Meet Cormoran Strike. These days, you’ll find the private investigator in his central London office, which sounds much posher than it actually is. It’s a third story walkup with a broken-down couch, a desk and a computer that mostly works. Until three weeks ago, Strike was living high, with his achingly beautiful fiancé in a brilliant part of the city, enjoying his childhood dream of starting his own detective agency. But that was three weeks ago, before he walked out, yet again, on Charlotte. This time, though, it really has to be over.
But how will he be able to pay his rent? PIs don’t make a lot, even though they live a mysterious and romanticized existence, and Charlotte was covering most of their expenses. To make financial matters worse, Temporary Solutions seems to feel that they have an enforceable contract with Strike. He finds himself with Robin, a surprisingly capable young secretary who, he knows, will expect to be compensated for her efforts.
"Cormoran Strike is as unique a character as his name and as intelligently analytical as Sherlock Holmes. Get to know Strike now, from the very beginning, or you’ll have a lot of catching up to do once he becomes a worldwide sensation."
Enter John Bristow, a fairly well-off attorney wanting to engage Strike’s services. Since the night that his sister, supermodel Lula Landry, fell to her death --- or jumped, if you believe the press and police reports --- Bristow has been trying to prove that she did not commit suicide. So he hands off that assignment to Strike, along with a sizable retainer. It is no easy task, for everyone he interviews scoffs at the absurd notion that Landry might have had help going over her balcony railing. The best witness, a neighbor who claims to have seen her fall, turns out to have been well under the influence of drugs and the story just doesn’t hold water.
While Robin busies herself tidying Strike’s office, since there is no real work to do --- mostly because he has only one, now two, cases --- she starts to do a little poking around on her own, secretly thrilled to have even a small part in the death investigation. She and Strike are not anything approaching a couple, particularly considering he just lost a fiancé and she just gained one, but a burgeoning respect for each other has taken seed. Strike realizes that he is going to miss Robin immensely, but it can’t be helped. Her position with him was always meant to be temporary, and she has found permanent employment that will pay her a sum equal to what she’s worth, something Strike would never be able to do.
Meanwhile, the case takes him into the dead supermodel’s world, where her friends are actors, designers, models and singers. They have hired cars and drivers and pieces of clothing that cost what Strike pays in rent. It would be dizzying for most people, but Strike seems immune to the glitz and glamour. His is an unconventional approach, but one that leads him to all the right conclusions. Of course, Robin helps get him there.
“The dead could only speak through the mouths of those left behind, and through the signs they left scattered behind them. Strike had felt the living woman behind the words she had written to friends; he had heard her voice on a telephone held to his ear; but now, looking down on the last thing she had ever seen in her life, he felt strangely close to her. The truth was coming slowly into focus out of the mass of disconnected detail. What he lacked was proof.”
Yes, Strike lacked proof, but he had it in his grasp. Every person he talks to, every tangible piece of evidence he holds in his hand, every lie he confronts and every story he breaks down, all play a role in solving the puzzle. He will find Lula Landry’s killer for his client, and maybe unearth a personality that is more evil than anyone could have thought. Even worse than his ex-fiance, Charlotte.
We now know that Robert Galbraith is no debut novelist, but bestselling author J. K. Rowling, more than famous for her Harry Potter tales. Is it possible that she has created another Harry Potter-sized legend in Cormoran Strike? Well, of course it is. Cormoran Strike is as unique a character as his name and as intelligently analytical as Sherlock Holmes. Get to know Strike now, from the very beginning, or you’ll have a lot of catching up to do once he becomes a worldwide sensation.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on August 2, 2013