I hope you are enjoying some beautiful autumnal/vernal weather, depending on which hemisphere you’re in. Here it’s sunny and slightly cool–finally! AND the Big Dig to replace the main drain to my house is mostly done and I have a fully functional water and drainage system once again.
In celebration of this, or because I just wanted to, I’m running a limited-time deal on a couple of my audiobooks on Chirp. The audiobook of Campus Confidential (book 1 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series) is currently 99c, and Permanent Position (book 2) is currently $1.99. If you haven’t heard of Chirp, it’s the audiobook wing of BookBub. They have their own online store where they offer deals as low as 99c for audiobooks, and their own app for playing them. They also have a daily email with curated audiobook deals. I’ve been a Chirp member for over a year now and I love it, so if you are looking for a way to get low-priced audiobooks, I strongly recommend it.
Those links again:
And now for more (highly controversial) reading recommendations…
I debated with myself for a while over whether or not to bring up Troubled Blood, the latest Robert Galbraith book. As you know unless you’ve been hiding out in a social-media-free cave (not a bad idea, really), Robert Galbraith is the pen name J.K. Rowling uses to publish her Cormoran Strike mysteries, and both she and this latest book have gotten caught up in a whirlwind of controversy over accusations of transphobia.
Having actually read both her statements and the book (unlike, as far as I can tell, many of her attackers), I can state with a fair amount of confidence that these accusations are vastly overblown. I am loath to jump into the cesspool of trolling and hatespeech that is currently roiling around the issue, so I will confine myself to saying that we need to ask hard questions about any movement that gains any sort of political power, just like we need to subject new scientific and academic claims to rigorous scrutiny. This includes the questions that Rowling brings up about the trans movement.
And yes, I’m very aware that it’s easy to use “scientific rigor” as a shield for cruelty and bias. I’m currently reading Edward Said’s foundational work Orientalism, which is all about how Western academics used their “enlightened,” “rational,” “scientific” frames of thought to justify the Western colonization of the East. And as a woman and someone with a longtime illness, I’ve experienced the use of science to label me as defective, aberrant, untrustworthy, inferior, etc. etc. firsthand.
AND YET. We still need to ask the hard questions. With compassion, with humility, with an awareness of our own underlying biases. But we still need to ask them. And right now in particular, with a pandemic raging and the world literally on fire, we really, really need to be considering the importance of physical reality and how it affects us.
So that’s a whole long preamble to Troubled Blood, which doesn’t actually have any trans characters, or mention trans issues once throughout the book.
I know! A whole lot of ado about nothing, you might say! So let’s talk about the book itself and whether or not you should actually read it.
Troubled Blood is the fifth book in the series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. Since it has a long-running plot about their private lives, the series is probably best read in order. However, the mystery in each book functions as a standalone, so you should be able to follow along pretty well if you choose to jump in now. The main mystery in Troubled Blood is a cold case about a woman who disappeared 40 years ago. Was she murdered by a serial killer, as everyone supposes, or did something even more bizarre happen to her?
I myself am not a huge fan of serial killer mysteries. However, gross serial killers aside, I loved Troubled Blood. Like the other books, but maybe even more so, it’s got an incredibly rich, dense, complicated plot. In this case it involves astrology. There’s nothing actually supernatural going on, but a lot of the clues are buried in astrological signs and symbols.
It also has a fair amount of social commentary worked into it. Rowling’s writing tends to include a sharply satirical aspect, and she unleashes it to devastating effect in Troubled Blood. This might make some people uncomfortable, but hey, that’s the point of satire. The thrust of a lot of it here is to argue that people, especially activists, need to prioritize substance over surface, and focus on actually helping people rather than personal exhibitionism. I can’t argue with that, even when she targets causes I believe in very passionately.. Again, this is the kind of criticism that keeps societies healthy.
So, should you read Troubled Blood? I consider it probably the best book I’ve read so far this year. But it’s not necessarily for everyone. It’s long, complicated, intense, and kind of scary. It’s also incredibly human and humane, as well as showcasing some amazing literary craft. I leave it up to each reader to decide whether it’s right for them.
Take care and stay safe!