Published in the U.S. on Oct. 20, “Career of Evil” is the third novel in the highly-acclaimed Cormoran Strike detective series by bestselling author, J.K. Rowling, once again writing under the pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. Preceded in the series by “The Cuckoo’s Calling” and “The Silkworm,” “Career of Evil” takes the cake as the best, most fascinating installment in the series so far.
Granted, “The Cuckoo’s Calling” admittedly incorporates more plot twists, and the murder mystery of “The Silkworm” is slightly more gruesome and shocking, but it is the realism of the characters, the in-depth detail of their personal lives and the complicated relationships they hold with one another that sets this story above the rest and makes the read worthwhile.
Cormoran Strike, a struggling private detective and amputee war veteran, is attempting to keep his business above water with the help of his resourceful assistant turned partner Robin Ellacott, a beautiful woman with a knack for interrogation techniques and an eye for things out of the ordinary—she often aids Strike in surveillance for the few clients they have.
When Robin receives a hand-delivered package just before arriving at the office one day, she does not think anything of it. The label is addressed to her but also printed on it is Strike’s name written and then messily scribbled off. Whatever Robin expected to find in the package, it certainly was not a woman’s severed leg. Nevertheless, that is precisely what she discovers after opening the box, and it is then up to Strike to devise a list of possible suspects that could be responsible not only for mutilation of a corpse but also cold blooded murder.
As the official synopsis for the novel reads, “There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible—and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.” The police, however, are only interested in one of Strike’s suspects, and as Strike becomes more and more doubtful that he could be the perpetrator, Strike and Robin must launch an investigation of their own as bad publicity from the ongoing police case is losing their agency paying clients.
The detective work itself is oddly not the highlight of the book. While the mystery aspect of the story may not be as intriguing as one would hope, Rowling more than makes up for that with the emphasis she places on character development of Robin and Strike this time around.
The best scenes, in fact, are not the intense chase sequences or even the chapter in which a prostitute gets two fingers chopped off in an attack. Actually, the best scenes are the ones that revolve around the inner lives of our two main heroes as their professional business begins to merge with their personal lives. As the narrative switches back and forth between the perspectives of Robin and Strike, the reader is taken on an emotional journey.