Sunday, May 22, 2016

“Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) – A Taste for Dismemberment

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) - book cover
For as long as men and women have existed we have been killing each other in innumerable ways, and even though modern life has drastically reduced our chances of dying a violent death, the thought of it still stirs something deep within us. If there is one type of killer we've come to fear in today's society more than others, it is perhaps the deranged serial killer. He or she can camouflage as a normal member of society, can never be reasoned with, and can never stop doing what they are driven to. Since the times of Jack the Ripper these killers have captured our imaginations in one way or another, and so it shouldn't be surprising that they've made their way into the world of literature long ago.

In Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling's pen name), Cormoran Strike returns and is sent on a hunt for a serial killer that has a real affinity for dismemberment. To briefly explain the plot without giving anything away, one of detective Strike's subordinates, Robin Ellacott, has received a package in her home: a severed woman's leg. Needless to say, Strike plunges right into the thick of things, making a list of possible suspects from his past who may have committed such a heinous crime. And so, together, they go in pursuit of a madman who will no doubt continue his body of work.

To begin with, the main narrative itself isn't as straightforward as you'd expect, progressing not only through the main mystery but also paying attention to various heavy topics and exploring some of the character's lives and psychology. More precisely, we get to learn more about Strike's past in much more detail than before, his story making him a more compelling character than before. Robin herself is also a fantastic addition to the book's cast, being a complicated and multifaceted woman with some significant depths to explore. The relationship between the two really goes to unexpected and surprising places. However, it ought to be said that outside of these two main characters, the rest feel a bit bland and lacking in any room for development... however, apart from the bad guys, they don't play such big roles that they noticeable detract from the book.

While the main mystery as to who left the severed leg strongly compels you to move onwards through the novel, there are times during which it starts to plod along with unwarranted breaks in the action. They are not so big and numerous that you'll feel the need to close the book, but they do stretch out the affair without any real compensation. With that being said, the various reflections and examinations of things like rape and child abuse are worth reading.

There are two elements in this book that felt out of place, with one of them being all the ultra-violence. There is a considerable amount of it, often going needlessly over-the-top, becoming gratuitous in its nature and rather unnecessary for the progression of the novel. It felt like the scenes were forced in to perhaps please a certain crowd of people, or for Rowling to make a point about her being an adult writer. The second element are the chapters from the killer's perspective, which feel like a mish-mash of many cultural tropes and cliches about serial killers, seen countless times in books and television.

All in all, despite the fact that Career of Evil is a bit slow at times and has a few problems here and there, it nevertheless remains a very enjoyable thriller that will keep you entertained for quite a while. Even if it may not be memorable enough to stick around in your mind after you're done with, it will certainly make you look forward to the next instalment in the series where you can lose yourself in another harrowing murder investigation.

Robert Galbraith (pen name of J.K. Rowling)

Robert Galbraith (pen name of J.K. Rowling)

Personal site

Robert Galbraith is, as it happens, a pen name used by J.K. Rowling as she tried to stray away from children’s stories and go for something more adult-oriented. As of now, the name was only used for the novel The Cuckoo’s Calling.

More of the Robert Galbraith's book reviews:
The Cuckoo’s Calling
The Silkworm

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