Career of Evil is the third on the Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott series by Robert Galbraith – pseudonym for Harry Potter’s author J.K Rowling – set in London in 2011.
This time the plot follows Strike and Robin when she is sent a severed leg via courier, a package that she mistook for cameras for her upcoming wedding to uptight fiancé Matthew. However, it is made clear while opening the package that the criminal wants to hurt Strike and Robin is just the means to get to him. The severed leg coincides with other crimes around London that see youg women killed and carved up by an unknown male criminal, reminiscent of Jack the Ripper’s terrorising of London two centuries before. Strike and Robin start their investigation into Strike’s past to find the unknown criminal, who also knows of Leda’s – Strike’s mother – death/killing decades ago.
I am a huge fan of the Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott series, even though I have had my share of criticism because of the way in which Galbraith represents young women. However, as the series progress we get a more complex picture of Robin, and how she has become the woman that we meet in The Cuckoo’s Calling. The fact that Cormoran is another flawed character, also subjected to gender stereotypes and the expectations that come from traditional gender roles.
Career of Evil has a sense of closure all over it. We finally learn about Robin’s and Strike’s past, before they meet each other, and we finally understand why life has shaped them to be such special main characters. Robin and Matthew’s wedding is finally approaching, and Strike seems more or less at peace with his job as a private investigator in London. The story also raises importnat questions regarding Robin’s role in the agency, and Galbraith makes an effort to inscribe past gender roles in Robin’s current life. Can she, as a woman, be an equal to the main male detective? Is she taken as seriously as he is? Why do people still see her as ‘Strike’s secretary?’.
Reading this book I finally realized why the series are so popular: the simple answer is they make really good reading because the writing is impeccable. Galbraith clearly benefits from Rowling’s experience at serializing novels, and the inclusion of major social events, such as the 2011 royal wedding, help to make the narration more realistic. I had not noticed this before, but the inclusion of social events that I had lived makes up for a richer novel. William and Kate’s wedding was a major historical event in the UK and in Europe, and it is wisely included so as to mirror Robin’s own wedding. However, will it be such a joyous ocassion for her as it was – apparently – for the Duchess?
Now I would like to talk about the crime, but this time the actual crime is just an excuse to build a novel based on characters. To do this, one has to have very strong and complex main characters, and Galbraith has tested and passed with merits this exam. Even though a good deal is made of the killing of the young women, I felt I learned more about Strike and Robin – and their relationship! – than I did in the two previous installments.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has throroughly enjoyed the previous installments, but I also think it is a good place to start reading the series, if you are not very keen on reading a series in order. I think Galbraith is fully aware there are quite a lot of readers out there who do this, and he/she makes a huge effort to situate new readers and introduce them to the characters.