I am not afraid of ghosts, goblins, witches, or werewolves. What frightens me is the evil that exists in the world, so I thought today, Hallowe’en, was a good day to post my review of Career of Evil which has characters that scare me more than the creatures that come out this night. Happy Hallowe’en and Happy Reading!
Review of Career of Evil
This is the third Cormoran Strike novel by J. K. Rowling. I enjoyed the first two in the series and this one was excellent as well.
A severed leg is sent to Robin, Cormoran’s partner. The leg echoes Strike’s war injury so it seems to be a threatening message for him. He quickly comes up with four suspects so one can understand Robin’s amazement: “’You know four men who’d send you a severed leg? Four?’” These include a gangster, a paedophile, an ex-soldier with a penchant for domestic violence, and Strike’s mother’s junkie husband. Strike and Robin set out to discover which, if any, of these four men might be the messenger and, it soon becomes obvious, a serial murderer. Interspersed throughout are chapters from the perspective of that psychotic stalker whose next target is Robin.
Strike and Robin’s personal lives are also part of the narrative. Robin’s marriage date to Matthew approaches, though she seems ambivalent, and Strike continues in an unsatisfying relationship, unable or unwilling to face his feelings for his partner.
There is much more development of Robin in this book than in the previous two. She truly seems to become Strike’s professional partner. Much more about her past is also revealed; one crucial event explains her present character – why she clings to Matthew and why her job with Strike means so much to her.
There are some graphic scenes involving assault, rape, and dismemberment. The inquiry even has Strike and Robin coming in contact with people with body integrity identity disorder (BIID), a mental illness which has sufferers wanting to amputate their healthy limbs.
There is a lot of suspense. Robin is the stalker’s next intended victim so it is inevitable that the two will have an encounter. Because Robin is often pre-occupied with her relationship with Matthew and her up-coming wedding, she is not always as attentive and observant as she is warned to be, so the probability of danger is increased.
I found myself totally immersed in trying to identify which of the suspects was the actual stalker. As details are revealed, suspicion often shifts from one man to another. The stalker’s interior monologues had me trying to find parallels between his statements and Strike and Robin’s discoveries. When the truth is finally revealed, everything fits. The writer did not cheat: the clues are there so the reader can solve the case if he/she is astute. There is certainly a reason why a well-known phrase keeps echoing in Strike’s head: “Hiding in plain sight. Hiding in plain sight.”
Several times there are references to the world’s being full of both beauty and evil. Strike thinks that, “You could find beauty nearly anywhere if you stopped to look for it” but acknowledges also that psychopaths “were to be found everywhere, not only in run-down tenements and slums and squats, but even here, in this place of serene beauty.”
Anyone looking for a well-written, suspenseful book with a clever plot and in-depth characterization need not look any further - though I would advise reading The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm first.