Troubled Blood, by Robert Galbraith. (a.k.a. J. K. Rowling)
The welcome reappearance of ex-soldier, amputee and private detective Cormoran Strike and his attractive, resourceful and secret love Robin Ellacott is hardly helped by the size and weight of their latest adventure together, ‘Troubled Blood’, nearly 1000 pages of myriad characters, mind-taxing detail – and first-class storytelling. Yep, you’ll have to do plenty of wristy push-ups to manage its weight, especially when trying to hoist it up to read in bed. I speak from experience!
But, as usual, weight and size count for nothing from the very first chapter: the reader is as hooked as Strike when a woman approaches him in a Cornwall bar – he is visiting his beloved Aunt Joan, who has terminal cancer, and he’s having a necessary break with a friend – and asks if he would like to take on a 40 year-old Cold Case, specifically that of her mother, a respected doctor in general practice, who went out for a drink with a friend after work one night, never to return – and never to have left any trace of herself anywhere from that day to this. Her daughter has no memory of her mother, being only a year old when she disappeared, but her desire to know what happened is overwhelming – as it eventually becomes for Strike and Robin.
There begins the meticulous ‘no stone unturned’ poring over old evidence, made more difficult by the fact that the original supervising police detective had a huge nervous collapse when he started bringing in Astrology and the Occult into his investigation, but his replacement couldn’t have been more different – a by-the-book copper with no belief in intuition or hunches. And zero imagination.
There are red herrings galore, dead ends for Africa, and the wrenching loss of Strike’s beloved Aunt Joan, not to mention approaches from Strike’s Rock Star father, with whom he wants no contact at all – and tells him so: why should this man who is world-famous anyway, want to claim kinship with Strike, because he is now a famous detective? He didn’t want to know Strike as a child; now Strike is returning the ‘interest’.
And Robin’s divorce from her self-centred husband is progressing at a snail’s pace: anything that he can do to cost her extra time and expense is worth a try – even though he was the one caught in adultery, everything is still all her fault. In the meantime, Strike’s ex Great Love Charlotte, society Belle, mother of twins and sender of texts announcing suicide attempts is busily doing just that: no peace of mind for HIM.
Robert Galbraith drags us into Strike’s complicated world yet again with no effort whatsoever – beautifully plotted, unforgettable characters and dialogue, and still no Declarations of Love! The Robin/Strike love affair has to happen, but when??? FI VE STARS.