This time around J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith isn’t pulling out the stops. After tackling cases from the literary and entertainment world with surprising macabre and suspense. Career of Evil takes readers down the gritty streets of London, the same streets where infamous Jack the Ripper called home and preyed upon prostitutes, this time London is faced with the 21st century version of the infamous killer hell bent on ruining Cormoran Strike for actions he did in the past. Along the way, Career of Evil explores more into the histories of Cormoran and his sidekick, partner and secretary, Robin.
I’d like to think “The Cuckoo’s Calling” and “The Silkworm” as J.K. Rowling’s experiment into the world of mystery, suspense, murder and scandal. The first two books established the dynamic duo and their working relationship. On her third outing, J.K. Rowling explores even deeper into Cormoran’s backstory, establishing his family relations between his mother, stepfather, and unofficial adopted brother. Given the personal nature of the crimes, this sets Cormoran on the path of reliving memories he tried so long to suppress. But these memories eventually take a toll and cloud his detective skills.
Then there’s Robin Ellacott, his unwitting secretary turned valuable partner after the events in the second book. This time Robin is no longer a secretary, having gained her own set of skills and proving even more valuable to Strike and his detective agency. From the onset, J.K. Rowling had big plans for her, and now Robin takes on an even bigger role in Career of Evil. Far from the secretary and sometimes-partner role, she is up front and center, taking matters into her own hands and being even more adventurous than ever. When the case they are working on becomes personal, Robin confides her own motive for staying with him which ultimately becomes the foundation of how Cormoran would see and treat Robin as the novel progresses. By developing Robin, Rowling establishes a strong female presence in the novel, a counterbalance to Strike’s machisimo gruffness. While the first two novels hinted at Cormoran’s infatuation, Rowling masterfully stokes the flames of attraction and by the end of the novel Rowling left me wanting to know more.
While the novel follows the same formulaic pattern of murder-mysteries, J.K. Rowling deviates from her usual storytelling to include another perspective, that of the killer. While this isn’t new, it’s the first time she’s written from the perspective of the antagonist. The result was good, as the killer flirted with danger and toyed with his victims in the pursuit of revenge against Cormoran. His foreboding presence was creepy and makes for a thrilling read, especially J.K. Rowling doesn’t really divulge much and leaves readers hanging every time a chapter is devoted to the killer.
So after three novels J.K. Rowling has finally laid down the foundation of her murder-mystery world. She has mastered intrigue, suspense, thrill, and has got the Holmesian method of deduction to a science. Like the previous two, she loves to throw her readers into a void of mysteries, webs of stories, suspects and tidbits of evidence that all seem incoherent at first but in the end everything makes perfect sense when she finally reveals the killer. At times the journey would get confusing but as the novel resolves itself, Rowling ties up loose ends and showing readers clues that they might have missed while guessing who the killer was. On her third book, I hope that she keeps on building this series, it is exciting and edge of your seat, still a bit rough on the edges in terms of pacing but at the end knowing the conclusion of the mystery is definitely well-worth the wait.
Career of Evil is available in major bookstores