under the name Robert Galbraith, and the third novel, Career of Evil (yes, named after the song) in 2015.


This book contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The novel was published in 2013 but is set in April-May 2010, with events from the leadup to the 2010 general election mentioned in passing.
  • Abusive Parents: Guy's father used to beat him for drawing dresses.
  • 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.
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  • Animal Motifs: Lula Landry with the titular cuckoo — a bird that is abandoned by its parents in another bird's nest, where it will often grow large and strong at the expense of its siblings and even its new caregivers.
  • Anyone Can Die: It's J. K. 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 gave 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.
  • Blackmail: Several cases:
    • Tansy is expecting a very substantial divorce settlement from her husband in exchange for not revealing the true location of where she overheard Lula Landry and her killer — as that will cause his domestic abuse to come to light.
    • Rochelle is blackmailing John regarding the existence and whereabouts of Lula's will.
    • John blackmails Tony into giving him an alibi the day Lula died by threatening to out his affair with Ursula May to her husband.
  • Blinding Camera Flash: Strike escorts Ciara into a club through a gauntlet of paparazzi — "Strike's retinas were in sudden, dazzling whiteout." After they make it through the door of the club, Ciara compliments him on his sense of direction.
  • 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.
  • Cassandra Truth: The main reason that Lula Landry's death was ruled a suicide was because Tansy's statement was deemed by police to be entirely false. Strike's investigations reveal that she was telling the truth about overhearing Lula arguing with a man before she fell — but lied about where she heard it due to her husband's bullying her into silence.
    • Lula Landry's biological mother is convinced that Lula would never have become a supermodel if she inherited her father's ears. When Robin and Comoran are looking at a picture of her half-brother, it's noted that his handsomeness is offset by his almost comically large ears.
    • Tony Landry correctly deduced that Charlie's death was not an accident, and that John was the one who pushed him. However, the Bristows refused to believe him and cut all contact in the wake of his accusations.
  • Chekhov'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.
    • The personalised hoodies which Guy gifts Deeby Macc, as one of them winds up being the a vital piece of evidence that ties the killer to the crime scene.
  • 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, and the trope is ultimately subverted when she's shown to indeed be selling Lula's secrets — just not to the press.
  • 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.
  • Detective Patsy: A classic example in John Bristow.
  • Deuteragonist: Robin, who becomes Cormoran's Girl Friday and provides invaluable assistance in solving the mystery.
  • 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.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Strike gets very drunk at a bar after finding out that Charlotte has gotten engaged to her old boyfriend.
  • Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: Guy Somé has models for an ad posing "like Christine Keeler on a back-to-front chair".
  • Enfant Terrible: John, who murdered his brother when he was very young.
  • Exact Words: Strike interviews Tansy Bestigui, 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.
  • 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.
  • Informed Flaw: Virtually everyone describes Ciara Porter as a combination of Dumb Blonde and Alpha Bitch. When Strike meets her, she's a bit fluffy, but is otherwise perfectly pleasant and one of the few people to be completely honest with him. She even quotes some Oscar Wilde and mentions she has a place to read English at Cambridge. This is very likely intentional, showing how the media tends to feed on itself and perpetuate its own rumor mill.
  • 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, who comes from a rich family and gets a lot richer when she starts modeling, but has few friends she can trust. And her family is a horror show.
  • 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. Subverted for John — the fact that his mother didn't smother him, compared to Charlie and Lula, is implied to be a major factor behind his insanity.
  • Never Suicide: Well, duh. However, it's played with in the sense that Strike does consider suicide to be the most reasonable explanation until evidence proves otherwise.
  • Paparazzi: A looming presence throughout, taking on all sorts of plot and thematic functions.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": The passcode to Bristow's safe is, naturally, the date he murdered Charlie. Strike alludes to this, saying it would be the first code he'd try.
  • 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.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: When John Bristow first meets Strike, he breaks into hysterical tears when recalling the day Lula was first brought into the family. At the time, the reader assumes that the tears are due to remembering his dead sister. Much later, during The Summation, Strike brings up those hysterics again — only this time he muses that they stemmed from John remembering the day that he once again was sidelined by his family in favour of his sibling.
  • Only Sane Man: Lula's half-brother turns out to be the only one related to her who isn't messed up in some way. Cormoran speculates that this is why she called him to visit her the night she died. She'd just learned that her adopted brother might be a murderer and wanted to be with the last relative she could trust.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: 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".
  • 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 that Cormoran and Robin watch.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Ciara, the glamorous, long-legged fashion model, also has a chance to "read English at Oxford" that she is putting off to model. Strike can't conceal his surprise when he hears this. Later in the same conversation she drops an Oscar Wilde quote.
  • 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 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.note 
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Despite all the difficulties Strike is experiencing, he maintains some degree of discipline in confronting his demons. It's notable that most of his struggles are external, while his internal conflict is somewhat minimal.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Cormoran to a mild degree.
  • Spoiler Title: Cuckoo chicks kill their adoptive siblings by pushing them out of the nest; similarly, John Bristow pushes both of his siblings to their deaths.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Averted with Strike, who looks nothing like his famous father. Played straight for Lula Landry — who inherited most of her supermodel features from her biological father. Her half-brother also shares these features, as her shocked killer discovers.
  • 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. Though Strike does lampshade that an innocent man would have left in a rage long before he was done — it's highly implied that the killer was hearing him out to try and find out what evidence Strike had on them.
  • Sweater Girl: In the first chapter, Robin is described as "curvaceous"; in the third chapter, Strike notices that she is wearing "a snugly, even seductively fitting cream sweater."
  • Tell Me About My Father: Lula was obsessed with finding her biological parents.
  • The Unfavorite: John feels this way, which drives him to kill.
  • 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.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Duffield says that at their last meeting at the club, an annoyed Lula took off the bangle he'd given her at their "commitment ceremony" and threw it at him.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: "Cormoran Strike" — justified given his mother's... eccentricities.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Several examples appear throughout the story, but the majority of them eventually turn out to be made up yarns spun by the press.
    • Duffield bought into the media speculation surrounding Lula and Deeby Macc and outright accused Lula of planning to have a tryst with him during their final conversation. He's show to be wrecked with guilt over this in the present.
    • After his explosive argument with Lula, Duffield spent the night sleeping over at Ciara's Porter's home. Following her death, he's accused of heartlessly cheating on Lula on the eve of her death.
    • Tony Landry is sleeping with Ursula May, wife of the other senior partner at his law firm. John uses this information to force Tony into giving him an alibi on the day Lula died.

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