This book is the first of a series written by “Robert Galbraith” (more commonly known as J. K. Rowling) which follows Cormoran Strike, a one-legged, ex-military policeman turned private detective who is investigating the suicide of a famous model, Lula Landry. Strike is hired by Lula’s brother, John, a man who is struggling with the death of his sister, having lost his brother during their childhood as well. Having attempted to convince the police that Lula’s death was not a suicide, John is turned away and he seeks the help of Strike. The novel is one with multiple twists and turns and, although it is written from the viewpoint of Strike, minimal hinting is provided to the reader so that all can be revealed in full at the end in a big finale involving a fight scene.
What is interesting about this novel is the portrayal of the deceased, Lula. She is characterised through the other characters and yet the reader still feels that they know her as well as Strike. Despite not seeing or hearing Lula’s thoughts, Galbraith demonstrates her as innocent and likeable. Although she is described by many members of her family as selfish and spoilt, she is beautiful, ambitious and kind.
The novel throws in multiple red herrings which frequently change the reader’s suspicions about who is guilty and who is innocent. Galbraith explores truth versus lies and allows the reader to figure out which character is lying, and why they feel like they need to, and who is telling the truth.
The novel follows the general formula for detective fiction that was started by Edgar Allen Poe. Strike has a female assistant, twenty-five-year-old Robin, which reflects the relationships of detectives and their assistants of the past. Couples such as Sherlock and Watson, Morse and Lewis, Poirot and Hastings demonstrate a similar relationship to that of Strike and Robin: non-sexual and based on mutual trust. Robin and Strike become closer as the novel goes on and, although Strike occasionally sees Robin in a sexual manner, they help each other out of sticky situations and become close friends and partners.
The novel, in my opinion, had too much interview-based dialogue, which, though many might say is the point of a detective novel, became boring and repetitive as the same details were being duplicated from different character’s perspective. The night of Lula’s death must have been repeated six or seven times by various family members, colleagues and friends, which, though they differed slightly each time, became dull.
I had guessed before the end of the novel who the fault of the suicide fell to, and I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but it has occasionally happened in the past. I would like to read the following two books about Comoran Strike in the series, which showed that I did enjoy this first novel. I still question if I would have bought the novel if I didn’t know that Galbraith was J. K. Rowling.
Overall rating: 3/5