• Catherine Flutsch

The Ink Black Heart: Robert Galbraith

★★★

Book Review: The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith, published Sphere on 30 August 2022. Buy from £12.50 - £18.99, depending on outlet.

The Ink Black Heart is Robert Galbraith’s (aka JK Rowling) sixth book in the popular Cormoran Strike crime series.


For those who are new to the series, the story follows private detective and anti-hero Cormoran Strike as he solves cases with the help of his one-time secretary and now business partner, Robin Ellacot.

Picture from the BBC adaptation of the Strike novels. Cormoran Strike played by Tom Burke and Robin Ellacot played by Holliday Grainger.


The series started well, but got better and better with each subsequent book. In my opinion, book four – Lethal White, and book five – Troubled Blood, are some of the most extraordinary contemporary crime fiction in the English language. As a result, I’ve been looking forward to The Ink Black Heart for a long time!

Book Four in the Strike series.


The Ink Black Heart contains many of the familiar aspects that fans of the series love, including the relationship between Strike and Ellacot, and the remarkable detail of the investigations. Like all the books in the Strike series, it is beautifully written.

Book Five in the Strike series.


Ultimately, though I didn’t enjoy this book. The main reason is that it reads like a thesis, thinly disguised as crime fiction. The topic? The infiltration of ultra-right misogynist political groups into left wing online forums and social media platforms in order to discredit prominent and successful women.

In 2013, Robert Galbraith was revealed as the pseudonym of JK Rowling after the news leaked from Rowling's lawyer.

No-one is more expert on this topic than JK Rowling - having had her views on various issues distorted and misrepresented across the internet for many years. Rowling gets death threats from ultra-right groups with monotonous regularity.


On its face, The Ink Black Heart follows Strike and Ellacot as they investigate the murder of a successful young female artist, Edie Ledwell. To do so, they delve into the murky world of online discussion forums and social media trolling. Pages and pages of the book are dedicated to reproducing the type of toxic online discussions that can have consequences in the real world. Galbraith has reproduced this world in forensic detail and it is terrifying. It is also extremely grim.

Cover art for The Ink Black Heart, designed by Little Brown publishing.


I cannot fault the writing or the level of research that has gone into The Ink Black Heart – it is quite extraordinary. But reading it feels like endlessly scrolling through the most toxic twitter feed - grim, real and depressing.

 

House Keeping

As extraordinary as it may seem, The Ink Black Heart was not properly optimised for Kindle prior to its publication. As a consequence, large swathes of the book are unreadable on a kindle. Judging by recent reviews, this problem has not yet been solved as at the date of this review. If you are planning to buy the kindle version, double check the recent reviews on Amazon to see whether this issue has been solved.

 

If you enjoyed reading this review, you may enjoy reading my other book reviews here.

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