Cormoran Strike (she always has great names for her characters) is a private investigator, a man who has had an interesting career in the defence forces and the police, and now working for himself. Assisting him in his one-man band business is his wonderful assistant, Robin, dying to become a private investigator herself, following and observing every move Cormoran makes. To be honest, she has way more smarts than Cormoran, and is far more instrumental in solving the case.
With a name like Cormoran Strike you would have to be a bit of a maverick and he now walks a rather blurry line between the wrong and right side of the law as he attempts to help helpless citizens in their pursuit of justice. Most of his work is domestic related - spouses suspecting spouses of misbehaving and engaging Cormoran to tail, photograph and report back. In the midst of all this bread and butter stuff, he is approached by a woman who happens to be the long suffering wife of a famous author. The writer has gone missing, she suspects foul play, and Cormoran finds a routine missing person case becomes considerably bigger and more awful than he could have imagined.
And this is actually the problem for me with the novel - the imagination. The author who is missing, Owen Quine, writes quite bizarre and disquieting books. Not a nice man, and neither are any of the seven people closely associated with Quine that Strikes finally identifies as suspects. The seven people have been redrawn as fictional characters in Quine's latest controversial manuscript, entitled Bombyx Mori -the scientific name for a variety of silkworm. In this manuscript, the protagonist, Bombyx, is a writer who is "repeatedly abused, tormented and ultimately eaten alive by the people in his life whilst going to extraordinary lengths to capture and preserve his talent for their own selfish gains." Does it sound weird? Well, it is, really weird. As I said way too much imagination. The whole thing becomes so convuluted and complicated and dare I say it ridiculous that I just could not take any of it seriously. And so it lost me. Apart from the very real Robin, I couldn't engage with any of the characters - all self absorbed back stabbing narcissists - makes it even harder to work out who is the villain, as they are all vile. And I just thought Strike was a bit of clown - the usual failed detective, with a sad lonely life, living in the tiny decepit flat above his offices, drinks too much, has a crap diet, rude and grumpy. Plus the whole thing is very, very long. The ending when it comes, is a massive relief, and not much of a surprise, as I said the baddy could have been any of the seven.
Having adored all the Harry Potter books, marveled at them, Cormoran Strike is just one great big massive disappointment. Which saddens me. Maybe I will try JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, written under her own name - apparently it is good, and I don't want to give up on her just yet!