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Book Author: Robert Galbraith

TROUBLED BLOOD by Robert Galbraith: Book Review

Troubled Blood, the fifth novel featuring Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott, is, to put it simply, a masterpiece of mystery fiction.  It’s a long masterpiece, weighing in (and I don’t use that expression carelessly) at 927 pages, but it’s worth every page.

Strike’s private investigations agency is doing very well after a rocky start.  Robin is now his partner, they have hired two additional investigators and a secretary, and there is a waiting list for their services.  But although professionally things are going well for Strike and Robin, their personal lives are not so smooth.

Strike’s aunt Joan, who basically brought up Strike and his sister following the many times their unstable mother disappeared from their lives, is dying of cancer, and Strike is teetering between wanting to spend time with her and his inability to know how to behave with her at this difficult time.

He is also being bombarded by requests from his half-brother Al to join the family in celebrating their famous father’s 80th birthday and the release of his latest rock album.  Strike has absolutely no desire to see his father again; the two have met only twice in Strike’s life, and he tells Al not to call him again about this get-together.  But Al is persistent.

Robin, meantime, has her own issues.  She is separated from her husband, but Matthew seems determined to make their divorce as difficult as possible.  Even her attorney agrees.  “I’ve never known a childless divorce to be so contentious,” she tells Robin, as Matthew cancels mediation meeting after mediation meeting.  But Robin is determined to see the procedure through to the end.

While visiting his aunt in St. Mawes, Cornwall, Strike is approached by a woman with an unusual request.  She introduces herself as Anna and tells the detective that she’d like to talk with him about her mother, Margot Bamborough, who disappeared more than forty years earlier.  Although reluctant to get involved, Strike’s curiosity overtakes him and he agrees to visit Anna and her wife the following day to hear the entire story.

The search for Margot is at the center of Troubled Blood, but there are many, many subplots to the novel in addition to the story of Strike’s estrangement from his father and his step-siblings, his aunt’s imminent death, and Robin’s attempts to put her marriage behind her.  What is the true story of Margot’s medical practice?  Her marriage?  Her husband’s remarriage to their nanny?  Strike’s ex-girlfriend’s barrage of texts to him, each one more desperate than the one before?  Robin’s ill-at-ease feeling with one of the firm’s employees?

Troubled Blood is a fascinating novel in its own right that is made even better by being the fifth in the series.  If you start at the beginning with The Cuckoo’s Calling and read all the books, you can see the characters develop and grow.  Robert Galbraith/aka J. K. Rowling, is a master in describing the dozens of characters in this story, as well as writing a plot with an amazing ending.  This is a book worth spending time with, perhaps starting at Christmas and going straight through to New Year’s Day.

You can read about Robert Galbraith at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.





CAREER OF EVIL by Robert Galbraith: Book Review

I’ve come to the conclusion that when writing talent was handed out, Robert Galbraith/aka J. K. Rowling stood in line twice.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with to explain how the gifted author of the Harry Potter series can also be the gifted author of the Cormoran Strike series.

As Career of Evil begins, Strike and Robin are riding high professionally.  Their two previous cases have garnered them great publicity, especially since they captured the killers ahead of Scotland Yard.  Personally, too, things are going well for them.  Strike is dating now that his on-again, off-again romance with Charlotte is definitely off.  And Robin’s wedding is only a few months away.

All this success comes to a quick halt, however, when Robin opens a package addressed to her at work and finds a woman’s leg inside.  She and Strike are obviously horrified.  Strike immediately contacts Detective Wardle of the Yard to help them find the messenger who delivered the box to Robin.

The resultant publicity has the effect of clients terminating their contacts with Strike and Robin; who would want to work with a firm involved in such a distressing situation?  Besides, all the newspaper photos and television shots have made their undercover work impossible.

Strike mentions four people to Wardle as possibilities for wanting to hurt him by targeting Robin, but he tells Robin that in his mind he has already eliminated one of them, a gangster who was sent to jail on Strike’s testimony.  The remaining three, to his mind, are much more dangerous:  Donald Laing, a convicted sociopath; Noel Brockbank, a child abuser and rapist; and Jeff Whittaker, Strike’s mother’s second husband and thus Strike’s stepfather, an abusive drug user who preys on women.

Needing to investigate all three men, Strike reluctantly agrees to let Robin do surveillance on one of them.  Robin is eager to do more detective work than Strike has previously given her, and she’s ready to prove her worth.  But this assignment has to be kept from her fiancé Matt, who has been vehemently against her employment with Strike from the beginning.  Indeed, the tensions between Robin and Matt have been increasing steadily over the past few months as their wedding approaches.

Career of Evil delivers everything that makes an excellent novel:  a gripping plot, believable characters, and a pace that doesn’t stop.  In this mystery we learn more about Strike’s and Robin’s backgrounds, information that helps us understand what motivates them to do the things they do.  In addition to the two protagonists, the secondary characters are wonderfully drawn:  Matt, who loves Robin deeply but made a devastating mistake in his past that has come back to threaten their relationship; Robin’s mother, wanting her daughter’s happiness but fearful of the dangers she puts herself in; and the three men whom Strike and Robin are investigating.

Robert Galbraith has written the third in a series that grows better with each book, something that given the perfection of The Cuckoo’s Calling would seem impossible.  Robert Galbraith/J. K.Rowling has done it again.

You can read more about Robert Galbraith at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith: Book Review

By now pretty much every reader in the world is aware that Robert Galbraith is the pen name of J. K. Rowling.  You know, the author of the Harry Potter books.  Her idea was to see if she could depart from the Potter series and receive good reviews on her own, with reviewers having no knowledge of who she was.

I love Mark Billingham’s blurb on the back cover of The Cuckoo’s Calling.  He writes in part, “…Strike [the protagonist] is so compelling that it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel.”  He was right on, wasn’t he?

The novel’s hero is Cormoran Strike, a British war veteran who was wounded Afghanistan and now has an artificial leg.  He’s just been thrown out of the sumptuous flat he shared with his very wealthy girlfriend and, having nowhere else to go, he’s living in the small London office where he’s eking out a living as a private investigator.

The novel opens with the “suicide” of supermodel Lula Landry.  It’s a media sensation for a while, but then the buzz dies down and the world goes about its business.  Three months later, Lula’s older brother, John Bristow, comes into Strike’s office with a plea for the detective to investigate his sister’s death.  He tells Strike that the police investigation was perfunctory, that given Lula’s history of depression and drug use it was “apparent” to the authorities than she had thrown herself out of the window of her fourth floor flat.

Strike tries to persuade Bristow to comes to terms with his sister’s suicide, but Bristow will not be dissuaded.  He insists that Strike take the case, offering him twice the usual retainer.  Bristow reminds the detective that Strike and Bristow’s younger brother had been childhood friends before the brother’s tragic death.  Now, Bristow tells Strike, his father is dead, both his siblings are dead, his mother is dying, and soon he’ll be the last of his family.  “All I want,” he says, “is justice.”  So Strike decides to take the case.

The second most interesting character, after Strike, is Robin Ellacott, who comes to Strike’s office for a temporary position as a secretary while waiting for a full-time job to open up.  The opening chapter has the newly-engaged Robin just about to enter Strike’s office when the door bursts open from the inside and Robin is propelled backward toward the metal flight of stairs behind her.  When I tell you I let out a loud gasp and said “oh, no” aloud, you will see what an incredible picture J. K. Rowling had painted of Robin in less than four pages.  That was my aha moment, the instant I knew that I was about to read one fabulous story.

All kudos to Ms. Rowling for being willing to be judged on her merits as a mystery author rather than as the author of the Potter series who also writes mysteries.  The Cuckoo’s Calling proves that her risk paid off.

You can read more about Ms. Rowling’s reasons for writing this novel under a pen name at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.