J.K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith have something else in common besides being the same person: they both come into their strides in the third book of their series. I don’t care what name she writes under, the truth is evident. Third books are the ones with massive backstory and more interesting plots. Also common to these third books are changes to future events. In Prisoner of Azkaban, a murderer is on the loose and apparently after Harry, but we find out that he is really after the man who framed him for murder and is now coming to enact his revenge. In Career of Evil we get a good deal of backstory on Strike’s mother and some of his childhood. We learn more about Robin and why she’s still with her douche bag fiancé. And we are introduced to the first true psychopath of the series.
Strike’s past comes back to haunt him when Robin is sent a leg. He has three men he thinks might be their culprit, and he turns out to be right, but we don’t find this out until nearly five hundred pages later. The latter half of the book is set against the backdrop of the Royal Wedding, sort of an irony given the grisly nature of the story, though thankfully not as blatantly gross as the Silkworm. This story is more psychological in nature, with the occasional girl getting stabbed thrown in for good measure.
The blessing and curse for Rowling is that she will forever be associated with Harry Potter. It is impossible to totally divorce Harry from anything else she writes, which is why I found myself marveling at the writing in this book. Harry was dark for a children’s story. Career of Evil was gritty, and she knows the mind of a psychopath quite well (I think). It is the job of a writer to get things right, and I think this Rowling-Galbraith entity has done the thing properly. Someone’s been lurking in dark passages, haven’t they?
The problem I find with almost any detective fiction, not that I’ve read a lot, is the tendency for the detective to have their AHA moment and then leave the reader hanging for an answer for many pages. In the case of the Strike books I think this was at its worst in The Silkworm. Career of Evil suffered the same fate, sadly, but of a much shorter duration which reduced this reader’s usual urge to throw the book against the wall. Why can’t we have an AHA moment at the end of one chapter and then reveal at the start of the next (a la Philosopher’s Stone)? Also tiring was Robin’s rape. I’ll blush and admit I’ve fallen into that trap, too, but that makes it all the more irksome. One part of my mind wants to scream and insist that there has to be something other than sexual assault that can happen to women. On the other hand, her take down of Laing was so awesome that I can forgive the overused rape storyline.
No book is perfect. The Strike novels can seem dry and detective-y at times, fine if you’re into that thing, drudgery if you’re not. Career of Evil, though, was more my cup of tea. Who doesn’t like a good dismembering psycho every once in a while?