Saturday, 25 May, 2024

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Bad blood, in a good way – the detective duo Strike and Ellacott return in their best mystery yet

Bad blood, in a good way – the detective duo Strike and Ellacott return in their best mystery yet

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"Troubled Blood" - the fifth book in the Cormoran Strike detective series proves once again what we have all known – that J. K. Rowling is a brilliant storyteller with qualities we rarely see.

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During a family visit to Cornwall, while he is trying to forget about his troubles, a strange woman approaches Detective Cormoran Strike and asks to hire his services to find out what happened to her mother, who disappeared forty years ago. This is a hectic time for the detective agency managed by Strike and his partner Robin Allacott, primarily due to the high-profile cases they solved in the past. And yet, even though the agency almost collapses under the workload, the two agree to take the case, if only to satisfy their curiosity and due to the challenge involved in deciphering a cold case in which no progress has been made for several decades.

If you are unfamiliar with this wonderful detective series by J. K. Rowling, here is a summary of the previous episodes. The first book in the series – The Cuckoo’s Call – was published by Rowling in the early spring of 2013 under the pen name Robert Galbraith. Only after the book sold about 1,500 copies and received positive reviews, the Sunday Times revealed that behind the bigger-than-life name is none other than the birth mother of the most famous wizard in the world (sorry, Siegfried & Roy, someone stole your thunder). At about the exact second, the book jumped from the 4,000th to the first place on Amazon’s bestsellers list, and the rest – as the cliché goes – is history. I mean – the present – because it is hard to believe that Rowling will abandon her literary detective, certainly not after this book. But I’m afraid I’m running ahead of things.

You know what? Let’s put aside the unwritten rule that says that the summary of the review should appear at the end of the review. “Troubled Blood” is the best book in the Cormoran Strike series up to the moment of writing these lines. Moreover, it is probably the best detective book written in recent years. It’s been a long time since I read a book that I couldn’t leave for a moment and just wanted to go back to it, again and again, to see what happens on the next page and the one after; that the slow tension built up in it grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until the very last page. But even then, the tension is not the kind that oppresses the reader’s heart, but the opposite – injects the adrenaline into the blood pumps in a precise measure. This is precisely the kind of book “Troubled Blood” is. The most disappointing thing about this book is that it ends too quickly, despite its 944 pages. Of course, this does not mean that the book is flawless, but that any flaw is so insignificant that I will need a second read to get to the bottom of it.

Like the previous books in the series, the plot of this book also develops in two parallel layers, which sometimes take on a life of their own. The first is the one for which we have gathered here – the detective mystery that hovers over the entire book. Unlike the previous books, in which the two are faced with fresh investigations, and a body that has not yet cooled down before their office’s phone rose from the dead, the real struggle of the detective duo in this investigation is to succeed in finding new evidence from a distance of four decades. Can they trust the memory of the witnesses after so many years? Will they be able to find new testimonies or shreds of evidence that the original investigative team missed? Do they even have a chance to achieve significant breakthroughs when chances are that some of their potential witnesses and suspects have long since passed away or just moved to an unknown location? And will they be able to conduct this old investigation without harming the current cases that are also burdening their office?

This book also treats the second layer – the detectives’ private lives – well. Cormoran is dealing with some bad news, while Robin faces a bloody divorce battle with her idiot husband (you must admit that you, too, thought he was an idiot from the very start). The complicated relationship between the partners continues to be as complicated as it was, but unlike the high school drama that was presented to us in the previous books – one of the weakest points of “Lethal White” which could have shed half of the pages dedicated to it without losing any important part of the story – It seems that something in Rowling’s writing has loosened up, or that she remembered that her current book’s protagonists are not the same age as one of Hogwarts students, and their inner world and thoughts seem much more mature and believable than that presented to us previously. Rowling has already proven in “The Casual Vacancy” that she is able to shape reliable and mature relationships, and in “Troubled Blood,” she manages to reach new heights.

“Troubled Blood” is the kind of book that you want to re-read (with all its 1000 or so pages) to find the clues preceding the end. To go through all the evidence again and see if, now that you know the solution to the mystery, you can find the smoking gun, or the moment when the truth is suddenly clear, even if not to the innocent reader, at least to the pair of talented detectives at the heart of this story.

In conclusion (and as I already wrote), this is the best book so far in the Cormoran Strike and Robin Allacott series, in which J. K. Rowling proves once again that she is a brilliant writer who knows how to spin straw into gold.

Troubled Blood / Robert Galbraith / Mulholland Books

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