I’ve mentioned before on this blog and on Mockingbird Hill Cottage that Robert Galbraith is really J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Rowling wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pen name of Robert Galbraith, a combination of the first name of her hero, Robert F. Kennedy and the last name of a childhood fantasy name – Ella Galbraith. She wanted the freedom to write under a man’s name, “to take my writing persona as far away as possible from me.” She wanted to work “without hype or expectation.” Given her enormous success as the writer of the Harry Potter series, one can see why she would want to try something new without the expectations that would automatically be foisted on her. She was eventually outed, but not until The Cuckoo’s Calling had achieved very respectable sales numbers. (Rowling quotes from this source.)
About the books and my take: Both mysteries in this series center around Cormoran Strike, former investigator in the military who has lost a portion of his leg due to an explosion while serving in Afghanistan. Now working as a private detective in London, Strike needs work, both to keep him busy and to pay off a debt to the man who fathered him, a famous rock musician. He is also just out of a longtime relationship that has proved destructive and unhealthy. With no place to live, he bunks in his office. Robin, engaged to her longtime boyfriend and looking for a well-paying job in London, is sent by a temp agency to work for him. She has a secret; she has always wanted to be a detective, so she hopes that maybe this can turn into a full-time job, despite the protestations of her fiancé.
In The Cuckoo’s Calling, Strike investigates the suspicious death of a supermodel, who apparently fell to her death in what has been termed a suicide. In The Silkworm, Strike is hired by the wife of an infamous novelist to find her husband, who has gone missing.
Both books are incredibly well-written and plotted. Strike is one of the more compelling protagonists I have encountered. A big man, Oxford educated, the illegitimate son of a rockstar and a groupie who has only met his father a couple of times, and who would much rather live in anonymity, who has a military man’s mind for detail and thoroughness and who is battling the pain of using a prothesis – he is formidable and vulnerable at the same time. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He’s smart as a whip.
Robin, his assistant, is drawn equally deftly. The supporting cast of characters in each book is rich and multi-layered. The novels take place predominately in London and Galbraith knows it well. I felt like I was walking the same streets as Strike. I could see every place clearly and vividly.
The plots are intricate and kept me guessing until the end. You know how much I love that. I read a lot of mysteries and I hate figuring out who the bad guy or gal is before I reach the final denouement. Let’s face it, Rowling/Galbraith, knows how to write. She knows how to spin a story that will draw you in. And she takes her time with it; time to fully realize the details of a scene, the personal tics of the characters, to lay down the bones of the plot. In both cases, I could hardly put the book down. I managed to stretch my reading of The Silkworm out simply because I didn’t want it to end. But end it must.
These are wonderful mysteries, beautifully written. I think you’ll really love them. I’m sad, though. I have to wait for #3 in the series to come out and I don’t know when that will be! I recommend reading them in order, the best way to learn Strike’s back story and how Robin enters his professional life.
Here is the link to Robert Galbraith’s website.
And links to the books on Amazon:
The links above are affiliate links. I am an affiliate at Amazon.com and I earn money if you use them to buy a book. But rest assured, I purchased both of these books with my own money and my reviews are always honest.