The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike #1)
by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling
Cormoran Strike -- illegitimate son of a rockstar, amputee, and ex-military investigator --is a down on his luck private investigator. He's got no home, no money, and he's just lost his girlfriend. Robin Ellacott --newly engaged, working for a Temp Agency, enthusiastic and discreet-- is Strike's new secretary, to her fiance's horror. The police say supermodel Lula Landry, jumped to her death one winter night, but her brother, John Bristow, doesn't believe it. He hires Cormoran Strike to prove that his sister wasn't suicidal and to find out who was with her the night she died.
This book starts humorously, with a few moments that made me laugh out loud, but the comedy fizzles out as the plotline slowly turns on. As far as mysteries go, this isn't overly suspenseful. This isn't a nail biting, stay-awake-reading-all-night type of mystery. This is a procedural, a step-by-step, who done-it; and all though it doesn't pull you forward, it is written in such a way that you keep turning the page to find out more.
I love that Cormoran Strike is so multi-layered, the author made the decision to know exactly who he is and where he's coming from. And the fact that he is having personal problems adds to the story instead of detracts from it because it shows being a detective isn't all he is; sometimes PI stories decide to define the character by their profession.
Robin's the harder character to like; in the beginning, she doesn't appear to be all that well thought out: at first it seems like she's just thrown in for no other reason than Strike needed a Girl Friday. As the story progresses she starts to develop; she's more than just a trustworthy sidekick, she's quick and clever, working the case and the people in it as if it were her investigation not his. I was impressed and thrilled as she worked the saleswomen at the boutique (about the halfway point) and suddenly she was a full blown character and not just a plot device.
I love how all the "suspects" were all so suspicious; it wasn't just a matter of one or two possibilities; the late Lula Landry appeared to be surrounded by people who all had as many reasons to keep her around, as they had to bump her off. Everytime they introduced a new suspect, I pointed my finger and thought, "That's the one because..." And when the end came, I was pleasantly surprised by who actually was responsible.
So if you're a mystery fan, looking for a PI procedural or a JK Rowling fan for that matter: Read it!