Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling’s pen name) starts the Cormoran Strike series with this novel about the suspicious death of super model Lula Landry. Down-on-his-luck private detective Cormoran Strike is nearly penniless and now homeless after his fiancée Charlotte evicts him from her flat when the brother of one of Cormoran’s childhood friends comes knocking. John Bristow is a wealthy attorney who asks Strike to look into the alleged suicide of his super model sister Lula Landry three months before. Strike jumps at the chance of a commission but is unconvinced he will uncover anything to suggest it was anything other than what the police ruled it to be. Yet when Cormoran starts digging into the shady, tumultuous, drug and alcohol-fueled world of the super model, very few seem free of blame, including Lula’s adoptive mother, a bed-ridden woman dying of cancer. Of course, Cormoran finds that Lula did not kill herself and someone who seems innocent is far from it.
I realize this book got much of its hype when JK Rowling was revealed as the true author. I was intrigued but really feel as if this book wouldn’t be half so successful if it were not for its very famous author. This is a mystery with hardly any action and zero suspense, about a death that happened 3 months before the book opens. It leaves much to be desired when it comes to tension and pacing. The plot is positively glacial in nature. Strike visits each and every witness and contact he can think of. As usual, most have something to hide, but all leave you with a faintly distasteful taste in your mouth.
Galbraith (Rowling) does excel at characterization. Strike, the bastard love child of a 70s-era rocker and a super groupie, lost half a leg serving in Afghanistan and has a turbulent on-off relationship with the volatile Charlotte. We know virtually every character’s life story, almost to the point where I thought: “Enough of this moping about the horrible ex-fiancée! Are we looking for clues or not?” He is, but not any that the reader will really note. The mystery is so obscure and lacking in solid reasoning that I was left shaking my head. (I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but let’s say the whole book’s premise takes a tumble when the killer is revealed.) The explanation is nonsensical to say the least. Strike solves the entire thing with a Sherlock-ian deduction that makes you want to roll your eyes (ex: the killer obviously took flowers from a vase because water droplets were on the floor, whereupon he replaced them out of order shortly before the cop knocked them over – huh?!). Really amazing deductions 3 months after the fact! The only bright spot is the reliable Robin, a temp worker that Strike “adopts” along the way.
I enjoy a good mystery series as much as most, but I won’t be reading any others from this series.
Amazon link is here.