This “debut novel” by Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) is an enjoyable who-dun-it with a complex hero by the name of Cormoran Strike. A former soldier-turned-P.I., Strike is the bastard son of a rock star and one of his drug-addled groupies, and is long accustomed to surviving on his own. Since losing a leg in Afghanistan and mustering out, Strike has suffered the end of a doomed relationship with a beautiful but broken woman, no money, no new cases to solve, and regular death threats from a disgruntled former client. Down on his luck and homeless, Strike is desperate when an enthusiastic new temp secretary and a new case both walk into his office. The brother of a famous model who recently did a swan dive off her high-rise balcony doesn’t believe it was suicide, and Strike is tapped to prove otherwise.
Strike is forced to enter the world of the glitterati, and while he wades through the muck, we are treated to the author’s pull-no-punches view of the corruption and decadence at its foundation. I love that the author portrays Strike as neither a loner, a drunk, an addict, or a misogynist, as so many down-and-out police or private detectives tend to be played in fiction nowadays. He is neither ugly nor handsome, neither young nor old, a non-threatening but savvy big hairy guy who is also slightly paunchy. Strike misses the uncomplicated life of the military but is nonetheless determined to make it as a civilian. He is street-smart, moral, and due for some better luck in his life.
The author’s story-telling is effective and the dialogue realistic, colorful and often funny. This is not brilliant literature, but Strike has hooked me and I look forward to many more adventures with him and his new sidekick Robin. Those fans of the author who expected something Harry Potter-ish … should just get over it.