This book was so much fun to read. As has been made highly public, Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Apparently, Rowling wanted to try her hand at detective novels and get honest feedback on her attempts, so she removed her very recognizable name from the cover.
Her anonymity lasted all of two seconds, as somebody’s wife’s friend at the law firm Rowling used decided to leak the author’s real identity to the press. Rowling was super pissed, and released a strongly-worded statement to that effect. However, it seems she can’t complain too much, because of course as soon as her name was associated with the book, it skyrocketed in popularity. I suppose, though, once you’ve sold seven Harry Potter books, not to mention movie rights, you don’t really have to give a hoot how well your subsequent works sell.
Anyway, all that background aside, let me get back to my point, which was how much fun I had reading this book. Cormoran Strike is a private detective with a former career in the military and a prosthetic lower leg courtesy of a tour in Afghanistan. He’s a big, swarthy guy with what Rowling describes as “pube hair.” He’s also just broken up with his girlfriend and is sleeping on a camp bed in his depressing office.
Things get off on the wrong foot with Robin, a temp Strike forgot he asked for, whom he grudgingly puts to work as a secretary. I won’t retell the whole story here, but their first meeting is hilariously awkward—he bruises her boob (on accident, of course). She’s only supposed to stay a week, but it turns into two, and then three, because secretly Robin has always wanted to be, in her words, “a gumshoe.” While the reality of Strike’s personality and tactics occasionally don’t live up to her glamorous fantasies, Robin is sharp and efficient, and their cautious working relationship develops into an adorable symbiosis.
The central case involves the mysterious death of Lula Landry, a famous supermodel who fell to her death from the third floor balcony of her apartment. Landry’s brother comes to Strike’s office and asks him to take the case; the police have ruled it a suicide, but he’s not convinced. At first, Strike is reluctant to take his money, but he is way behind on his bills, and practicality wins out. The twists and turns of the plot were engaging, and while not earth-shatteringly surprising, the ending was logical and satisfying.
JK Rowling has always known how to write believably human characters, and Cormoran Strike is no exception. Hopefully, despite the spilling of the pseudonymous beans, Rowling will continue to write detective stories featuring the gruff, lovable Strike and his sensible sidekick Robin.