J. K. Rowling Ghost Writes ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’

A detective story published under a pseudonym! From Hypable.com:

Harry Potter and The Casual Vacancy author J.K. Rowling has revealed that she ghost-wrote a crime novel titled The Cuckoo’s Calling.

Rowling operated under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith to publish The Cuckoo’s Calling in April of this year.

The Telegraph received confirmation from the author as well as a statement. “I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience,” said Rowling. “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

The author’s biography is as hilarious as this news that’s been kept secret from us for several months. It reads, “After several years with the Royal Military Police, Robert Galbraith was attached to the SIB (Special Investigative Branch), the plain-clothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who returned to the civilian world. ‘Robert Galbraith’ is a pseudonym.”

The book is available right now on Amazon and currently has a nearly 5-star rating.

Says the book’s official synopsis found on Amazon:

A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

I’ve ordered a copy and will let you know what I think as soon as I can. Please share in the comment boxes below your thoughts (a) about the book if you’ve read and (b) about this gay lark of the Presence in publishing under cover. Big news — and delightful for those of us who love JKR fiction (and who hate the run-up to hyped releases)!

Hat tip to James!


  1. wayne stauffer says

    the leaky cauldron also reports a little on the oxford linguists who were studying several texts and noticed the similarities to CV and HP books and not to other detective novels.

  2. I loved this news. For starters, how much fun is it that she wrote under a pen name? Liberating for her indeed! And for reviewers, who got to initially read it as a debut novel by an unknown writer, and so weren’t all caught up in comparing it (favorably or unfavorably) to her previous work.

    Secondly, I’m so excited it’s detective fiction. JKR is, first and foremost, a storyteller, and I was disappointed that her first published book after HP was literary fiction (which quite honestly often seems to lose the joy of storytelling). The mystery elements of the HP books are some of my favorite parts, and part of what makes them so compelling. Having just finished a re-aloud of Sorcerer’s Stone with my 11 year old (who is new to the series) I remembered firsthand the fun of guessing “whodunnit” in that one, and all of the delightful misdirection and red herrings. My daughter was completely surprised by the ending, which is as it should be.

    I’ve got a copy of the new book on hold at the library already. I hurried over to get into the queue as soon as I heard the news, and only 17 people got there before me. 🙂

  3. Bruce Charlton says

    Before I read Harry Potter (and before I understood its profound subtext) I gathered it was mostly a kind of whodunnit – and one of the most complex and extended ever written. So I would suppose that JKR would do a good technical job of this kind of novel.

    Am I the only one shocked by the grossly misleading dishonesty of the RG author biography? It claims a spurious, misleading and self-serving authority for the text. Even when (or especially when) the author uses a pseudonym, I would expect the biographical details, claims of experience and education, to be honest.

    For me this is yet another strike against the tattered remnants of JKR’s moral stature.

  4. Steve Morrison says

    @Bruce Charlton:
    Some commenters over at Tor.com blogs raised the same issue.


  5. I was so excited last night when I checked a news feed before shutting down. A total surprise and how great, not only to find out she’s got a new book, but that we don’t have to wait! Plus the sequel is also finished and will be available in several months, said the Guardian.
    I was also a little vexed by the fake bio. Is that normal? I know many famous authors write under other names, but do they also include “other” bios? Seems off to me, as mentioned above, that the credentials of Galbraith can make a reader feel like it will be a book written by someone “in the know.” Poor judgement, methinks, unless of course it is typically part of the pseudonym thing. I confess it will not hold me back from dashing out tomorrow to pick it up. I admire her so much that I can forgive a lot.
    I think she may do a series of these. She said once how much she loved Agatha Christie. Me too. She seems a writer very comfortable with a set of characters she can stick with “til the very end.” Perhaps Cormoran Strike will become a famous BBC detective like Morse or Lewis. Love it.

  6. Haven’t read the book yet – I just learned today the wonderful news about the latest Rowling-Baby (which will probably compete a bit for attention with the “royal-baby”, which is due every day!
    When I started my search at the online-bookshops I realized that there is anothear author named Galbraith, whith surname and initials: John K. (coincidence?). He wrote a book called “The Great Crash”, which analyses the 1929 stockexchange breakdown. A theme that is more or less directly connected to the world of glamour, which seems to play a role in J.K.’s new detective novel. In fact there are two men named J. K. Galbraith who write on economic themes.
    Perhaps the bio J.K. Rowling created for her pseudonym could be interpreted as part of the fiction?
    Because J.K. loves to adress her readers on several levels and therefore she must have had real fun smuggeling this cuckoo’s egg of a book under the watchful eyes of millions of fans.
    I’m looking forward to reading the book and I hope for good whodunnit à la Sayers, Christie and Conan Doyle.

  7. Interesting points, Claudia! After all, we do know that Rowling is having fun with names! Therefore I just did some research on the web and apparently Robert means ‘bright with glory’ or ‘famous’ while Galbraith seems to refer to “British people who lived in what is today Scotland before the arrival of the Gaels”. (wikipedia)
    So Robert Galbraith is a famous Briton living in Scotland … sounds familiar?

    I wonder what the name of the protagonist may mean though. Cormoran Strike sounds rather uninventive and bland, but I’m sure there’s more to it than that.

  8. Louise M. Freeman says

    Well, I am excited to have another Rowling book to read. Does anyone know how “adult” Cuckoo’s Calling is? My teenager is interested in reading it. I advised her against reading CV when it came out, after seeing how explicit the sex scenes were was. I am hoping this will be be toned down a notch so we can enjoy it together.

  9. As a “older/mature” reader – okay, well past 40 – I have been captivated with the intellectual adventures that this site has taken me on. Many thanks!! So at 4am this morning, in a moment of insomnia, I found & ordered 2 copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling in hopes of having an edition with the Galbraith bio only, unlike the subsequent printings which will have the “Galbraith=J K Rowling” update. So fingers crossed and looking forward to a terrific read too!

  10. Steve Morrison says

    Language Log has a (mildly technical) post on how the analysis was done:


  11. 7kidsinTx says

    Steve Morrison, thank you for posting that link. I read the article and really enjoyed reading about the analysis.

    Bastian, I also love your analysis of the pen name Rowling chose.

    I love this blog!

  12. Kim Jeffery says

    I read *The Cuckoo’s Calling* last week and enjoyed it very much. One of the things that particularly struck me was J. K. Rowling’s choice of animal descriptives for so many of the characters. At first I was noticing birds — Cormoran is so similar to the cormorant, Strike made me think of “shrike”. The secretary is Robin, Lula’s nickname is “Cuckoo”. Characters are “rabbity”, “colt-limbed”, “hamsterish”, “catlike”, they have “fishlike” eyes, or “marmoset” eyes. My most favorite, laugh-out-loud description was, “Strike felt abnormally huge and hairy; a woolly mammoth attempting to blend in among capuchin monkeys.” I thought it was intriguing that characters seem consistently animalish and wondered if that were a clue as to how JKR saw their behavior or their characters.

  13. Just finished this book last night. I was definitely sucked in by the who dunnit aspect and enjoyed that part thoroughly although I missed the world building of Harry Potter. The cast of characters was fantastic.

    Did anyone else notice the abrupt point of view changes? Like a chapter or section will open in Robin’s POV and then a few paragraphs later without a scene change it is suddenly from Strike’s POV again? Maybe there are page breaks I’m not seeing since I read it on a Kindle.

  14. I’m not finished yet. We went on vacation for a week just after I started reading Cuckoo’s Calling. I’ve really been enjoying it. The characters are interesting and believable. The mystery has kept me guessing – just when I think I have it figured out, the story takes a turn.

    The funny thing is, I’ve had no trouble disconnecting this book from the Harry Potter books. With Casual Vacancy, which I thought was quite good, I kept trying to make connections. Perhaps it was just because that was Rowling’s first book after the series.

    Once I read that she had a new book, I bought it for my Nook. The author description is the one of Robert Galbraith. I looked for the book at my local Barnes and Noble and couldn’t find it till last Saturday. So I bought that as well, and the book jacket blurb (inside) had already been changed to say that JK Rowling wrote it. So I’m kind of glad to have both copies.

  15. Oh, one more thing – does anyone have any idea who she is talking about in the dedication? Very curious, that one.

  16. I just finished reading it today and liked it very much. As someone who has read a lot of detective fiction, I would say this compares favorably to some of the writers I enjoy the most, such as Deborah Crombie and P.D. James. A good mystery, but most especially a very well-drawn detective (and sidekick). JKR has not lost her touch with characterization!

    With that said, I think it’s a shame that JKR found it necessary to include so much profanity (mind-numbing amounts in certain scenes, especially of one particular word). While she may have felt it was a true and needed detail for the particular world her detective was exploring, it got tiring very quickly — and seemed to lose all of its shock value by just becoming annoying. For Louise and others who are wondering if this book is appropriate for teens, besides the profanity there are a few other vulgar references and one “intimate” encounter that I found distasteful and wish she had dropped.

  17. Beth, I still haven’t quite finished. (It’s been kind of nice to read one of Rowling’s books at a more leisurely pace.) But I think I’ve passed the scenes you are talking about and I agree. A little goes a long way and I know some people talk that way, but really – it was a bit much. It’s a shame because it would be nice to pass this book along to younger readers who are Rowling fans because of Harry Potter, but I probably wouldn’t.

    However, since my daughters are in their 30s, I’ll have no trouble passing the book along to them. They’re big girls and can handle it. And they know how I feel about that kind of language.

  18. phoenixsong58 says

    I’m only 47 pages into Cuckoo’s Calling; I just started it today. I just have to say that I was interested to note the proliferation of Greek gods and goddesses. Icarus, Eros, Athena, Mercury, and Bacchus (in “bacchanalian”) have already all been named. I was wondering to myself how much is hidden within the story, and I am looking forward to deeper interpretation by the Hogwart’s professor!

  19. wayne stauffer says

    I finished CC this evening. Duly noted all above references to animal and avian imagery, classic mythology, curse words, and shifting POVs. She even used the classic 5-act play structure.

    I have not been a big fan of mystery/detective novels. Yes, I liked Doyle’s Holmes, but haven’t read Christie, Marple, Poirot, Hillerman, and most other popular mystery writers (I know, I’ve mixed writers and characters. I don’t follow the genre.)

    I easily see this going into many more Strike stories, though, as many as JKR wants to crank out. The characters are engaging, this plot credible, realistic settings, actions, and motivations. I foresee continuing roles for Strike (of course), Robin, Wardle, Carver, Guy Some, Bryony and Ciara (at least until Strike and Robin finally get together). This one ended with no loose ends, so it doesn’t look to me, at first reading anyway, to be a Harry-like continuous series/storyline. More episodic, so I can bet the BBC or ITV are licking their chops at the prospects of a new TV series. Contemporary setting, so no expensive set to build (as for Hogwarts/Diagon Alley) or exotic costuming.

    I’m still not a big fan of mysteries, but because it’s JKR, I’ll look forward to the next one to see if Robin only moves closer to dumping Matthew or if she bails out entirely. (I loved the bit of frozen pea lodged in the ring!)

  20. Odd Sverre Hove says

    I’ve read it through once, but only with the easy mind of reading a detective story, not with the thorough look of a serious Potter student.

    I noticed (and disliked) all the swearing, but English is not my native language, and I am not very skilled at identifying profanities in English.

    I also noticed the change of voice-perrspektive between Strike and Robin and wondered what to think about it. I enjoyed very much struggling with the latin quotations (but was also happy for the translations into English!) and wondered what secrets the quotations may hide.

    I also look forward to the analysis of the five parts structure. Is is carrying secrets within itself?

    And what about alchemic aspects? I looked out for black and white and red colors, as a sort of hints, but they didn’t strike me as very easy to discover. I also probably overlooked lots of set-ups/pay-offs and overall composition-trends.

    So: the Cuckoo calls for some re-readings.

    Odd Sverre Hove (Bergen, Norway)

  21. I have always been a huge fan of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple. I am waiting for the book to arrive so have nothing to add, but a commentary on our fav writer and what the future may hold for fans.

    She referred to Strike in an interview as her “hero”. This says to me we are getting a new character to love and care about. She also stated her love for the Robin character. This is great news for mystery lovers like me. If the main protagonists are already rather well-written, then it can only get better as she becomes more comfortable and intimate with them. She will likely develop a storyline that will continue through each volume separate from the mystery plot. I predict a long series of novels wherein we become very attached to Strike and his story. She knows her stuff and seems to have found a new vehicle that she will stick with. I am happy for her because it must be great to land on a new hero and know she can escape into his world and let out her line.

  22. I think J.K. now seems to have a regular penchant for writing about someone who is already dead or dies right away at the beginning of the story (Lily, Barry and now Lula). Has anyone else noticed this? I think she really likes “going back” to fill the reader in on the back story of her dead characters. Just a thought . . .

  23. Amy, that’s a good point. This has really been the first time JKR has written in a genre that almost requires an early death (or death before the story starts) and yet she’s always included it as a significant part of her story.

    The emphasis on back story was something that really jumped off the page at me in CC. I already returned my library copy, so can’t look it up, but there was a scene where Strike was looking into Lula’s past and thought to himself that through reading her emails, etc. it was almost like she’d appeared before him and was present in the office. I wish I could remember exactly how Rowling phrased it, but I was suddenly struck that this was very much a pensieve moment. Strike’s office was standing in for Dumbledore’s and the computer/internet (muggle technology!) was standing in for the magic of the pensieve, but it gave me as a reader essentially the same feeling.

  24. I finished the book a few weeks ago and forgot to come back. I really did like it (except the language in the middle of the book by a few of the characters). I didn’t really look for any alchemical signs, nor did any jump out at me. I just enjoyed it as a crime/mystery novel. I liked the character development and the pace of the story. It wasn’t rushed and that gave me time to think about the things that Strike and Robin were learning about Lula. I felt like Rowling did her masterful job of misdirecting the reader – I followed right along and, though I suspected the guilty one at one point, by the end I didn’t and it was a surprise. I actually don’t like crime novels where I can figure out “who done it” before it’s revealed in the story.

    I’m looking forward to more novels from Ms. Rowling. But I will always count Harry Potter as my favorites. All that follows, as far as I’m concerned, will just be for fun.

  25. phoenixsong58 says

    Eeyore, I agree with you. I think Jo Rowling is a brilliant writer, and Cuckoo’s Calling was an excellent detective story. I couldn’t put it down, and I read it in a couple of days. I did not guess the killer, although I wondered about that person . . .
    I also loved The Casual Vacancy as literary fiction.
    However, the Harry Potter books are my very favorite books in the world, in a class by themselves, so anything by JKR holds a bit of nostalgia and longing in me for more of Harry Potter. I will always hold out hope that she will have a go at Young Adult with some supernatural or Fantasy in it, or even better that she will revisit Hogwarts or the magical world one day! 🙂

  26. Does anyone else get the impression that Cormoran Strike is JKR’s soul in Alaistor Moody’s body?

    Strike doesn’t have a magical blue eye, but he definitely sees far more than most other people do.
    He has JKR’s methodical mind and passion for justice. At the same time he faces the pain of a broken relationship with eloquence and insight, fighting off loneliness and despair by immersing himself in his work


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