THE INK BLACK HEART (2022) ****
by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
This paperback edition published by Sphere, 2023, 1,227pp
Blurb: When frantic, dishevelled Edie Ledwell appears in the office begging to speak to her, private detective Robin Ellacott doesn’t know quite what to make of the situation. The co-creator of a popular cartoon, The Ink Black Heart, Edie is being persecuted by a mysterious online figure who goes by the pseudonym of Anomie. Edie is desperate to uncover Anomie’s true identity. Robin decides that the agency can’t help with this – and thinks nothing more of it until a few days later, when she reads the shocking news that Edie has been tasered and then murdered in Highgate Cemetery, the location of The Ink Black Heart. Robin and her business partner Cormoran Strike become drawn into the quest to uncover Anomie’s true identity. But with a complex web of online aliases, business interests and family conflicts to navigate, Strike and Robin find themselves embroiled in a case that stretches their powers of deduction to the limits – and which threatens them in new and horrifying ways . . .
This book set a new record as the longest crime novel I have ever read, beating the last in Rowling’s series, Troubled Blood. As I said in my review of that book, I can see no reason why the book needs to be so long. Rowling’s attention to detail in her plotting and her relaying her lead detectives’ deductive processes and skills is at times painstaking. Why then is the book so enjoyable? Well, it is a testament to Rowling’s immense skill that she keeps the plot moving along through a distinctly complex environment – in this case an online game and the social media surrounding it – and a large cast of characters. There is also the ongoing development of the Strike and Robin relationship, which has been brewing over the six books to date. The character interactions and dialogue feel real and the growing staff at the detective agency add a sense of family. Rowling’s real target here is the toxicity of social media and the impact that has on people’s lives. Rowling herself is no stranger to online trolling and this book feels like her response to that. The book is filled with online chats, tweets and the like. Whilst these can sometimes be difficult to follow the detail applied adds to their authenticity. The mystery itself – who is the mysterious Anomie who has taken against the creators of a popular online cartoon? – managed to keep this reader firmly gripped throughout its huge page count. Whether Rowling can keep adding bulk to her novels and get away with it remains to be seen. I would not usually buy a book of such length – fearing I would never complete it due to time and potential fatigue. I waited for the paperback release before buying this time and only bought out of a sense of loyalty to the characters. There is certainly a time investment required here that may put many off in a world of so many competing mediums. Those willing to invest will be rewarded with another excellent mystery thriller featuring an engaging and hugely entertaining detective duo.
THE INK BLACK HEART (2022) ****