When supermodel Lula Landray (known affectionately to some as Cuckoo) falls to her death from the balcony of her London flat, most of the world is convinced it was a suicide. But three months later, Lula's adoptive brother turns up at the office of Cormoran Strike, private detective, and asks him to investigate whether the apparent suicide was really a murder. Strike is skeptical, but accepts because Lula's brother offers to pay a truly exorbitant fee that will help him clear up some debts and stay in business. His business is his home, due to a recent break-up with his fiancee, so he's really keen on keeping it. Add into this mix Robin, a temporary secretary who decides to stay on a bit longer than planned, and about a dozen other colorful supporting characters, and you've got this book.
Now, as most of the world knows, Robert Galbraith is actually J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. This was her attempt at writing crime fiction, an attempt that I personally think had rather mixed results. The book shot to the tops of bestseller lists, but only after it was revealed that Rowling was behind the Galbraith name. As such, it fits my "A New York Times beststeller" category for the Popsugar Reading Challenge, but indicates that the book might not be as extraordinary as some would suggest. I think that's accurate.
Here's the thing. There's an intricate plot, with a lot of twisted little bits all twisted up that you can untangle in retrospect, but I don't think you really can in the moment. That's good. Rowling also has an amazing grasp of making distinguishable, believable, awesome characters; there was not a single character in this book that I felt was superfluous or underdeveloped. I could totally see them all going on and living their own lives outside the scope of the main story. This is definitely one of Rowling's talents; she showed it in the Harry Potter series, and she brought it back out to trot here. But what she didn't do was make this a page-turner. Every chapter serves its purpose, sure, but they didn't have me staying up later, needing to know what was next. Most mystery/thrillers have me tearing through pages to finish as quickly as possible. I read this one over the course of a week, which is an incredibly long time for a mystery. It was just slow. Strike was building things up in his mind the entire them, but we couldn't really see them, and so it seemed like not much was going on at all. That meant that this was really, really slow. It was good, but I don't think it's a thriller, just a normal mystery, and one that can really be picked at rather than devoured without losing too much along the way. It's not a compulsive read, and being that I knew it was coming from Rowling's pen, I was a bit disappointed that this wasn't all-consuming.
Still, I think this was a solid book, and I'm going to continue reading them. I really like Robin, though I'm one of those ridiculous people who hopes that she will dump her fiance and she and Strike will get together. I know the odds of this are slim to none, but I want it to happen anyway; Robin was way too awesome of a character not to get a more prominent storyline, and this is totally how I want it to go.
3.5 stars out of 5.