Evil on the streets

Career of evil is the third in Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike detective series. The earlier books The cuckoo's calling and The silkworm have also been reviewed on Bookhound. I enjoyed both books with The silkworm, with its nod to Jacobean revenge tragedy, being an especial favourite.

Career of evil is a gripping read, but I'm not entirely convinced that it's as good as the earlier volumes in the series. What makes it such a gripping read is also (ironically) what contributes to it being a meandering and at times unwieldy storyline.

Cormoran Strike, detective-hero, and his assistant, the redoubtable Robin, are drawn into an investigation, when Robin is sent a decapitated leg. Further investigation reveals that the leg is from just one of the many victims of a gruesome serial-killer with a passion for torture, murder and retaining body-parts. Strike, having mingled in some particularly unsavoury circles, can think of at least three men who might have wanted to send him body parts, but who is the guilty party?

Meanwhile Robin's relationship with her tiresome boyfriend, Matthew (is there any female reader out there who doesn't believe that she should marry Matthew not Strike?) reaches a new low, only for Robin's relationship with her employer to also reach combustion point.

There are multiple strands to Career of evil with the book moving between Strike, Robin and the murderer's viewpoint, along with an overarching narrative voice. In many ways this works brilliantly, ratcheting the suspense up superbly, while giving the reader an odd sense of dislocation as you struggle to match the voice of the murderer with the suspects lined up before you.

However, it often makes the book rather unwieldy and confusing. Perhaps this is really essential to make the novel work, as when you pare back the narrative layers, I thought it was fairly easy to spot the murderer.

Much as I enjoyed the novel, I do wonder if the series isn't starting to have some of the problems that beset the Harry Potter series, as the novels became ever longer and more cumbrous as the author slid into familiarity with them. I do hope not, as the Cormoran Strike novels have been particularly good; and despite having some reservations about Career of evil. I would still heartily recommend it.


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