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Winner of the 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller
"Plenty of twists...Totally engrossing...Galbraith's take on contemporary celebrity obsession makes for a grand beach read."—Library Journal, starred review (Mystery Debut of the Month)
"A remarkably assured debut. Robert Galbraith's portrayal of celebrity-obsessed modern London is at once beautifully written and utterly engrossing, his characters so real you could eat dinner with them, his ever-coiling plot guaranteed to keep you up past your bedtime. I couldn't put it down."—Owen Laukkanen, author of The Professionals
"a strong and enticing read ... It's a gripping tale set in bustling London, and the author - whether called Galbraith or Rowling - shows superb flair as a mystery writer"—Irish Examiner
"It's really, really good - beautifully written with a terrific plot ... It's a terrific read, gripping, original and funny ... Please, please give us more of Robert Galbraith and Cormoran Strike. I can't wait for the next"—Richard and Judy, Daily Express
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.
Shortly after midnight, her long-term boyfriend, Matthew, had proposed to her under the statue of Eros in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. In the giddy relief following her acceptance, he confessed that he had been planning to pop the question in the Thai restaurant where they just had eaten dinner, but that he had reckoned without the silent couple beside them, who had eavesdropped on their entire conversation. He had therefore suggested a walk through the darkening streets, in spite of Robin's protests that they both needed to be up early, and finally inspiration had seized him, and he had led her, bewildered, to the steps of the statue. There, flinging discretion to the chilly wind (in a most un-Matthew-like way), he had proposed, on one knee, in front of three down- and-outs huddled on the steps, sharing what looked like a bottle of meths.
It had been, in Robin's view, the most perfect proposal, ever, in the history of matrimony. He had even had a ring in his pocket, which she was now wearing; a sapphire with two diamonds, it fitted perfectly, and all the way into town she kept staring at it on her hand as it rested on her lap. She and Matthew had a story to tell now, a funny family story, the kind you told your children, in which his planning (she loved that he had planned it) went awry, and turned into something spontaneous. She loved the tramps, and the moon, and Matthew, panicky and flustered, on one knee; she loved Eros, and dirty old Piccadilly, and the black cab they had taken home to Clapham. She was, in fact, not far off loving the whole of London, which she had not so far warmed to, during the month she had lived there. Even the pale and pugnacious commuters squashed into the Tube carriage around her were gilded by the radiance of the ring, and as she emerged into the chilly March daylight at Tottenham Court Road underground station, she stroked the underside of the platinum band with her thumb, and experienced an explosion of happiness at the thought that she might buy some bridal magazines at lunchtime.
Male eyes lingered on her as she picked her way through the road-works at the top of Oxford Street, consulting a piece of paper in her right hand. Robin was, by any standards, a pretty girl; tall and curvaceous, with long strawberry- blonde hair that rippled as she strode briskly along, the chill air adding color to her pale cheeks. This was the first day of a week-long secretarial assignment. She had been temping ever since coming to live with Matthew in London, though not for much longer; she had what she termed "proper" interviews lined up now.
The most challenging part of these uninspiring piecemeal jobs was often finding the offices. London, after the small town in Yorkshire she had left, felt vast, complex and impenetrable. Matthew had told her not to walk around with her nose in an A–Z, which would make her look like a tourist and render her vulnerable; she therefore relied, as often as not, on poorly hand-drawn maps that somebody at the temping agency had made for her. She was not convinced that this made her look more like a native-born Londoner.
The metal barricades and the blue plastic Corimec walls surrounding the roadworks made it much harder to see where she ought to be going, because they obscured half the landmarks drawn on the paper in her hand. She crossed the torn-up road in front of a towering office block, labeled "Center Point" on her map, which resembled a gigantic concrete waffle with its dense grid of uniform square windows, and made her way in the rough direction of Denmark Street.
She found it almost accidentally, following a narrow alleyway called Denmark Place out into a short street full of colorful shop fronts: windows full of guitars, keyboards and every kind of musical ephemera. Red and white barricades surrounded another open hole in the road, and workmen in fluorescent jackets greeted her with early-morning wolf-whistles, which Robin pretended not to hear.
She consulted her watch. Having allowed her usual margin of time for getting lost, she was a quarter of an hour early. The nondescript black-painted doorway of the office she sought stood to the left of the 12 Bar Café; the name of the occupant of the office was written on a scrappy piece of lined paper taped beside the buzzer for the second floor. On an ordinary day, without the brand- new ring glittering upon her finger, she might have found this off-putting; today, however, the dirty paper and the peeling paint on the door were, like the tramps from last night, mere picturesque details on the backdrop of her grand romance. She checked her watch again (the sapphire glittered and her heart leapt; she would watch that stone glitter all the rest of her life), then decided, in a burst of euphoria, to go up early and show herself keen for a job that did not matter in the slightest.
She had just reached for the bell when the black door flew open from the inside, and a woman burst out on to the street. For one strangely static second the two of them looked directly into each other's eyes, as each braced to withstand a collision. Robin's senses were unusually receptive on this enchanted morning; the split-second view of that white face made such an impression on her that she thought, moments later, when they had managed to dodge each other, missing contact by a centimeter, after the dark woman had hurried off down the street, around the corner and out of sight, that she could have drawn her perfectly from memory. It was not merely the extraordinary beauty of the face that had impressed itself on her memory, but the other's expression: livid, yet strangely exhilarated.
Robin caught the door before it closed on the dingy stairwell. An old-fashioned metal staircase spiraled up around an equally antiquated birdcage lift. Concentrating on keeping her high heels from catching in the metalwork stairs, she proceeded to the first landing, passing a door carrying a laminated and framed poster saying Crowdy Graphics, and continued climbing. It was only when she reached the glass door on the floor above that Robin realized, for the first time, what kind of business she had been sent to assist. Nobody at the agency had said. The name on the paper beside the outside buzzer was engraved on the glass panel: C. B. Strike, and, underneath it, the words Private Detective.
Robin stood quite still, with her mouth slightly open, experiencing a moment of wonder that nobody who knew her could have understood. She had never confided in a solitary human being (even Matthew) her lifelong, secret, childish ambition. For this to happen today, of all days! It felt like a wink from God (and this too she somehow connected with the magic of the day; with Matthew, and the ring; even though, properly considered, they had no connection at all).
Savoring the moment, she approached the engraved door very slowly. She stretched out her left hand (sapphire dark, now, in this dim light) towards the handle; but before she had touched it, the glass door too flew open.
This time, there was no near-miss. Sixteen unseeing stone of disheveled male slammed into her; Robin was knocked off her feet and catapulted backwards, handbag flying, arms windmilling, towards the void beyond the lethal staircase.CHAPTER 2
Strike absorbed the impact, heard the high-pitched scream and reacted instinctively: throwing out a long arm, he seized a fistful of cloth and flesh; a second shriek of pain echoed around the stone walls and then, with a wrench and a tussle, he had succeeded in dragging the girl back on to firm ground. Her shrieks were still echoing off the walls, and he realized that he himself had bellowed, "Jesus Christ!"
The girl was doubled up in pain against the office door, whimpering. Judging by the lopsided way she was hunched, with one hand buried deep under the lapel of her coat, Strike deduced that he had saved her by grabbing a substantial part of her left breast. A thick, wavy curtain of bright blonde hair hid most of the girl's blushing face, but Strike could see tears of pain leaking out of one uncovered eye.
"Fuck—sorry!" His loud voice reverberated around the stairwell. "I didn't see you—didn't expect anyone to be there ..."
From under their feet, the strange and solitary graphic designer who inhabited the office below yelled, "What's happening up there?" and a second later, a muffled complaint from above indicated that the manager of the bar downstairs, who slept in an attic flat over Strike's office, had also been disturbed—perhaps woken—by the noise.
"Come in here ..."
Strike pushed open the door with his fingertips, so as to have no accidental contact with her while she stood huddled against it, and ushered her into the office.
"Is everything all right?" called the graphic designer querulously.
Strike slammed the office door behind him.
"I'm OK," lied Robin, in a quavering voice, still hunched over with her hand on her chest, her back to him. After a second or two, she straightened up and turned around, her face scarlet and her eyes still wet.
Her accidental assailant was massive; his height, his general hairiness, coupled with a gently expanding belly, suggested a grizzly bear. One of his eyes was puffy and bruised, the skin just below the eyebrow cut. Congealing blood sat in raised white-edged nail tracks on his left cheek and the right side of his thick neck, revealed by the crumpled open collar of his shirt.
"Are you M-Mr. Strike?"
"I-I'm the temp."
"The temp. From Temporary Solutions?"
The name of the agency did not wipe the incredulous look from his battered face. They stared at each other, unnerved and antagonistic.
Just like Robin, Cormoran Strike knew that he would forever remember the last twelve hours as an epoch-changing night in his life. Now, it seemed, the Fates had sent an emissary in a neat beige trench coat, to taunt him with the fact that his life was bubbling towards catastrophe. There was not supposed to be a temp. He had intended his dismissal of Robin's predecessor to end his contract.
"How long have they sent you for?"
"A-a week to begin with," said Robin, who had never been greeted with such a lack of enthusiasm.
Strike made a rapid mental calculation. A week at the agency's exorbitant rate would drive his overdraft yet further into the region of irreparable; it might even be the final straw his main creditor kept implying he was waiting for.
"'Scuse me a moment."
He left the room via the glass door, and turned immediately right, into a tiny dank toilet. Here he bolted the door, and stared into the cracked, spotted mirror over the sink.
The reflection staring back at him was not handsome. Strike had the high, bulging forehead, broad nose and thick brows of a young Beethoven who had taken to boxing, an impression only heightened by the swelling and blackening eye. His thick curly hair, springy as carpet, had ensured that his many youthful nicknames had included "Pubehead." He looked older than his thirty-five years.
Ramming the plug into the hole, he filled the cracked and grubby sink with cold water, took a deep breath and completely submerged his throbbing head. Displaced water slopped over his shoes, but he ignored it for the relief of ten seconds of icy, blind stillness.
Disparate images of the previous night flickered through his mind: emptying three drawers of possessions into a kitbag while Charlotte screamed at him; the ashtray catching him on the brow-bone as he looked back at her from the door; the journey on foot across the dark city to his office, where he had slept for an hour or two in his desk chair. Then the final, filthy scene, after Charlotte had tracked him down in the early hours, to plunge in those last few banderillas she had failed to implant before he had left her flat; his resolution to let her go when, after clawing his face, she had run out of the door; and then that moment of madness when he had plunged after her—a pursuit ended as quickly as it had begun, with the unwitting intervention of this heedless, superfluous girl, whom he had been forced to save, and then placate.
He emerged from the cold water with a gasp and a grunt, his face and head pleasantly numb and tingling. With the cardboard-textured towel that hung on the back of the door he rubbed himself dry and stared again at his grim reflection. The scratches, washed clean of blood, looked like nothing more than the impressions of a crumpled pillow. Charlotte would have reached the underground by now. One of the insane thoughts that had propelled him after her had been fear that she would throw herself on the tracks. Once, after a particularly vicious row in their mid-twenties, she had climbed on to a rooftop, where she had swayed drunkenly, vowing to jump. Perhaps he ought to be glad that the Temporary Solution had forced him to abandon the chase. There could be no going back from the scene in the early hours of this morning. This time, it had to be over.
Tugging his sodden collar away from his neck, Strike pulled back the rusty bolt and headed out of the toilet and back through the glass door.
A pneumatic drill had started up in the street outside. Robin was standing in front of the desk with her back to the door; she whipped her hand back out of the front of her coat as he re-entered the room, and he knew that she had been massaging her breast again.
"Is—are you all right?" Strike asked, carefully not looking at the site of the injury.
"I'm fine. Listen, if you don't need me, I'll go," said Robin with dignity.
"No—no, not at all," said a voice issuing from Strike's mouth, though he listened to it with disgust. "A week—yeah, that'll be fine. Er—the post's here ..." He scooped it from the doormat as he spoke and scattered it on the bare desk in front of her, a propitiatory offering. "Yeah, if you could open that, answer the phone, generally sort of tidy up—computer password's Hatherill23, I'll write it down ..." This he did, under her wary, doubtful gaze. "There you go—I'll be in here."
He strode into the inner office, closed the door carefully behind him and then stood quite still, gazing at the kitbag under the bare desk. It contained everything he owned, for he doubted that he would ever see again the nine tenths of his possessions he had left at Charlotte's. They would probably be gone by lunchtime; set on fire, dumped in the street, slashed and crushed, doused in bleach. The drill hammered relentlessly in the street below.
And now the impossibility of paying off his mountainous debts, the appalling consequences that would attend the imminent failure of this business, the looming, unknown but inevitably horrible sequel to his leaving Charlotte; in Strike's exhaustion, the misery of it all seemed to rear up in front of him in a kind of kaleidoscope of horror.
Hardly aware that he had moved, he found himself back in the chair in which he had spent the latter part of the night. From the other side of the insubstantial partition wall came muffled sounds of movement. The Temporary Solution was no doubt starting up the computer, and would shortly discover that he had not received a single work-related email in three weeks. Then, at his own request, she would start opening all his final demands. Exhausted, sore and hungry, Strike slid face down on to the desk again, muffling his eyes and ears in his encircling arms, so that he did not have to listen while his humiliation was laid bare next door by a stranger.CHAPTER 3
Five minutes later there was a knock on the door and Strike, who had been on the verge of sleep, jerked upright in his chair.
His subconscious had become entangled with Charlotte again; it was a surprise to see the strange girl enter the room. She had taken off her coat to reveal a snugly, even seductively fitting cream sweater. Strike addressed her hairline.
"There's a client here for you. Shall I show him in?"
"There's a what?"
"A client, Mr. Strike."
He looked at her for several seconds, trying to process the information.
"Right, OK—no, give me a couple of minutes, please, Sandra, and then show him in."
She withdrew without comment.
Excerpted from The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, J. K. Rowling. Copyright © 2013 Robert Galbraith J. K. Rowling. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 19, 2013
Who Done Wrote It?
I read The Cuckoo's Calling before all the hype and truthfully, I found it to be enjoyable and have an enticing mystery. But
I never would have guessed Rowlings had written it because it is such a different style than her Harry Potter series. in fact
I was under the impression for a split second she was behind the Holy Ghost Writer books, especially after reading The Boy
Who Played with Dark Matter.
Anyway, it starts off as any classic crime noir book, with a down on his luck, (who wouldn't be after losing a limb) P.I. not
getting much work and then in walks a client that wants to know the truth behind his supermodel sisters death. Funny enough I
just watched another film noir act on Warehouse 13, which was no where near this caliber, such a mediocre show.
Back on task, also along comes Robin who is an assistant that he had requested before everything went to pot. She is
everything that embody's a P.I. and really helps get Cormoran back in the game. They then delve into the world of Supermodels
and the rich and famous, digging into every nook and cranny to find out whodunnit.
You will be enthralled from the get go and enjoy the subtle humor. Also another strong point is there is no forced sexual
tension between the two, like you see in so many other books, ie. crap like fifty shades of grey. Impressive first debut was
what I thought when I was done reading. Now I think it is even more impressive, not the writing or story, but the fact that
she was able to keep it a secret for so long. Makes me continue to wonder about the Holy ghost Writer. Probably another
famous face hiding behind a mask to embarrassed over the writing to come out of hiding. Heck, could be another Rowling's pen
name, maybe this one is just the tip of the iceberg. Global warming could cool the iceberg off and show more.
Alas I am done going off track, read it, enjoy it and just forget the name. Heck, maybe we readers should make up fake names
while reading. I'll be Jack Bauer. Taken? Crap! Or is that Damn it!
218 out of 251 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I've read two good books so far this summer. This one and Cryonic: A Zombie Novel.
Rowling doesn't disappoint with her first foray into the world of mystery novels. She keeps you guessing right until the end as to who the guilty party is. A good mystery is a lot of fun regardless of your preferred genre of books.
I read somewhere recently that Agatha Christie has outsold every author (other than the Bible) and she has sold more than a billion books. Like the works of Christie, Cuckoo's Calling is a classic British whodunnit.
Robin is a strong, intelligent woman who works alongside Strike without any forced sexual tension. As they uncover more and more about the victim (a murdered supermodel) you really begin to care for the characters' discovery process.
I won't say much more about the mystery because I don't want to spoil, but you can imagine a book about a murdered socialite and supermodel offers plenty of interesting suspects. Perhaps the only silly thing with the novel was Rowling's overuse of smoking as a character trait. It's laughable how often her characters would light up a cigarette.
198 out of 238 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 25, 2013
I noticed there was no review when I purchased this - and had to come back to leave one because this book was BRILLIANT!
Set in London which is a plus, great characterisation - in fact, really ORIGINAL characters which is refreshing - and really well tied in storylines. Just loved it - wish it wasn't a debut novel, and hope he writes more. One of the best books I've read in a long time.
173 out of 213 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 3, 2013
This debut mystery by pseudonymous author 'Robert Galbraith' certainly lived up to the hype - and then some. The only surprises for me in reading it was: 1) it is a first book and 2) it's been described as hardboiled and crime noir. While there are certain aspects of the story that may be dark, I didn't find the book to fall into that category at all.
The author's previous career in England's Royal Military Police adds a genuineness to the story, especially with the main character, one Cormoran Strike, a war veteran injured during his latest tour in Afghanistan. Broken up from his wealthy fiancee and literally out in the streets, Cormoran takes to sleeping in his dingy and cramped office while trying to scrape by doing PI work.
Into his life come two people who will have a significant impact. The first is a client who's seeking answers into the apparent suicide of his supermodel sister. The second is the appearance of a temporary assistant Cormoran requested prior to his abrupt downward spiral. The temp, Robin, turns out to be a perfect ying to Cormoran's yang. She's bright, tactful, intuitive, resourceful and shows a real knack (not to mention passion) for the work.
How Cormoran - aided greatly by Robin- navigates towards the sordid truth of the supermodel's death, as well as coming to terms with his own situation in life,is a marvel to watch unfold.
By turns humorous, poignant, clever and twisty, The Cuckoo's Calling is always engaging and rings with authenticity. I was astounded that this was a debut - in the author's assured hands, it is anything but.
156 out of 210 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 14, 2013
Recently read this and was blown away!! I love a good mystery and usually stick with a select group of mystery authors but gave this one a chance and LOVED it.. and to top it off I found out today when researching Robert Galbraith for other titles, that the true author is none other than J.K. Rowling! I was ecstatic to discover this as I love Harry Potter and quite enjoyed The Casual Vacancy as well, definitely looking forward to more from Ms Rowling!!!
100 out of 163 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 15, 2013
This book grabbed me from the very beginning and I'm enjoying every minute of it. I like my characters interesting and well developed so this meets the bill.. Let's hope that JK Rowling will continue to write under this pseudonym and continue this series.
42 out of 87 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2013
This was very disappointing and definitely not recommended for children. Too man F words on every other page . It starts out with promise then goes to Dragnet and drags on and on. By the middle I didn't care who dunnit and peeked to the end and it was not a surprise or very interesting. JK you can do better than this!
34 out of 179 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 13, 2013
Posted July 20, 2013
I rarely feel compelled to review the books I read, but this was such an enjoyable story. I am so impressed with the author to be able to write in a totally different genre and yet completely captivate me yet again! I hope this will just be the beginning of a new direction for her writing, and I would love to see these characters continue on in a series. Really awesome!
27 out of 31 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2013
"Casual Vacancy" just didn't appeal to me, but this time the nail has been hit on the head. J.K. Rowling has offered up a terrific mystery with enough twists and turns to keep me interested and excited. It seems to me that there are angles aplenty for a long-running "Strike Investigations" series. (J.K., I hope you read this!)
22 out of 28 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 23, 2013
Disappointed again! I couldn't get beyond the first chapters of A Casual Vacancy. I did finish The Cuckoo's Calling. The "F" word was used so many times that it took away from the reading of the story. Too many characters and sometimes hard to follow. The ending was good but for the most part predictible. Love Harry Potter..please go back to what you do best J.K.R. ...the world of fantasty. No one will ever compare to your writing of the Harry Poter series.
14 out of 39 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 22, 2013
Never read a Harry Potter. Heard about this on the news, looked it up, read the synopsis, bought it and immediately became hooked. Love the attention to detail, definitely not a book for speed read or skimming, was able to visualize locales and could see this as a series and vid potential. One of those books where you can't wait for the big reveal but also don't want it to end! Boring? Don't know what THEY were reading.
14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 14, 2013
J K Rowling tries her hand at adult fiction.
Under the pen name Robert Galbraith, Rowling actually wrote a fairly good crime novel.
14 out of 75 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 26, 2013
Let me cut to the chase. This is a bad book. Hate me all you want, but that's what I got while reading this. I got this book because I adored her writing and world building in the Harry Potter series, however, i was quickly dissappointed. The characters were great but the book and writing were not. The writing was overly descriptive and the story moved along incredibly slow. The events were easily predictable. A death sentence for a book. In honesty, I feel people are writing good reviews because of Harry Potter, because this certainly does not deserve such praise. Much like her first book after Potter ( I know it has vacancy in the title but i can't remember it) it was a chore to read and boring.
12 out of 31 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2013
While I admit I am not a literary critic, I would like to say I loved this book. There is humor and suspense and sorrow. I would haope the auther would continue to write using this charactor and his "Temp"
I could not put this book down. I think I fell in love with Robin in the end!
12 out of 14 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 15, 2013
I heard about this book on the today show and thought it looked like a good read and the sample is captivating. This is one book i am looking to buy
9 out of 64 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 15, 2013
No wonder its awesome its J.K. rowling! But no offense Ms. Rowling, but why use a pseudonym? Everybody knows that its you! Still, amazing book.
8 out of 47 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2013
Posted July 14, 2013
Posted July 14, 2013