I don't read mysteries as much as I used to, but I do love a classic detective novel. Martha Grimes' Richard Jury books, for example. Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt. Jaqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs. Although I've only read one or two by these authors, I've enjoyed Robert Parker's Spenser, Craig Johnson's walt Longmire, and Susan Wittig Allbert's China Bayles (although, I guess technically that's a cross between a cozy and detective...but I digress). So, when I say The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a., J.K. Rowling), is a classic detective novel, for me, that's a good thing. And, being that it's J.K. Rowling, it's no surprise that it hits all the right notes:
1. Descriptive setting. London, oh how I love you. Sunny, rainy, hot, cold. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the main character's day-to-day world, and that of the glitzy world of supermodels and designers and celebreties that he was drawn into during the investigation.
2. Well-drawn characters. This was a great first-book-in-a-series because the story was complete and whole, but with characters you want to get to know more. At first glance, Cormoran Strike is almost a little cliched: he's got a past (ex-Army) a wound (amputated leg) a busted up, long-term relationship, and he's the bastard son of a famous rock star. But I thought Rowling infused him with enough life to take him just out of cliche'd private eye zone. He also has a pretty new secretary, but one who stands out for her determination, brains, and enthusiasm for learning the detective trade. Bonus for giving the victim as much life as any of the other characters, maybe more. At the beginning of the book, she's a nameless tabloid darling, but at the end, she's a real girl, with a story and a sad ending.
3. Excellent pacing. This isn't an adreniline rush, but it doesn't drag either. It's measured and methodical, every detail revealed at the right time.
Bottom line: a solid choice for fans of detective fiction