Hey! I made it through a J.K. Rowling book that wasn’t Harry Potter! I put this one on hold right after I found out who really wrote it, determined to try liking an adult book she wrote after my struggle with Casual Vacancy, which I admit with shame that I still have not finished. This one did not disappoint. It’s a standard mystery: a detective is hired by the brother of a dead girl to prove that her suicide was really murder. There are red herrings galore, and I admit freely that I had the villain picked twice – and was incorrect both times (she never fooled me with Severus Snape, but she fooled me twice with these people). The thing that takes this book a step above your standard mystery is the characters – the detective, Cormoran Strike, is a refreshingly complex hero who, if you heard his story secondhand, you would think was a total loser – but he isn’t, and in fact as you read and observe his methodical approach to the case, you start to admire his skills even as you shake your head at his poor life choices. His sidekick, temporary office help Robin, is also charming – she has the perfect life with a loving fiance and corporate job all lined up, but once she discovers the thrill of detective work…well, you get the feeling her life is going to follow Cormoran’s right off the cliff, but it’s going to be a hell of a trip. The various friends, family, and hangers-on of the dead girl are likewise fascinating creatures, even though most of them have few redeeming qualities. (The cast consists of fashion models, film executives, a law firm full of squabbling family members, and assorted drug addicts. These people aren’t exactly people I would choose to hang out with.)
If you like your mysteries action packed or very suspenseful (Harlan Coben, anyone?), this one probably will not be a favorite. But if you like mysteries that force you to figure out what makes a potential villain tick in order to solve the mystery (think Tana French or Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books), you will most likely be satisfied.