Galbraith is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling, but other than the vivid characters and a rather dark perspective, the Galbraith books bear no resemblance to Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.
Like the previous four novels in the series, Troubled Blood depicts private detective Cormoran Strike and his female partner Robin Ellacott.
In the fifth novel, Strike and Robin’s fledgling detective agency is busier than ever thanks to a number of high-profile cases. There are several new employees at the firm, including the monkey-faced, chain smoking office manager and a competent but glib new detective named Morris.
Despite their heavy work load, Strike and Robin agree to take a forty-year-old missing person case. Strike thinks the chances of solving physician Margot Bamborough’s disappearance in 1974 are slim, but her distraught daughter persuades him otherwise.
The partners begin the arduous process of interviewing Margot’s friends and family while attending to their other more prosaic cases.
A confluence of urgent family matters adds to the pressure on both partners. Strike’s aunt Joan, who raised him and his half-sister when his flakey mother couldn’t be bothered, is ill, and Strike must travel to Cornwall. Back in London, with shockingly bad timing, his absentee, self-absorbed father pushes for a reconciliation.
In the meantime, Robin juggles her messy divorce, the resolution of which is taking longer than the entire length of her marriage, and confronts her feelings for Strike.
Despite the fact that the protagonists are private detectives, I hesitate to call Troubled Blood a crime novel. In the rich portraits of even minor characters, the sly social commentary, and superior storytelling, Troubled Blood reads more like Dickens than Grisham.