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Among so much controversy, this books had oodles of negative feedback before it came out. Hence the 1 1/2 star on goodreads. I have started it and will update once I have completed it. Love the story and the characters. Hope others give it a read and judge for themselves. We need more open dialogue and less cancel culture.
I've liked all the Cormoran Strike books so far and this is a strong continuation of the characters and a meaty mystery for Strike and Robin to solve. It's been weirdly described in lots of media reports as centering around a cross-dressing or transgender serial killer - that's simply not true.
One of the central bad guys is a serial killer (already caught and in prison - don't worry that's not a spoiler) who in his killing days occasionally used a woman's coat and wig to appear less intimidating to the victims he was pursuing. He also joked when his trophy jewelry items were found by police that he had them as he liked to crossdress - he does this to tease the relatives of one of his victims in court. However apart from that one malicious joke and that he might have used disguises occasionally when hunting his victims there is no evidence that he is a cross dresser and he's definitely not trans.
You may have decided not to buy any more of JK Rowling's books because you are disappointed with statements she's made about the transgender community. However, this book has been mislabeled as having an evil transgender serial killer when that's simply not true.
For fans of the series, it's not quite as strong a mystery as some of the previous novels but there's a lot of character development for Strike and Robin and is a good mix of new and old characters.
A winding tale with ebbs and flows, danger, puzzlement, colorful characters, guesses, a black eye or two, and life and death. Many confessions. Robin and Strike continue their partnership as one client after another provides mystery after mystery. Wonderful writing that draws you in and makes you want to keep reading.
Reviewed in the United States on September 15, 2020
Thrilling and interesting to read. Has nothing to do with trans rights - the murderer is never described with any such language and the fact that people are so mad - despite never having read the book - is ridiculous. The murderer is a cross-dressing psychopath who uses womens clothes to display a non-threatening image to his victims. That is all.
If you still have a problem with this, and feel threatened and outraged, perhaps you should not be reading horror and true crime novels.
While the main plot that carries Troubled Blood through is about a cold case disappearance, the real story is about family and relationships, and how much of our own stories we know, how much we choose to try and understand, and how much we choose to ignore or pretend doesn't exist or matter.
Strike still has unresolved father rage. I need to go back and read the previous novels, but his character seems slow to change or grow. He has a few moments of clarity in TB, which gave me hope for development. Robin's growth and change are more satisfying. She's understanding how the violence of her past is affecting her present, dealing with her pending divorce, and evaluating her relationship with Strike. I enjoyed watching both characters taking baby steps toward understanding what they want from themselves, and what they expect from other relationships.
As Strike and Robin ferret out details of the life of a woman everyone has assumed was victim of a serial killer, it becomes more and more obvious how fractured and incomplete people's knowledge and understanding of their own life story, and the story of those closest to them -- family, lovers, friends, business acquaintances -- really is. TB is a slow, dense read, but in the end satisfying.
It's no secret that Robert Galbraith is really J. K. Rowling, writing under a pen name presumably to dissociate her work for adults (such as this novel) from her young adult work. And fair enough; this kind of mystery, featuring rather gruesome crimes, has very little to do with Harry Potter. Admittedly, this is my first of the Cormoran Strike novels. I decided to pick up a copy in light of the political controversy surrounding it, and I'm rather glad that I did.
Let's begin, in fact, with that political controversy, because I think it needs acknowledgment (especially considering it's the source of most of the criticism directed toward this book). There is a substantial number of people calling for the publisher to stop production of this novel. Indeed, a disturbing number of people, many of them actually bearing Harry Potter tattoos (because apparently they take their lunacy laced with irony), and a few of whom I had hitherto actually respected, have been calling for anyone who reads their random scribblings to burn the book. Some, indeed, have been desperately trying to get attention on the Internet by actually filming themselves burning copies of Rowling's novels. Why would people do such a thing? Because they've gotten it into their heads that the contents of this particular novel are "transphobic."
I point all of this out both to explain the reason I picked up this novel, starting a series in the middle rather than going immediately back to the first volume (namely, because I give no quarter to would-be censors of literature and will always endeavor to read almost anything that large numbers of people insist I shouldn't) and to make it abundantly clear that, without exception, the people complaining about this book on political grounds either haven't read it, or lacked the capacity to understand it. Indeed, the issue they complain about (the inclusion of a male character who cross-dressed to get close to his female victims) is barely even in the book at all, and certainly isn't what the book is "about," nor is it presented in a way that anyone could possibly find offensive who wasn't deliberately looking for excuses to complain about something.
What is in the book, instead, is a delightfully complex tale of a pair of detectives attempting to solve a decades-old missing persons case whose initial investigation had been bungled by a police detective in the middle of a mental breakdown. Beyond the mystery, we are also treated to an incredibly rich collection of subplots involving the personal lives of a small but extraordinarily believable cast of characters. Admittedly, it took me several chapters to get myself up to speed regarding those characters' history, having not read the previous books in the series, but that doesn't detract from a story that captures the reader's interest from page one and doesn't let go until the conclusion nearly 1000 pages later.
And that, in fact, is my one point of criticism: the book is, quite frankly, excessively long, filled with tangents that seem just a little too great in number and just a little too long in duration. While I respect and celebrate that the novel isn't only a mystery but also an interpersonal drama, the alternations between mystery and drama occasionally drifted into territory that made the novel feel just a bit of a slog in a few points. I can't single out any one particular element that was uninteresting or that I think should have been cut entirely, but I can't help but feel that it would have been a nearly perfect novel had it been 200 pages shorter. With none of the elements excluded but all of them presented just a smidge more succinctly (and with a bit more action and less exposition in certain parts), I think the book could have found its way into the pantheon of classic modern mysteries.
As it stands, it's still no slouch. Despite some minor flaws (and certainly contrary to what the politically-minded naysayers would have you believe), it remains a great novel that manages to successfully hit emotional notes across the entire range of the human emotional spectrum, ranging from disgust and horror to grief and sorrow, to laughter and love. And it does this while delivering a mystery that never fails to keep the reader guessing. With regard to the mystery itself, I'm not at all ashamed to admit that I was not able to predict the ending despite all of the necessary clues being present throughout the text. If that's not a good mystery, I don't know what is!
I began by pointing out that this was my first Cormoran Strike novel. It certainly won't be my last. I highly recommend it.