When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. 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.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
This book came into the charity shop I volunteer at and, after really enjoying The Silkworm, I thought I’d take this one home and give it a try. Glad I did!
Career of Evil is the third novel in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. I initially picked up this series with the intention of seeing what all the fuss was about in one of the later novels, Troubled Blood. However, that initial reasoning has turned into pure enjoyment for the series, which I didn’t think would be the case after reading the first installment.
Robin Ellacott, the assistant to private detective Cormoran Strike, is sent a mysterious package in the post. Containing the remains of a severed leg. Clearly, this time, the case is personal and someone is out to tarnish Strike’s positive media image. There’s a list of names that Cormoran Strike can think of who’d go to such extreme lengths to bring him down and the heart of Career of Evil’s plot is figuring out who from Strikes past would stoop to such depraved methods.
There are the usual twists and turns within Career of Evil in terms of its detective-style case as Cormoran and Robin work together to figure out ‘who-dun-it.’ Alongside the unraveling case are in-depth character dramas and personal traumas, giving life to the main characters beyond their day-jobs. Robins wedding to her long-term finance is looming over them all and offers an unexpected element of drama to the professional relationship she shares with Strike. And Strike has a new partner in a relationship that starts off as the perfect arrangement but evolves as the book progresses. Career of Evil offers as much ‘slice-of-life’ as it does grizzly murders, which adds a positive aspect to the narrative; making the characters feel much more realistic and whole. However, as much as I enjoy the drama of daily life in a novel, I do think that Career of Evil, would have been a dull read without it; not the best assessment when it comes to judging a crime novel.
There was a lot of emphasis on the character relationships within Career of Evil, and it felt that the fall-outs, breakdowns, and make-ups were covering up the cracks in what could have been a dreary novel of long-winded steak-outs and observations where little else happens.
There’s a keen conversation to be had about relationships and how they don’t always make sense. In Career of Evil Robin is in the final weeks of unmarried life and there are reveals that pull into question if she is doing the right things. Her fiancee, who has never been painted in a particularly positive light, comes out of the novel in an even shadier portrait for various reasons to the point of leaving me questioning why Robin is going through life with him. He is unsupportive of her in many of the choices she has made in her life and derogatory in regards to others. There’s very little going for them, other than the fact they’ve been together for so long. Although, this friction has made me eager to find out what happens between them in later novels.
Much like the other books in the series, Career of Evil has some undertones that are difficult to read. There are graphic depictions of violence, sexual violence, and assault. This offering in the series gives point-of-view chapters to the main antagonist as he works on the women he chooses to violate. These sections of the book are uncomfortable reading for the subject matter in them. Whereas previous books in the series have these elements attributed to them, they are presented in a way that doesn’t feel so personal. The discovery of Quine’s body in The Silkworm, for example, was presented in the aftermath of violence, not as it was presently happening.
What I adore about the Cormoran Strike novels though is how accessible they are to read. There’s no over-use of flowery prose and they are written in a language that’s easy to understand, yet still gives a vivid impression on the reader’s mind. Each of the scenes I could easily picture and I could see the events unfold as the words were digested. Even the uncomfortable to read scenes left an impression – of which there was a fair handful.
I always get the impression that there’s a discussion of identity with the Cormoran Strike novels; the first victim in Career of Evil suffers from Body Integrity Identity Disorder – a disorder where the sufferer desires to remove one of their own limbs – and this is a thread woven throughout the novel; considering that Strike uses a prosthetic leg, there’s a connection made between himself and this disorder. The resulting scene, in which Strike meets some youths living with this disorder, made for difficult reading in itself, but considering the aspects of identity that are apparent in the Strike series, the backlash that author Robert Galbraith received for Troubled Blood comes as no surprise.
While I enjoyed the book, its explorations, the case, and the personal dramas, I really didn’t enjoy the very final part. I found it cringe-worthy and it’s stuck with me ever since, so I am marking down the entire review half a star based on that!
This series has quickly grown on me and I’m already looking forward to reading Lethal White, which I also picked up from the Charity Shop – lucky me! The characters develop and their relationships grow as the books progress, the cases are usually gripping and I’m always kept on my toes by a writing style that’s easy to digest.