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Friday April 19th

'Troubled Blood' -- more than the critics make it out to be

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Ian Krietzberg
Arts & Entertainment Editor

It wasn’t until the second novel — “The Silkworm” — written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, that I realized that J.K. Rowling had grown up.

I understood almost immediately after picking up that book (and stumbling upon a truly graphic scene) that her latest literary series about a modern London-based detective, was truly something special.

“Troubled Blood,” the most recent installment in the “Cormoran Strike” series might very well be Rowling’s best work yet.

Rowling writes in a way that is unique and vastly different from so many other authors. This style is obvious in “Harry Potter.” Her novels have always been more than simple stories; more than the telling of tales. Her stories are entirely immersive. They don’t feel like fiction. They are inexplicably real. They are gateways into an imagined world.

“Troubled Blood” is no exception.

The greatest compliment I can give Rowling is that she’s a true master of dialogue and immersive storytelling. It is a combination of these two that makes for a superb mystery novel, albeit one that starts off a bit slow. No detail is skipped or brushed over — each “Strike” novel is a full, untainted view into the lives of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott over a protracted period of time.

It’s this style that made the first 200 (of 927) pages of “Troubled Blood” drag a bit. But, like all mystery novels, this was just the setup. From page 262 onward, I was fully absorbed into the book, as though the pages had some magnetic pull over me. Rowling doesn’t just tell a riveting, highly detailed story, but she pulls you in fiercely and without restraint, hardly giving you the option to put the book down for more than a few hours.

It’s a gripping story, full of Rowling’s usual plot twists and turns, in addition to a great quantity of careful characterization and evolution.

“Troubled Blood” has spent more than two weeks at number one on the UK Official Top 50 bestsellers list (Twitter).

The way Rowling approaches the writing of each of the “Strike” books, especially this one, produces a novel that is so much more than one story: it’s a vivid doorway into the lives of her wonderfully quirky and often painfully real characters.

The resolution of the case, though the most satisfying part, has the same effect that the end of each installment in the “Harry Potter” series has on me — a wish that the book would continue past its ending, a wish for the sequel to be teased and eventually available for purchase.

It’s so well-written, thoroughly handled and researched, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see an article in the BBC explaining that the one-legged Londoner, Cormoran Strike, has just uncovered the shocking truth behind his latest case.

Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott, not to mention every side character, from murderer to victim, to sub-contractor and mother-in-law, are not just characters. They are real people. The ability to pull this off, the greatest of illusions and most difficult task a writer can undertake, is incredibly rare. And it’s an ability Rowling undeniably has, something she proved the moment “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” hit bookshelves all the way back in 1997.

And though the Internet is no fan of Rowling’s at the moment, I can say with certainty that Rowling’s divisive views remain on Twitter, rather than the pages of “Troubled Blood,” making it much easier to separate the author from her craft.

If you are a lover of mysteries or a student of exquisite, absorbent writing, “Troubled Blood” is worth the time and money. At its core, it is a human story, full of imperfect people and perfectly portrayed pain and hardship complemented by splashes of joy and humor, amid the trembling possibility of new love.


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