Book review: Ink Black Heart

I recently listened to the audio version of the detective novel The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith. Galbraith is the pen name used by J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. This novel is the 6th and latest in this series for adults.

In these novels, Galbraith chronicles the adventures of Cormoran Strike’s London-based detective agency. Strike is the illegitimate son of fictional rock star Jonny Rokeby, whom he has met but twice in his life. Longing for order after a vagabond childhood with his groupie mother, Strike joined the military where he lost a leg serving in Afghanistan. After leaving the army, he started his agency.

Strike is a large, imposing man on the order of a Hemingway or a Gerard Depardieu. At the outset of the series, Strike came out of tumultuous relationship with the beautiful socialite, Charlotte, who continues to have a recurring role. A theme in the series is Strike’s relationships with beautiful women.

In the first novel in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, an office temp is mistakenly assigned to the Strike agency. The temp, Robin Ellacott, performs her duties so well that Stirke hires her. Later in the series she becomes a partner in the newly-named Strike, Ellacott agency.

When The Ink Black Heart opens, a young woman appears in the firm’s office without appointment. The visitor is the co-creator of the wildly popular comic “The Ink Black Heart.” The creators recently signed a Netflix deal, and the fanbase created an immensely successful online game version. The visitor’s problem is with the increasingly toxic fanbase, some of whom are determined to destroy the visitor’s reputation and livelihood. The tearful visitor wants the detectives to discover the identity of the anonymous ringleader of the attacks.

I’ve never read the Harry Potter books but even I know that the reliably liberal Rowling ran afoul of the social media cancel mob. Her affirmation of the biological reality of women triggered trans activists to attempt to cancel her. Rowling is one of the few celebrities to survive the cancel mob. Until now, she has neither apologized nor changed her view.

The novel’s framing provides Rowling the opportunity to deal with her real-life tormentors. The partners dive into the Twitter swamp and the toxic fandom that is the Ink Black Heart online game. The author’s grasp of online technologies can be described accurately, if uncharitably, as ‘boomer tech,’ which quicky wears thin.

While the author adroitly captures the hate-filled and uncouth rantings of the virtue-gorged cancel mob, there’s just too much of it. It soon becomes boring through repetition. By far the worst part of this book for audio listeners like me are the long passages of online logs similar to these:

Imagine extended passages such as this repeatedly read for recording. This is the only book in the series in which I found myself skipping certain passages.

The few negatives aside, I like the characters and enjoy my time with them. In this entry in the series, Ellacott plays a large role while Strike struggles with problems related to his amputated leg. As with all the novels in the series, the author kept me guessing about the outcome until the very end.

Although this novel is my least favorite of the Strike series, I still enjoyed it and look forward to the next one. I can easily recommend it for lovers of the genre.

Rowling has remarkable stamina and discipline. This series is in full-flight and it shows few signs of lagging interest on the author’s part. The Potter series has 7 books and I expect at least one more in the Strike series.

I recently discovered that BBC 1 is producing a series about Strike and Ellacott–“Strike.” I watched an episode of the first season and enjoyed it. The actor playing Strike, Tom Burke, is nothing like I pictured and so disappoints. On the other hand, Holliday Grainger playing Ellacott is exactly as I envisioned.

I listened to the audio version narrated by the superb Robert Glenister who is a magician with numerous voices and accents. I think I can listen to almost anything he narrates (except for repeating log files).

Robert Galbraith / J.K. Rowling

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