A great crime thriller novel with a fresh and interesting protagonist, Career of Evil is the strongest in the Cormoran Strike series yet.
As the most revered author of the 21st century, J.K. Rowling is understandably desperate for anonymity. Scolding critics deem her “not good enough” to write “proper” adult fiction, and slammed her first novel away from the Harry Potter series, The Casual Vacancy (which I incidentally found very enjoyable). Her attempt to escape her name and reputation is Robert Galbraith – despite the papers outing her pseudonym before she even released her first book under the name, she continues to publish using it. Rowling likely hopes less aware people will buy the book and read it regardless of its author.
The third in the ‘Cormoran Strike’ series, Career of Evil, is where “Robert Galbraith” really strides into his own. After two good (but not amazing) predecessors, The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013) and The Silkworm (2014), I didn’t have hugely high hopes for the third in the series. I bought it at a casual, pool-side holiday read. Yet Career of Evil well surpassed my expectations, and left me so hooked I consumed it in just under a day and a half.
Why is it so good, you ask? For one, simple, clichéd reason: this time it’s personal. Strike, and his assistant Robin, are personally being targeted. Having been sent a sawn off human leg, they investigate three dark figures from Strike’s past. Like all good crime thrillers, you are left guessing up to the last moment which of these grotesque villains is threatening Strike.
Gruff ex-army detective Cormoran Strike is a stellar protagonist. On the surface he’s grumpy and tempered, but with more emotional layers than Shrek, Strike is one of the best examples of a three-dimensional detective I’ve found in crime fiction. Robin is more forgettable, and Rowling struggles to find a balance for the character; one moment, she is emotional and needs Strike to save the day, the next she is independent and fierce, determined not to be overshadowed by her heroic boss.
As always, Rowling is great at painting vivid pictures in the mind of her readers. From the way that Strike walks with his one leg, to descriptive locations varying from the grubby rush of London to eerily tranquil Scottish villages, it is easy to imagine the series being adapted for television. Though still in the early stages, the series has in fact been vetoed for a BBC series.
All in all, Career of Evil is a two fingered gesture at the haters who insisted that J.K. Rowling could only ever write a children’s book about a boy wizard and his magical adventures. And with more Cormoran Strike to come, I have a suspicion that even better stuff is coming from Robert Galbraith.
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith is available now via Sphere Books.