Title: The Ink Black Heart
Author: Robert Galbraith
Page Count/Review Word Count: 1,016
Well, well, well, here we have yet another of the Cormoran Strike books that are written by J. K. Rowling under her pseudonym of Robert Galbraith.
I suppose the first thing that I should say here is that I don’t condone the stuff she comes out with on Twitter, and in fact I’ve made a conscious effort to not actually buy any of her books when they’re brand new. I pick them up second hand from charity shops so that she doesn’t see any of my money and so that I’m doing a little good in the world by buying the things.
With that out of the way, now we can focus on the book. It’s a pretty bog standard mystery novel, and Rowling is no better and no worse at doing these than a thousand other authors. There’s plenty to like if you’re a fan of the genre, but there are also a bunch of elements that wind me up, like the constant “will they won’t they” question around Strike and Robyn. For the record, not only do I not like romance in books, but I actively hope that they never hook up so that they don’t compromise their professional reputation.
The mystery here is kind of weird, and you can tell that Rowling is trying to use it as a way to talk about some things that she wants to get off her chest. The way it dealt with trolling and online communities felt kind of clunky and it left an unpleasant taste in my mouth. Some authors can do that kind of thing pretty well, but it didn’t work here. I think that’s because it only works well when the author asks the questions and leaves the reader to answer them, whereas Rowling tries to give you the answers as well.
It’s interesting to me that all of the problems that I have with this book are big picture things like this. The actual mystery and the story line are okay, though nothing to write home about, and that means that this book had a decent amount of potential. I’ve found that the Strike books have a pretty consistent quality level from one book to the next, and while this might have been slightly substandard, that would have been the worst criticism I could have levelled at it. Instead, it’s somehow ended up being the worst of the lot.
But you have to look at this book in the context of the wider series, and given that this is the sixth book or so, it would be wrong to write it off. I’ll still be continuing with the series, even though I think that the problems that I mentioned are only going to get worse as time goes on, and it would take something spectacularly bad to stop me from reading.
And even though it wasn’t handled in the best way, I did quite like the stuff about online communities and the cultures that go hand-in-hand with them. I’ve always been a bit of an internet geek, since back when it wasn’t cool to be one, and I’ve belonged to a lot of communities like the one that’s depicted here. It was nice to see that reflected in fiction.
Also, there’s a reference here to Netflix Originals, but given that the action takes place in 2013, that didn’t sit well with me. I’ve looked it up and they had started making original programming by then, but only just. It stretched my credulity and made me unsuspend my disbelief, which was a shame. It’s just a little detail and one that could have been edited out, but it’s one that bugged me.
Speaking of editing, that touches on something else that I’ve said before when reviewing the Strike novels, which is that I think they could benefit from some extra editing, especially if that would cut down the length by a third or so. There’s just so much there that doesn’t actually need to be included, and I’m pretty sure that it only made it to print like that because it’s J. K. Rowling and no one wants to contradict her. She could make a powerful enemy.
My enjoyment of this was improved slightly because I listened to the audio book, which made it easier to consume, but it also added a few unexpected difficulties. For example, it’s kind of weird to have a narrator talking you through the transcripts of group chats. You can just about follow what’s happening, but it was certainly a challenge at times.
At this point, I’m struggling to think of what else to say, but I’ve set myself a challenge where each of my reviews has the same number of words as the book has pages. Because this book is such a chunker, it means that I have my work cut out for me. I almost never run out of things to say, and so the fact that I did is a sign that the book has too much to it.
Still, despite all of the negatives, I’m still glad that I read this one, and I will be continuing with the series. I’ve already put so much work into reading the series and so much character development has taken place that it would be a shame to not stick it through until the end. I just hope that Rowling has a few more books in her like the first ones in the series, because I feel like it’s been going downhill from there.
But anyway, that’s speculation and I don’t think there’s much point in me going into that now. Suffice to say that this one was okay at best but that if you want to pick it up then it’s worth a shot. Just don’t expect it to blow your mind or to be any better than the last few books in the series, because it’s not. It is what it is.