... a wide-ranging novel filled with enough characters, incidents and alternating story lines to more than justify its exorbitant length ... Troubled Blood’s central mystery is a strong one, and watching it unfold over the course of a protracted investigation is one of the novel’s great pleasures ... The author pays as much attention to the quotidian details of her characters’ lives as she does to the drama at the novel’s heart ... Rowling’s greatest novelistic gifts are her ability to spin wild, intricate plots (witness the astrological elements of this latest book), and to create colorful, highly individual characters who come instantly alive on the page ... Controversies to the side, Rowling remains that rarest of creatures: a natural, supremely confident storyteller.
... a sprawling and eventful saga in which the central cold case shares space with other investigations, along with dramatic incidents in the detectives’ private lives ... Balancing social comedy, surprising twists and Grand Guignol horror, this doorstopping volume proves a formidable entertainment from the first page to the last.
... dismaying is that the cross-dressing psychopath is among the least egregious stereotypes in this deeply troubled new entry in the Cormoran Strike series ... Galbraith/Rowling spends far too much time on the inner workings of office birthday gifts and the inner workings of almost everything else, from the types of biscuits served in witnesses’ homes to Ellacott’s feelings about her brothers’ friends; these are not details that move the plot along. That might be why what could have been a suspenseful mystery congeals into a 900-odd page slog ... It’s the characterizations, however, that sink the story and for the opposite reason: They lack the texture of reality. Creed is a stereotype ... the real abomination in Rowling’s writing is not her treatment of a trans character, at least not in this book. It’s her treatment of most any character Strike and Ellacott meet as they seek the truth about Dr. Bamborough’s fate ... endless pages are clouded by ambivalence ... Does Rowling want to write an interconnected series along the lines of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley books? If so, she could dispense with the caricatured witnesses and focus on Strike and Ellacott’s relationship, which is truly knotty ... amateurish portraits ... Perhaps Rowling should divorce herself from Robert Galbraith, divorce her writing from murder mysteries, and dig deep instead into the things that really matter to her: women (or at least cisgender women) and children. She needn’t, for a second, try to write about things she doesn’t understand and doesn’t care about — unless, of course, she wants to become an artist focused on humanity as a whole, including the people she’s prone to misrepresent.
Troubled Blood is a deeply frustrating and ultimately unpleasant experience, for reasons having to do with both Rowling’s recent public opinions and with the book itself ... There are no transgender characters in Troubled Blood, but there is a vicious, psychopathic serial rapist/killer who dresses in women’s clothing in order to prey on female victims. Seen in the context of Rowling’s expressed views, this character stops the reader cold; he seems inserted as if to prove a point ... I couldn’t read about this character without being jolted out of the book ... there’s some magic there … but oh, is it ever buried ... its central mystery is the least compelling of the series ... Rowling has an uncanny knack for creating characters, and it’s a pleasure to encounter many familiar faces in the book—but they’re all serving subplots that seem to have been going on for some time, with little forward motion ... The book has some vivid, pleasurable passages ... I don’t know if there’ll be a sixth book, and if there is one, I can’t say for certain that I won’t read it.
For those Strike aficionados long captivated by the will-they-won’t-they relationship between the detective and his agency partner, Robin Ellacott, there is much to be savoured ... Galbraith’s unhurried examination of their emotional turmoil adds depth to both characters and convincingly stokes the simmering tensions between them ... A scrupulous plotter and master of misdirection, Galbraith keeps the pages turning but, while much of Troubled Blood is terrific fun, it is hardly a hair-raising ride. With jeopardy thin on the ground, the languid pace and the elderliness of the mystery (and indeed most of the suspects caught up in it) combine to give the enterprise the unthreateningly cosy air of old-fashioned Sunday night TV drama. When the denouement finally comes, it is not quite satisfying enough to justify the page count. Strike and Ellacott, however, remain one of crime fiction’s most engaging duos.
Here as in the Harry Potter books, Galbraith/Rowling’s storytelling is exuberantly cinematic, and it shows not only in the vivid physical descriptions but also in the way that dialogue is used to develop character while simultaneously keeping the plot jogging along ... Asked by a friend whether I think the 927 pages are justified by the quality of the read, I replied – after the usual havering about personal taste – that in my view they absolutely are. But unless you are using an e-reader, do not try to read this book in bed. If you accidentally drop such a heavy and unwieldy object on your face, it will blacken both your eyes and break your nose.
... the novel crawls through a sludge of witnesses, clues, delusions and never-ending astrological 'insights'. At times the mystery feels as unrewarding for the reader as it appears to be for the detectives. When the threads are finally pulled together, you feel not so much surprise at discovering whodunnit, but relief that something coherent has emerged from such a tangle of possibilities. Despite the lack of pace, some clumsily shoe-horned views on Scottish/Cornish nationalism, and dialogue in accents so broad as to be distracting, presumably done with love but the result doesn’t always reflect that, Troubled Blood succeeds when it comes to the detectives and their personal journeys as they dance around their developing feelings for each other, and wrestle with the impact of past relationships ... I am lukewarm about the will-they/won’t they tension, and wonder whether the author feels, as her characters do, that getting together risks ruining a good thing. Both seem to end this story in less self-destructive states than at the beginning, though not without some major bumps along the way. Good news for Robin and Strike, but not necessarily for the reader who has taken the journey with them.
After wading through a barrel of red herrings, Rowling—beg pardon, Galbraith—delivers the real killer, the least obvious of the lot, and it’s a masterful, perfectly thought-through revelation. Too long by a couple of hundred pages but still skillfully told, with a constantly gleeful interest in human awfulness.