Potterheads…. Unite! Written under a nom de plume, J.K Rowling Robert Galbraith is back with another tale in the lives of detective duo Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott after bestsellers ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ and ‘The Silkworm.’ Galbraith’s ‘Career of Evil’ hit the Indian bookshelves last week and yours truly, true Potterhead that he is, rushed to order one online (Because, getting one from the bookstores these days is old-fashioned. Apparently). So, let’s dig into the review, shall we?
Disclaimer: Anyone who has read the Harry Potter books, front and back, is in for a surprise here. Story-wise, detail-wise and the overall tone and grimness of the story is way, way darker than anything Rowling Galbraith has written before. Yes, even darker than The Silkworm.
What’s the hitch?
The book begins with a leg, a dismembered leg of an unknown victim sent to Robin, Cormoran’s assistant partner while going through the morning mail. Strike has suspicions as to the culprit behind this dismemberment, and possible murder but his enemies are lost in the shady memories of Strike’s youth. Will Strike and Robin be able to stop this madman before he strikes again? Or will the culprit get away with murder, and everything Strike holds dear? This therefore, is the story of ‘Career of Evil.’
It’s ‘You-Know-Who’ after all
The biggest strength of Galbraith’s books has been the occasionally professional and always platonic relationship between Cormoran Strike, the ex-SIB investigator and his pretty, almost-married partner, Robin Ellacott. Through the course of three books, these are characters you know intimately and care about deeply. And as a reader, you can feel the relationship between the two evolve over time from the strictly professional tenor of TCC to the charming banter of ‘Career of Evil.’ Robin surely, has become Strike’s partner-in-crime (Pardon the pun). And thankfully, Galbraith never falls to the ‘Will they/Won’t they’ dilemma of pop-culture and instead, keeps their strictly platonic relationship on a gentle simmer. Strike and Robin are the heart of this book.
As with all other works of the author, the scenes are vividly described and the detailing is perfect. You can almost see Victorian London come to life before your very eyes, and that is a very rare gift for any author to use.
All things said however sadly, I didn’t enjoy Galbraith’s ‘Career of Evil’ as much as ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ or ‘The Silkworm.’ And this has much to do with the story and plot of the book itself. As someone who has been reading books, and watching TV shows and films almost all my life, I can attest to the fact that the old trope where the hero’s old villains are resurrected has been done-to-death and is, frankly exhausted. Plus, there is no suspense to the book, not until the last half of the book or so, despite the rather interesting backstories Galbraith gives her villains.
The villain himself, here given a couple of POV chapters is bold, scheming, lethal and terrifying but, he is also a cliché of every other serial killer movie you see. Other than his hatred of Strike and his rather macabre modus operandi, the villain is bland and has no personality of his own.
Verdict: *drumroll* Robert Galbraith’s third book in the Cormoran Strike series underwhelms but, largely succeeds in giving Batman Strike and Robin another fun, and certainly disturbing case to deal with. ‘Career of Evil’ works only because of Strike and Robin, each as wonderfully-etched and developed as the other, each as compelling as the best of crime fiction characters. And it works, because of Galbraith, a gifted writer whose prose is simultaneously simple and elegant in its ambiguity. Read ‘Career of Evil.’ It’s not as good as the two that preceded it but, it certainly is better than most of the crime fiction you read these days. Check it out.
I give it a 3.5/5.