One of the 13 books given to me as Christmas presents this year was the latest in the Cormoran Strike crime fiction series – Troubled Blood (see my previous blogs on the rest of the series so far: Lethal White, Career of Evil, The Silkworm and The Cuckoo’s Calling), and I chose this as the first book to start, on Christmas Day, given I had a week off to read the 975 pages. It was the perfect book for some post-Christmas reading.
The book begins with Strike down in St Mawes in Cornwall, visiting his dying aunt Joan, who brought him and his sister Lucy up when both of their parents had abandoned them. Work is the last thing on his mind, but one night in the pub with his old mate Dave, a woman called Anna recognises him from media coverage of his past successful cases, and approaches to ask him to find out what happened to her mother Margot Bamborough, who went missing forty years ago in London, when Anna was just a baby.
Knowing it might be against their better judgement, Strike and Robin, his partner in his private investigation agency, take the case, and we follow them over the course of a year (and it’s great to be a fly on the wall watching them both for such an extended period), as they follow each suspect at a time, trying to track down those who knew and worked with Margot, a GP in an Islington practice in the 1970s. They come to dead-end after dead-end, whilst juggling the more ordinary cases of the agency, which are being led by their subcontractors, and whilst Strike is also juggling journeys up and down to Cornwall as his aunt’s health gets worse, and Robin is juggling managing things single-handedly running the agency in London.
There are so many suspicious characters who could have done it – from the sadistic serial killer Dennis Creed, to Margot’s husband Roy, Anna’s nanny who becomes Roy’s second wife, Italian mobsters, and various of Margot’s patients or her fellow doctors. Someone has an abortion but it’s not clear who, someone else keeps leaving dead women in his wake, and a few people have disappeared off to live abroad. All of this Strike and Robin painstakingly and slowly untangle.
Robin has finally ditched her awful husband Matthew and the sexual tension simmers between her and Cormoran throughout the book, as he trys to deal with his feelings for his suicidal-ex Charlotte and his feelings for Robin, and as she tries to finalise her divorce and deal with Matthew having got together with the equally awful Sarah, who he was unfaithful to Robin with. Things come to a head one drunken evening in Cormoran’s flat, and the book then ends in a very satisfying manner, with Cormoran finally showing Robin the thoughtfulness she deserves.