Before I go on to say some nice things about this mystery, I have to say that the author pulls one big dirty trick to put the readers off the scent. I can’t say what it is because it is too big of a spoiler, but this one thing lessened my enjoyment of what proved to be a very readable mystery. Of course, you probably know by now that this novel was written by J. K. Rowling. I was slightly more interested in figuring out whether—had I not known that—I could have guessed the novel was by a woman (probably) than by Rowling (probably not).
Robin Ellacot is excited to discover that her new temp job is with a detective agency, even when the office proves to be less than impressive and she is almost knocked down the stairs by the detective when she arrives. She is smart, pretty, newly engaged to be married, and always wanted to be a detective.
Cormoran Strike, her new boss, isn’t happy to see her. He has just been dumped by his fiancée, and anyway he can’t afford a secretary. As it is, he has nowhere to live but his inner office.
His luck looks like it may change when he gets a new client, a lawyer named John Bristow from a wealthy family. Bristow’s adopted sister was Lula Landry, a famous supermodel who fell to her death from her apartment balcony several months before. The police have decided her death was a suicide, but John is convinced she was pushed.
Strike, although he really needs the money, is inclined to turn down the job because he thinks the death is a suicide. He is a man with very high principles, a former Royal Military Police officer whose army career ended after he lost a foot in Afghanistan. Something in the “evidence” Bristow has collected makes him decide to take another look, however.
Lula was a manic-depressive, but Bristow claims she was on her meds and under control. Her contacts on the day she died include her on-again, off-again drug-using rock star boyfriend Evan Duffield; her supermodel friend Ciara Porter, who has alibied Evan for the night of the death; the famous designer Guy Somé; and a strange friend from rehab who may be named Raquel.
Neither Lula’s adoptive nor her birth family are stellar human beings. Her mother Lady Yvette is now dying but has been needy and clinging and disapproves of Lula’s search for her real father. Her uncle Tony is nasty. Her birth mother, Marlene Higson, only cares about the money she can make from their association.
The novel is fast moving and interesting, with a complicated plot. Robin shows her value as a bright employee with initiative and is an engaging character. Strike is complex, a tough, wounded guy who is very systematic in keeping records and carrying on his investigation.
I liked this novel and will be happy to read another one. I’m just unhappy about the trick Galbraith played, one that makes little logical sense once you know the identity of the killer, and the Psycho-esque wrap-up used to explain it at the end of the novel.