The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When a supermodel dies of an apparent suicide, one-legged Afghan veteran Cormoran Strike is hired to uncover the truth.
The death of Lula Landry was tabloid fodder for months, but Strike soon discovers that her life was as complicated as her death. Her adopted brother, John Bristow, is determined to know the truth about his sister's seeming suicide.
Landry is the necessary victim void at the plot's center, and Rowling does a good job of making her seem appealing and her death regrettable. I found the solution to the mystery a letdown (and a bit unbelievable), but it's not a book you read for the plot alone. Instead, get into it for interesting characters and the great setting of contemporary London.
Strike's history as the son of a supergroupie and a rock star puts him in an interesting position as he interviews London's glitterati - he is not exactly the in crowd, but neither is he a complete outsider, and each character's reactions to his life story is a kind of litmus test. His relationship with the treacherous Charlotte will surely produce interesting surprises in the future, and I can hardly wait for the next installment.
I also liked the incredibly awkward meet-cute with his Temporary Solution secretary, Robin Ellacott. Robin finds herself at odds with her new fiance because of her fascination with Strike's work, but cannot help be drawn from the dullness of temp work into Strike's colorful world.
Robert Galbraith was once as anonymous as Richard Bachman, but both both "men" were destined to die the same death: Galbraith was outed as the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling (and Bachman, who "died" in the 1980s, was revealed to be Stephen King). After trying The Cuckoo's Calling, I'm on board to read Rowling's other adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, which came out to mixed reviews.
For an off-the-wall suggestion, I'm going to throw out this one: The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake, which gives a real-life glimpse into the tumultuous and self-obsessed world of fashion design, following the rivalry of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld in 1970s Paris. Some of the interview scenes with Lula Landry's friends reminded me of the outrageous behavior Drake depicts.
"He knew more about the death of Lula Landry than he had ever meant or wanted to know; the same would be true of virtually any sentient being in Britain. Bombarded with the story, you grew interested against your will, and before you knew it, you were so well informed, so opinionated about the facts of the case, you would have been unfit to sit on a jury." - 25
"It was difficult for him to decide whether she was sincere, or performing her own character; her beauty got in the way, like a thick cobweb through which it was difficult to see her clearly." - 319