The Cuckoo’s Calling: Synopsis

Are you ready to move on to the second book in the series, The Silkworm, but would first like to refresh your memory of the events of The Cuckoo’s Calling?

Spoiler warning: This page doesn’t name the killer, but it includes lots of details about the case and gives a full summary of Strike and Robin’s relationship throughout this book.


In the prologue to The Cuckoo’s Calling, we meet Detective Inspector Roy Carver and Detective Sergeant Eric Wardle on a snowy street in Mayfair. Watched avidly by the press, they wait for an ambulance to arrive and remove the body of a woman who has fallen from the roof of a nearby house.  

Part One is set three months later. Robin Ellacott travels to a week-long temping job, thinking of the previous evening when she became engaged to her long-term boyfriend, Matthew, an accountant. As she reaches the offices of C B Strike, Private Detective, the door opens suddenly and a large man knocks her back down the stairs, before catching her and saving her.

Robin’s assailant is Cormoran Strike, who has spent the night in his office, having just split up with his fiancée, Charlotte. His business is going badly, he has few clients and is in debt to a man named Peter Gillespie, who is chasing him for payment. 

Although Strike does not really need a temporary secretary, he feels guilty about knocking Robin down and is unable to tell her she isn’t wanted. Robin starts work, and shortly afterwards a new client arrives. John Bristow is an expensively dressed lawyer who recognises Strike as a childhood friend of his late brother, Charlie.

Bristow wants Strike to investigate the death of his adopted sister, supermodel Lula Landry, who fell from her penthouse flat. Lula had a well-known history of poor mental health, and her death was ruled a suicide, but John believes she was murdered. After some persuasion, a sceptical Strike takes the case.

Acting on a tip-off from another of Strike’s clients, Robin googles Strike and discovers he is the illegitimate son of a famous rock star, Johnny Rokeby, and his late mother was Leda Strike, a “super-groupie.” Later, we meet Lucy, Strike’s half-sister on their mother’s side. We hear that Strike and Lucy spent some of their childhood with Leda in various squats in London, and some living with their Uncle Ted and Aunt Joan in St Mawes, Cornwall. Lucy now lives with her husband, Greg, and their three sons in south London. We also find out Strike has lost a leg whilst serving with the military police in Afghanistan.

In Part Two, Strike, homeless, continues to live in his office as he works the case with the assistance of Robin, whom Strike finds to be extremely efficient and useful. They sift through the copious media coverage of Lula’s death and trace several of her friends and acquaintances, such as fellow supermodel Ciara Porter, boyfriend Evan Duffield, and “an ordinary girl” she met in rehab. They visit Lula’s street together to see where she died and conclude that if she was murdered, the slapdash manner of the crime does not fit with the degree of planning that must have been necessary to gain access to her building. At the end of Robin’s first week, they agree that she will continue to work for Strike, cutting out the temping agency until Robin secures a permanent position elsewhere.

Strike interviews Derrick Wilson, the doorman at Lula’s building, and Keiran Kolovas-Jones, who drove her on the last day of her life.  

Strike also meets with DS Eric Wardle who, although convinced that the verdict of suicide was correct, agrees to let him have a copy of the file in exchange for some information about a wanted criminal that Strike has obtained from a friend. The file contains copies of witness statements and CCTV footage of Lula’s street on the night she died.

Bristow arranges for Strike to meet with Tansy Bestigui, Lula’s downstairs neighbour, whose claims to have heard shouts coming from Lula’s flat just before she fell to her death were dismissed by the police. Strike also encounters Ursula May, Tansy’s sister, and Cyprian May, Ursula’s husband and Bristow’s boss.

Lula visited a boutique called Vashti the day she died. In Part Three, Robin and Strike go to Vashti on the pretence that Strike is her brother and they are choosing a present for his wife. Robin tries on various outfits, including an expensive figure-hugging green dress in which she looks wonderful, whilst cleverly picking the brains of the shop assistants. Strike is very impressed by her ability to get people to talk, but is determined not to get too friendly, as Robin will be leaving the agency shortly.

Strike continues to investigate the case, encountering Tony Landry, Lula’s uncle, who appears to resent his involvement. Landry is very uncooperative, but confirms his movements on the day before Lula’s death. Strike engages the services of a computer engineer friend called Spanner to unlock the contents of Lula’s laptop.

Robin impresses Strike once again with her detective skills when she works out how to track down Rochelle Onifade — the “ordinary girl” who was friends with Lula. Strike finds her and interviews her about her friendship with Lula and their visit to Vashti.  

In Part Four, Strike continues to interview as many people relevant to the case as are willing to meet him. He interviews Guy Somé, a fashion designer, who was Lula’s close friend. He also used her and fellow model Ciara in his advertising. Derrick Wilson allows Strike and Robin to have a look around Lula’s flat and the rest of her building and gives them his account of the night Lula died.

Charlotte, Strike’s ex-fiancée, rings the office and asks Robin to tell Strike that she is engaged to an old flame, Jago Ross. Robin passes on this message, and Strike goes to his local pub, The Tottenham, to drown his sorrows, drinking many pints of Doom Bar and becoming very drunk. Robin, who senses Strike’s distress about Charlotte, is worried about him and searches nearby pubs until she finds him. He confesses to her that Charlotte had told him that she was pregnant, that he did not believe her, and then she had announced that the baby was gone. This had caused the final row that culminated in Strike leaving her. Robin takes him to get a kebab and then walks him back to the office.

The following day, Robin tactfully removes herself from the office and goes to investigate a couple of leads by herself. Strike, recovering from his hangover, interviews Ciara Porter, Lula’s supermodel friend, and Evan Duffield, her boyfriend. He then spends the night with Ciara.

The following day, Robin impresses Strike again by telling him what she found out about Tony Landry’s alibi, and how she discovered the identities of Lula’s biological father and brother.

DS Wardle then rings and asks Strike to go to the morgue, where he identifies the body of Rochelle Onifade, who had been pulled out of the Thames with Strike’s business card in her wallet. Strike is interrogated at Scotland Yard by DI Carver. Carver refuses to accept Strike’s assertion that both Rochelle and Lula were murdered or to give any credit to his assessment of Tansy Bestigui’s evidence.

Strike visits John and Lula’s mother, Yvette. He gets the last pieces of evidence he needs, and then returns to the office and tells Robin to go home. Reluctantly, Robin leaves for the day.

In the final part, the killer arrives in the office and Strike confronts them with the evidence. The killer then attacks him with a knife and they fight. Strike gets the upper hand and clubs the killer with his prosthetic leg. Robin bursts into the office and stops him before he seriously hurts the killer. She accompanies Strike to hospital, wrapping his bleeding arm in her coat.

The book ends on what is meant to be Robin’s last day working for Strike. He returns to the office after a meeting with Lula’s half-brother to hear that the agency’s prospects are improving, as clients are seeking him out due to the publicity surrounding the case. He tells Robin he could not have done it without her, and gives her a thank-you present of the expensive green dress she tried on in Vashti. 

Robin cries and tells him that she doesn’t want to leave, but Strike knows he can’t afford to pay her as much as she could demand elsewhere. Robin has been making the same calculation, and they find they have a similar salary in mind. Strike hires Robin as his permanent assistant.