Rowling’s shot at redemption

The Cuckoo’s Calling, a book secretly penned by J.K. Rowling, proves she can still write

On 14 July 2013 an obscure book written by an unknown author, Roger Galbraith, surged from 4709th on the Amazon bestseller list to 1st.

The book, a suspense novel about a supermodel’s suspicious death, was released in April 2013 and sold decently in the UK but after the mysterious event mentioned above, it was sold out everywhere and had to go back to print to fulfill worldwide demand.

This singular event that catapulted the book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, into the spotlight, was when it was revealed Robert Galbraith did not write the book. In fact, Robert Galbraith does not exist.

Robert Galbraith is just a pseudonym for one of the world’s most popular authors. The writer of the Harry Potter series and The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling.

The story of how The Cuckoo’s Calling  became attached to Rowling publicly is a little wild. It all started when The Sunday Times got a hold of the book.

They wrote an excellent review, and one employee tweeted that they couldn’t believe it was written by a first time author.

Then, out of the blue, an anonymous person tweeted back and said the book had actually been written by Rowling .

They soon after deleted their account. From there, Times editor Richard Brooks looked into the mystery more deeply and realized The Cuckoo’s Calling was published by Rowling’s publishers.

Then, Brooks sent a copy of The Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoos Calling, and a Harry Potter book to linguistic experts who confirmed similarities between the three books.

Finally, Brooks confronted Rowling up front and she confessed. Although she said she had “hope[d] to keep this secret a little longer”.

When this twist was publicized, The Cuckoo’s Calling certainly became a commercial success. But is it a literary one? Rowling’s Harry Potter books were widely adored, but her first adult book, The Casual Vacancy (2012), was highly criticized by previous Rowling fans and critics alike.

Thus many were wary about this new book, but their love and loyalty for Rowling’s writing, other than The Casual Vacancy, won out and they bought it.

The Cuckoo’s Calling was probably worth their money. Probably. While not excessively vulgar or full of distasteful characters like The Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoo’s Calling just takes almost three-quarters of the book to get to the point where readers are on the edge of their seat, unbelievably anxious to uncover the full mystery.

The best way to describe the plot, flow, and rhythm of The Cuckoo’s Calling is to compare it to microwave popcorn.

It begins with slow pops of life-long descriptions of a private detective named Comoran Strike, and of the Watson to this Sherlock, his secretary, Robin Ellacott.

The pops are still slow as the reader learns about the beautiful supermodel Lula Landry, known to a few select friends as Cuckoo, and her mysterious fall to her death from her apartment balcony.

The police have ruled it as a suicide but Lula’s adopted brother, a lawyer named John Bristow, approaches Strike to dig more into her death, because Bristow believes it is murder.

While it seems that the reader should be already hooked, so far Rowling has not made any of the characters particularly sympathetic, and the reader is left to wonder, ‘so what?’

The pops are still slow in the microwave, but they’re starting to gain some speed as Strike investigates Lula’s death.

He finds and interviews colorful characters, majestically described by Rowling.

One such character was the well described and well-formed male fashion designer, Guy Some. Some was Lula’s fashion designer, and the first to call her Cuckoo.

His personality is outrageous, but Rowling clearly shows that there is a good man behind all the flamboyance who truly cared for the supermodel, and is clearly devastated by her untimely death.

The reader follows along with Strikes many interviews and gets to see the questions that he asks, and begin to guess how to solve the mystery.

But the pacing of the story is still slow in comparison to other mysteries. And while the reader is starting to become invested in characters and the plot, there is a lot of pages the reader is not drawn to care about.

But as the mystery progresses and more secrets are revealed, some better hidden than others, the reader is drawn more into the story and the popcorn is now  popping at a steady pace. But the book is already about halfway over.

As the book reaches it’s conclusion suddenly the popcorn is popping so much that it seems like it’s going to explode, but in a good way.

There’s plot twists coming in from nowhere and character developments that the reader would be hard pressed to see coming, and as the mystery comes to a close and Strike finishes his job in solving it, the reader is on the edge of their seat, biting their nails, waiting for the final answer.

Rowling manages to surprise with this answer, as all good mysteries should do.

Although when the reader looks back, and rereads some of the previous material they can see hints of what is to come, when Strike finally reveals what happened the night Lula Landry fell to her death, the reader is shocked. That is a sign of a good mystery writer.

The beginning of The Cuckoo’s Calling is difficult to get through, and may leave the reader wondering if Rowling will ever actually get to the point.

But if the reader can stick it out until the final sequence of events in the book, it seems to make the beginning drudgery worth it.

So while this book is not perfect, it leaves the reader with a lot of hope for Rowling’s books in the future.

If she could write an entire book that made the reader feel like the last quarter of The Cuckoo’s Calling makes, it may be a literary masterpiece.

And if Rowling did anything with The Cuckoo’s Calling, it was proving to the world that she is a literary force to be reckoned with, and a very fine author with lots of future potential.

And so, even though Rowling is adamant that she never wanted it revealed that Robert Galbraith was her, it’s a good thing the world knows that The Cuckoo’s Calling is a J.K. Rowling book.

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About Jorie Schwab

Jorie Schwab is a senior and the editor and founder of the online Creative Arts Magazine. This is her fourth year writing for The Talon. Jorie is also a staff writer and section editor for online news source The Prospect, and enjoys working on fiction novels and short stories in her time off from journalism. She is also a high school athlete and avid reader. Her favorite book of all time is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.

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