Books | September 15, 2020 8:00 am

J.K. Rowling’s New Robert Galbraith Novel Criticized for Its Handling of Gender

"Troubled Blood" is out this week

Author J.K. Rowling at HBO's 'Finding The Way Home' World Premiere
Author J.K Rowling in late 2019.
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Over the course of the last year, J.K. Rowling has embraced a number of transphobic positions in interviews and public statements. It’s made for an agonizing experience for many fans of her work, who have found themselves in the unpleasant position of grappling with the art-versus-artist divide.The Harry Potter author’s comments have also led to resignations at Rowling’s literary agency and frustration from employees at Hachette, the publisher set to release Rowling’s next novel under her own name, The Ickabog.

Before that book is released, however, Rowling has another book due out — the latest in her series of thrillers published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. And based on the first review of the new Galbraith novel, Troubled Blood, some of Rowling’s more unpleasant feelings on gender may have seeped into the plot of the book.

A new article by Reiss Smith at Pink News ventures into the contentious territory. Smith’s article notes that the novel “finds her private detective protagonist, Cormoran Strike, investigating a cis male serial killer who dresses as a woman to kill his cis female victims, according to an early write-up.”

That review comes from Jake Kerridge at The Telegraph. Overall, its tone is mixed — but it’s the description of one subplot that stands out. “The meat of the book is the investigation into a cold case: the disappearance of GP Margot Bamborough in 1974, thought to have been a victim of Dennis Creed, a transvestite serial killer,” Kerridge writes. “One wonders what critics of Rowling’s stance on trans issues will make of a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.”

Did we mention that it’s also over 900 pages long?

Can a once-admired writer jettison the accumulated goodwill of millions of fans? Rowling seems determined to do exactly that.

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