My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I always suspected, from how cleverly JK Rowling laid her little trail of breadcumb clues in the Harry Potter series (especially the truth about Sirius Black in book 3--what a reveal!) that she'd be a fantastic mystery novelist, and now that I've read her first Cormoran Strike book, I can say she's proven me right. A fantastic mystery with all you'd expect from JKR in terms of crisp, engaging writing and astute, pat insights into a grand cross-section of human beings--except this time, a cross-section of very real, modern-day, and wildly diverse (and I don't just mean in terms of race--though I loved seeing her detective's beautifully dispassionate and impartial observations of all types of people, and how universal traits some of the traits they shared were, even if they were people Hollywood could never dream of putting in the same universe, much less the same movie) human beings, rather than the magical, sometimes whimsically outrageous folk we saw in the fantastical Harry Potter series.
Along with the fascinating and dizzying (and always authentic-feeling) leaps between characters and social stratospheres that this wonderfully complex, compelling case requires of our private eye are the many vastly different and all perfectly described venues all over London that we get to see through JKR's (again, perfectly pat) powers of description. She always lights on just the right, minute details of sound or color or weather or texture, etc, to give you a powerfully visceral understanding of the room/atmosphere that Strike is visiting. Anytime I stepped briefly out of the book to cook or eat or take care of whatever other minor necessities of living I had to attend to over the two days I read this book, I felt that surrealness that comes the day after you've come home from a vacation somewhere vastly different--it's hard to get your head back to the present because it's been so immersed in this utterly different place for so long. That was how I felt--like I'd been in London going to all these different, extremely vivid places, following this fascinating puzzle and getting increasingly caught up in its stakes and the story of the murder victim that was slowly unweaving. And I really can't recall the last time a mystery novel has done that to me (outside of a good Agatha Christie, I mean).
I'm absolutely thrilled there are two more books in the series already in existence and am looking immensely forward to returning to London and the company of the very likable Strike and Robin (his Hermione-bright secretary/assistant) to see what satisfying new mysteries we'll be solving next.
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