“Troubled Blood” is based on old school detective work and hours of hard slog. An expertly presented narrative of a cold case investigation, seen through the eyes of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott, private detectives with their own agency. The dynamic duo interview a diverse range of suspects while battling family upheaval and relationship problems in their private lives. World-building is not needed when London is the backdrop and the book is based on excellent characters, their actions and personalities.
Author Robert Galbraith’s fifth crime novel in the Strike series is a distinctive portrayal of family, close friends, co-workers and suspects in the mysterious disappearance of Margot Bamborough, a doctor who vanished in 1974, leaving behind her daughter Anna who now wants answers. Every lead, every word, every movement, every coffee is documented (I am sure some readers will skip) and sections in an out-of-print book and archived police reports are analysed and compared. Yet serial killer Dennis Creed remains tight-lipped.
A body was never found but press reports and layers of dross from obsessed former police officer Bill Talbot are explored. Talbot penned reports in shorthand, astrological diagrams, horoscope and zodiac signs and unusual drawings which, by the way, were illustrated by J K Rowling. A killer could be on the loose, but nabbing them now seems impossible. Robin is the fact-finder and Strike leads the interviews, of which there are many, until he is called away to visit his sick aunt. Galbraith has been kind enough to subtly recap events at intervals so I could refresh my mental Who’s Who.
The setting starts in December at Christmas time (I read this novel in 2020 festive season) and apart from facing inept matchmaking and a sleazy co-worker, gift shopping is fraught with uncertainty for Strike and Robin. As a wiser world comes out of Covid-19, it is unsettling to read about the pre-pandemic holiday season and Strike’s bad case of ‘flu. His prosthetic leg is not often mentioned; he avoids emotions and text messages; and loses brownie points from me when he increases cigarette smoking. Not sexy, not sensible, give up smoking, Strike!
Aside from the niggling aspect of a ready-made screenplay, dialogue is what I loved most about “Troubled Blood”. Dylan Thomas wrote a play for voices and this book compares in that the bulk of it is revealed through speech. Although sprinkled with the obligatory f-word, thankfully catchphrases and recurrent behaviours are out, and a kind of interview intimacy is used throughout the book. It is like sitting next to Robin and Strike as they conduct café interviews in venues like Fortnum & Mason and Hampton Court Palace.
British to the core, this story of 927 (real) pages brilliantly achieves the traditional crime ensemble with a modern set-up. I enjoyed both the solid content and the easy visualisation. Definitely a multi-layered plot with lots of upsetting domestic drama and soul searching which, in many ways, are things a reader has experienced and can relate to. That aside, I found ye olde English chapter excerpts from “The Faerie Queene” by Edmund Spenser (c1590) to be charmingly relevant yet tricky to decipher.
A lengthy book merits a long review, and “Troubled Blood” is what I call a heavy weight novel in more ways than one. I think this Galbraith/Rowling offering is much better than the last instalment in the series, and it was a pleasure to read a well-bound typo-free hardback. Perseverance is needed with the word-bombing when reading late at night, but all in all a great book for an internet-free holiday, just set aside a solid chunk of reading time.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
This review is dedicated to blogger friend and Strike fan, May of Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta
“Predominately Books But Other Stuff Too”
A big shout out to literary friend Book Jotter, Paula Bardell-Hedley, for reblogging my review on her #150 post: