J.K. Rowling Writes Another Winner
Disclaimer: Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, and had I not read that in a magazine article, I would not have put the link together myself. I just read this as a random British mystery novel. Because of that in this review, I'll be going by "Galbraith," even though it's not the author's real name.
Cormoran Strike is a private detective living in London. Business is slow, he's sleeping in his office, and as a recent victim in the war, he has to wear a prosthesis on one of his legs. (He also just got a new temp-secretary that he can't afford; her name is Robin, and she's the Veronica Mars of this noir.) Things change after the assumed-suicide of Lula Landry is called into question, and he reopens the case.
Lula Landry was a famous and beloved model, and her death causes a stir in and outside of the celebrity ring. Even though she never had a single line on the page for the entire story, she is an immense presence for the characters. She gave it this larger-than-life quality that made her death a big deal even though she was barely part of the novel. Because of this, even though this story took place in the modern day, with gadgets and rap lyrics, this novel reminded me of the classic 1930's mysteries. Though, I did like some of the originality; to be honest, I was relieved by Strike's bad luck and isolation. Strike isn't the cliché devilishly-handsome, charming rogue cop; in this particular setting, the glamorous world of beautiful people and expensive clothes, his more run-down appearance and leg injury make him stand out all the more. I sympathized with him right away and, even though he bumbles along, his talent speaks for itself.
Since the victim, Lula, was a rather famous model, interrogations took place in certain celebrity rings. Galbraith does a great job of depicting the young and fame-hungry underground. All of the voices felt authentic, and none of the fictitious celebrities came off as cheesy. In fact, Strike never could make contact with a few of the characters. (There is a menacingly famous American rapper who is constantly referred-to but never seen.) In an eviscerating portrayal of paparazzi-attacked and money-deluded infamy, Galbraith pokes fun at the importance found in tabloids; he sticks outsider Strike in the dead middle of it, and shows how superficial it is.
The ending wrapped up VERY quickly, and I wish that the killer could have become apparent to the reader rather than explained via dialogue by Strike. Regardless, I was really impressed. I hope this continues!