Reviewed by Ian Lipke
If you’ve taken the trouble to order Robert Galbraith’s latest novel The Ink Black Heart, keep up the exercises, as you’ll need to be fully fit to cope with this 1000-page blockbuster. The novel is written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym. This is a long tale that has its strengths and weaknesses. It is a book about online trolls, a topic relevant to today and of enduring interest to today’s readers and is associated with a popular YouTube cartoon.
Anomie is the name of a user, a former fan, who has taken exception to aspects of the cartoon. Having designed a free game based on a fictional element in the cartoon, Anomie institutes a vicious hate campaign against Edie Ledwell the cartoonist. Comments become toxic in the extreme.
Unfortunately, it is very easy to hate a book of this length. 1000 pages long and correspondingly heavy, it ignores the adage that a good murder mystery lives or dies on pacing. Yet, if anyone could get away with a lengthy book it would be Robert Galbraith. So, what went wrong. A riveting, page turner this book is not. In fact, none of the early books featuring Cormoran Strike and Ella Robincourt have raised any sort of publishing ripple.
In this case, besides being too long, the book is deluged with characters, many of whom would benefit from a vigorous ‘short-back-and- sides’. To add to their woes, many characters go by different online names and titles. After 600 pages, I found my interest still only lukewarm. How can one be expected to retain an interest?
Galbraith seems to think it is hip to include tweets in the novel. There is a place for them but not in such overwhelming numbers. I don’t argue with the presence of Twitter, just the extent to which Galbraith uses them. One critic wrote of brain-melting simultaneous chat-threads. I couldn’t agree more. The cartoon’s catchphrases are also monumentally annoying.
One of Galbraith’s strengths is normally the setting for the novel. While one would argue that the author knows the streets of London and has familiarised herself with other parts of the UK, one keeps coming back to the length and the need to write much more succinctly.
I stay well clear of arguments between the author and her fans/foes and I don’t want to become involved now. There has always been talk of warfare between J.K. Rowling and certain of her followers. I would have to hope that any unpleasantness has not been allowed to involve the book’s major characters. A neutral presentation augurs well for the future of any book, let alone this one that already has its own issues.
By Robert Galbraith
$32.99; 1020 pp