It’s remarkable how convincingly, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, J. K. Rowling has taken command of another genre. Troubled Blood is her fifth and, at 900-plus pages, most ambitious—and now controversial—Cormoran Strike novel. Strike, an Iraq-war veteran and amputee with the imposing bulk of an ex-boxer and a rock-star father he’s met only twice, runs a London-based detective agency with his young partner, Robin Ellacott. Thanks to some high-profile successes, the agency is thriving when they’re asked to take on a cold case from 1974—a doctor who left work one evening and disappeared without a trace. There was speculation at the time that she had fallen victim to a local serial killer, but her daughter wants definitive proof of her fate and Strike agrees to try. Besides the serial killer, the doctor’s medical practice, friends, and family present a diverse tapestry of suspects and possible motives. Strike and Robin need every minute of the year they’ve got to work the case.
The police detective originally assigned to the crime was let go after going down a freaky rabbit hole involving astrology and the tarot, but his theories are worth a second look. Then there’s Strike’s knotty personal life, most urgently his need to attend to the cancer-stricken aunt who raised him, and, simmering in the background, his nuanced relationship with Robin, whose traumatic history and professionalism make her wary of involvement. The long-running thread of sexual tension between these two appealing but damaged characters exerts an irresistible pull equal to that of the mystery.