Book Discussion Questions: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Cover of Cuckoo's CallingTitle: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith
Page Count: 455 pages
Genre: Mystery
Tone: Descriptive, Fast-paced, Bleak

Summary:
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.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2015 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

  1. 1. When we meet Strike, he is not at a personal high point. What are some of his struggles? He is further developed as the book proceeds – what did you find most interesting or surprising as we learned more about him?

2. How does knowing about Strike’s personal life affect your reading experience? Is he an appealing protagonist? If so, why do we root for him?

3. How would you assess Strike’s skills as an investigator? How is his talent evidenced in his interviews with suspects? How does his military experience influence his skills?

4. How does Strike’s disability affect his investigation? How does it affect how he relates to others? Why is his prosthesis pain / discomfort frequently mentioned?

5. Through Strike’s extensive investigation, a complex portrait of Lula emerges. How would you describe her lifestyle? Her personality? Her demons / challenges?

6. As a reader, do you feel like you knew everything that Strike and Robin were discovering? If so, was there a certain point at which you realized this was changing? (When were you aware the author was holding some information back from us?)

7. There is a motley grouping of supermodels, fashion queens, sleazy movie execs, trophy wives, and upper- and lower-class Brits. Which characters did you find most entertaining/ amusing? Do any of them seem vulgar to you, and if so, does this add or detract from their entertainment value as you read?

8. Do any interview scenes stand out in particular? How does the author use dialogue to express information about the characters?

9. How are female characters portrayed?

10. There is a lot of commentary by character about other characters. How much of our opinion of some of these characters is shaped by how others view them? How do the poor women perceive the rich ones? And vice versa?

11. Describe how the relationship between Strike and Robin is portrayed. Does their initial awkwardness around e/o change? How does he learn to trust her? How does their working relationship evolve? How do they navigate a working relationship while respecting e/o’s privacy / personal lives?

12. The book paints a certain picture of Strike and Charlotte’s turbulent multi-year relationship and her unappealing traits (high drama, cruel, lying, revenge-seeking). Why did he keep going back to her? Do you see any parallels between Lula and Charlotte?

13. The book’s prologue opens with a quote that translated from Latin reads, “Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous.” How does The Cuckoo’s Calling express this?

14. What do you think the author thinks of our culture’s contemporary obsession with celebrities?

15. What are Strike’s thoughts on fame? How does he handle it when people mention his father?

16. There is an inescapable connection between Princess Diana and aggressive paparazzi, which also haunts Lula Landry. Beyond this, are there additional parallels you could draw between Lula and Diana?

17. How does the author incorporate social criticism into the narrative and the characters?

18. What are we led to believe about the morals of the upper-class, the lower-class, and other segments of society?

19. The book ends with Strike pondering, “I am become a name”   How did you respond to the characters’ names in The Cuckoo’s Calling?

20. What do you think of the title? What do you think “calling” means? Why isn’t Lula’s character referred to as Cuckoo very often in the book?

21. Much of the book is devoted to interviews and conversation; as a result, some readers have critiqued lack of action. How did you respond to the dialogue-intensive construction of the book?

22. Several reviews used the word “fun” to describe this book. Do you agree?

23. Mystery novels are a hugely popular genre — Why do murder mysteries have such a high potential for entertainment value?

The author possibly winks at us on this topic: Strike says. “Some might have questioned the taste of finding amusement in the midst of a murder inquiry, but he had found humor in darker places” (p 362).

24. There are some familiar P.I. tropes (suicide being investigated as murder, P.I. is down on his luck, has a crappy office, little work coming in, eager assistant / sidekick) here. Do they feel like clichés, or merely recognizable features of a classic mystery? Does it seem like a typical mystery to you? Anything that makes it stand out among others?

25. Do you think Strike is unique among other fictional P.I.s?

26. The U.S. paperback cover shows the back of a model while she looks out at a sea of cameras. (vs. the U.K. version which is more colorful and shows a man walking under a light post in front of a large building). What do you think of the two different covers?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

Other Resources:

Lit Lovers’ Reading Group Guide
National Network to End Domestic Violence Discussion Questions
National Geographic article on discover J.k. Rowling’s authorship
Audio interview with J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith

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