(disclaimer: I did know that Robert Galbraith was J.K. before reading "The Cuckoo's Calling" :) )
My main motivation was to see whether J.K. could in fact write something different from the Harry Potter books. I think I could say that's it's definitely a yes. Is the book entirely successful, sadly no. Some things kept nagging me while reading it...
J.K. seemed to be aiming for something like Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus. But rather than than the boorish, hard drinking and wry Rebus, Cormoran comes across as a bedraggled cuddly bear with a British public school education. The Literati likes to pigeonhole writers into neat little boxes. Write one fantasy novel and you wear that cape for the rest of your life. Same goes for Crime Fiction and SF and on and on. Some writers happily wear their personal heavy cross, others fight it. J.K. seems to be wanting to fight it, which is a credit to her.
One of the enjoyable aspects of this book was the language. Having read the first two HP books, I was also quite surprised by the use of language, which is quite different from the HP books... It was a rude awakening lol.
J.K. also describes a view on life that's so thoroughly British that you do know and understand that you are also taking part in a bit of an anthropological expedition while reading this book. So often today’s Crime Fiction can be confused with action adventures as heroes run from one location to another while bodies pile up. That is not how Cormoran works and this's why I like him. This book it's also all about the dialogue. She is a master at this. Strike’s talent is in listening and asking the right questions.
For me another plus of the book was the strength of the characterization. Whether it’s the self-centered bravado of fashion designer Guy Somé or the maternal deceptiveness of Lady Bristow, Strike’s journey toward the truth is the piece de resistance of the typical Londoner.
I guessed who the murderer about halfway through the novel, but that was not really relevant. I still enjoyed the ride to get there. What I didn't enjoy that much was the way Strike used the clues to figure out (almost) everything, which stretched out credibility to its limit (eg and off the top of my head, the puddle on the floor made him think flowers instead of snow even though it was snowing outside. Ahm... Cormoran's ability to wildly speculate was a little mind-blowing to say the least, but all is (almost) forgiven and forgotten when the ride satisfies as this one did.
I'm putting "The Casual Vacancy" on my TBR pile. I got curious...