Book review: “Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith

This is the third novel of the series created by Harry Potter’s author writing as Robert Galbraith.”The Cuckoo’s Calling” was published in 2013. “The Silkworm” appeared a year later and “Career of Evil” in 2015.

After the first two of the series, expectations were raised pretty high. Both preceding Career of Evildetective stories were well received. Reviews of “Career of Evil” were less positive. One reviewer focussed on the relationship between Cormoran Strike and his side-kick Robin Ellacott. Another wrote at length about the “novel’s obsession” with cut-off legs.

The murder mystery more or less starts with a severed leg being delivered addressed to Robin in the second chapter. The reader is treated to the murderer’s viewpoint in the first chapter. Throughout this thriller, the point of view switches between Robin, Cormoran, the murderer’s. To help the reader recognise these switches, chapters where the reader is “inside” the world of Robin or Cormoran usually start with a line from song texts by Blue Öyster Cult.

One of the songs of the band played a role in the life of Cormoran’s mother. The quotes are of course linked to the action and developments of the story. The murders are linked to Cormoran’s past. Over the years. Cormoran has angered at least four men enough, for them to become obsessed with him.

The book not only gives background information on Cormoran Strike. Most of this is already known to readers of the first two novels of this series. This third one also reveals a lot about side-kick Robin’s past.

For, several chapters into this novel, Robin tells her boss what caused her to drop out of university and ultimately end up working for him. By then, she has broken off her engagement to Matthew. It was one of the highlights to read in this novel. Unfortunately, Robin and Matthew get together again watching the Royal Wedding. Events take place in 2011.

Matthew and Robin’s relationship is just one of the things which jar in this novel. Like many a romance, this thriller ends with a marriage. However, the relationship between Matthew and Robin becomes less and less convincing.

Before the reader reaches the supposedly happy and satisfying end to this story, he or she has been sent up various wrong alleys and made to swallow too many red herrings. A few red herrings, a few wrong suspects, a few twists and turns are fine – but this yarn seems to have too many.

The behaviour of the two main characters, Cormoran and Robin, is very plausible. Most supporting characters who help them find and trap the killer are convincingly drawn. Nevertheless, this third detective novel of the Cormoran Strike series is not as satisfying and engrossing a read as the first two – especially the first one.

Compared to “The Cuckoo’s Calling” and “the Silkworm”, “Career of Evil” certainly comes third. Moreover, this novel is not as good as plenty other detective stories by less famous authors.

At the end of the book, the author mentions she has thoroughly enjoyed writing it. This raised two eyebrows. For apart from pedophilia, wife beating, torture, murder, this novel’s subject is also a psychological disease which causes its sufferers to become obsessed with self-mutilation.

A few of the BII sufferers in this book are described as attention seekers and downright fraudsters. People with this psychological disorder  may or may not be attention seekers and such characters may be described as highly unsympathetic in a story. In this detective novel, many of them and others with other psychological disorders are described in a rather shallow, stigmatizing way.

Perhaps expectations were raised too high. If a fourth novel in this series does appear in 2016, it will be read. But not as a detective novel eagerly awaited. A read will be fitted in around more promising and more absorbing ones.

“Career of Evil”, Robert Galbraith, hardback published by Sphere, 2015, 494 pp.
YouTube Val Macdermid inteview with J.K. Rowlings about “Career of Evil”.
YouTube Blue Öyster Cult “Don’t be afraid”

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