Career of Evil
Cormoran Strike #3
When Robin Ellacott receives a package addressed to her at Cormoran Strike’s detective agency, she expects to find party favors she ordered for her upcoming wedding. Instead, she can’t help but scream when she opens it only to find an amputated leg, cut just beneath the knee where Strike himself had his leg amputated after being caught in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. A person non grata among police since he solved two high profile cases that stumped the Met, Strike reaches out to the only detective who will still takes his calls, Eric Wardle. Although Strike respects Wardle, he focuses on an obvious suspect, an organized crime figure, instead of the three men that Strike believes capable of such an act of depravity, three men who have committed atrocities in the past and who have grudges against Strike. Strike and Robin begin their own investigation, skirting danger as they get closer to the three suspects, and as the true killer unspools his plans for revenge.
Career of Evil is skillfully written and well-paced with a fully developed environs populated by exacting detail. Although at times these details are unpalatable, they are evocative of people and place. For example, one character is described as such: “She was leaning on a stick, one of her ankles swollen and bandaged, the foot encased in a sandal that displayed yellowing toenails.” While I found the description repulsive, I was also caught up in the vivid detail it provided. So complete was the world J.K. Rowling-as-Galbraith created, I was at times stunned when I quit reading and found myself in a different universe.
This entry in the Cormoran Strike series delves deeper into Robin and Strike’s relationship, and I have mixed feelings. I don’t really like the will they-won’t they dynamic and wish that they could have a non-romantic, professionally-based friendship. Yet, I detest Robin’s finance Matthew and certainly would like to see Robin jettison him. Although Charlotte, Strike’s ex-fiancee, still weighs on Strike’s mind, she doesn’t appear in the book, a fact for which I was grateful because I thought her presence was unnecessary and irritating in the previous entries.
In both The Silkworm, the previous book in the series, and Career of Evil, Rowling/Galbraith writes characters who are so misogynistic and full of hatred towards women, it can be difficult to read, such as “At heart, of course, all women were cheating cunts, determined to take more than they gave.” The loathing is so vitriolic and the resulting violence so abhorrent, at times I wonder if it is too extreme, and of course, it’s hard to get my head around the fact that the obloquy comes from the imagination of a woman, although in this book, Robin does provide a counterpoint by expressing rage at men who objectify and demean women.
Despite that quibble, this has been my favorite Cormoran Strike book thus far, and there were times I was genuinely surprised. Certainly, those who have read and enjoyed the previous volumes will want to read Career of Evil and it should please most mystery fans as well.
A painting that figures in the book…