Troubled Blood: Good to the Last Drop
All right, I finished it. All 927 pages.
I loved it. It was everything I wanted it to be: A great mystery immersed in the world of two of my favorite characters, Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.
I began this book with trepidation that the transphobic tweet by JK Rowling (Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym) and her subsequent writing on gender politics would soil my experience of reading her book. I wondered if it was right to buy her book and to read her words. Moreover I felt concerned that her views might infiltrate her fiction writing, permeating the attitudes and behaviors of the characters.
My guard went up at the first mention of a serial killer character having a history of cross-dressing. However, this was neither an instance of misunderstanding nor denigrating the trans community. Rather, it was merely a method of disguise that the character used on occasion, separate from any commentary on gender identity. I’m sure this plot point can be both criticized and defended, and I have to say I didn’t see it being problematic in this instance, especially given the small part it played in the mystery overall.
Reading Troubled Blood was like visiting another world, a world apart from my own, a world in which JK Rowling might not even exist. While Facebook and the TV show Say Yes to the Dress get a mention, Twitter doesn’t. Thus Rowling’s incendiary tweet is unborn in Strike and Robin’s London. I think in particular because this book is a work of fiction, I can more comfortably draw a line separating the author from her work. She may have created the story but Rowling herself does not live in its pages.
If I have one criticism it’s that I wished for more pages dedicated to Robin. The mystery plot involved so many characters and details that only a smattering of the 900+ pages are dedicated to Robin’s family and the fallout with Matthew. In contrast, Cormoran experiences satisfying personal growth as he tends to his dying aunt and deals with a manipulative ex. I was also satisfied with Robin and Cormoran’s growing friendship and the vulnerability they demonstrate with each other.
Now that I’ve finished Troubled Blood, I almost wish I hadn’t. Strike and Robin’s world, even with its murderers and deviants, seems better than ours, at least to visit. Its fiction is a double comfort: an escape from ugly reality, yet I’ll never encounter its grisly characters. Is it crazy that I’m already eager for the next book in the series?