Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

25737010The third book in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), Career of Evil, is an absolute cracker of a read.

The book opens with Robin Ellacourt, Strike’s very able assistant, receiving a grisly package as she’s about to enter the office building – a woman’s severed leg. Appearing to be a not-too subtle comment on Strike’s disability as well as arousing fear in Robin, Strike tries to work out who among those from his chequered past would seek to send such a macabre message and deadly warning.

While the police become involved, and despite being in their bad books due to inadvertently revealing incompetency within the force in his last very public case (the model, Lulu Lantry), and being told to back-off, Strike doesn’t leave anything to chance. Determining upon four likely suspects whom he once dealt with in varying degrees either personally or professionally, he and Robin begin their own investigation, one that takes them both into danger and earns Strike further wrath and even contempt from those whose services he also needs.

With the media reporting what’s happened and work drying up, Strike needs to find out who’s determined to destroy him and threaten to kill Robin before they succeed.

Wonderfully plotted, rich in character development (more of Strike’s past and Robin’s are revealed, especially as Robin battles to balance a jealous and anxious fiancé, forthcoming wedding plans and satisfying her own professional desire to not only help her employer – for whom she cares deeply – but get to the bottom of his ghoulish mystery. Likewise, Strike has to try and juggle keeping Robin safe without causing offence or implying she’s not capable or hasn’t earned his trust over and over, using her undoubted fine skills and all the while keeping his rapidly sinking business above water.

Segueing in point of view between Strike, Robin and the killer, the novel is full of surprises – some made me jolt upright in my seat and even cry out, as well as scenes of pathos and familial tensions. The dialogue is realistic and drives a great deal of the tale; the writing is sublime and allows the reader to immerse her or him self in different times, places and heads. Allowing Robin to really shine in this book, Galbraith has forced Strike to take a bit of a back seat – but not so much that we don’t also appreciate the finer nuances of this ethical, honest and determined man. As the story unfolds, we learn more about Robin and what drives her – particularly her relationship with Matthew.

I found this book hard to put down; the ending is so apt and marvellous it makes you long for the next book.

For anyone who loves character-driven crime books that are beautifully written – this is for you. But I would recommend reading the series from the start so the depth and subtleties as well as the context of the characters can be fully appreciated.

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Book Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

After reading Cuckoo’s Calling, I couldn’t wait for the next installment in the life and foibles of the wonderfully named ex Special Branch Operative, PI Cormoran Strike and hisThe Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2) eager and quite adorable side-kick, Robin Ellacourt.

Well, The Silkworm didn’t disappoint. It opens with Cormoran dealing with the influx of clients (wealthy) he’s attracted as a consequence of the fame his last case brought him – tracking down infidelities, finding proof of betrayal, things that he does because they keep the till ticking over but are not very fulfilling. When he’s asked by a worn down and quite ordinary woman who arouses his sympathy and protective streak to track down her missing author husband, Owen Quine, and with a fairly obscure promise of payment, Cormoran (much to his surprise) agrees.

Flung into the literary world where egos reign and revenge is lexically bitter-sweet (the adage, don’t piss of a writer, you may well appear in his or her next book rings so true here), Strike cannot find the narcissistic and selfish Quine, though he does discover that the man has written a book set to turn the publishing world upside down. Taking the notion of the “poison pen” literally, Quine has written a terrible expose of all those who ever wronged him in his long and with one exception, not very successful career.

Learning the limits of this unattractive (in terms of personality) and flamboyant writer, both through his unpublished manuscript and anecdotes from those who knew him, Cormoran also discovers many people with a motive to kill him. When a horrendously brutalised body is discovered, what was once a sick literary fantasy fast becomes a shocking reality and Cormoran understands he’s dealing with a psychopath who will do anything to protect their identity…


Wonderfully paced, filled with fabulously drawn characters who are flawed, angst-ridden, funny, acerbic and also naive, The Silkworm is a terrific sequel to Cuckoo’s Calling. While Quine’s book is filled with metaphor and allusion based around Pilgrim’s Progress, there’s a sense in which Strike undergoes his own progress – him and Robin who is keener than ever to establish her credentials as not just Strike’s PA, but a professional partner. Encountering the bizarre people who populate the literary landscape, fiendish personalities and some very gory and weird scenarios, Strike has to deal with egos, intellect and lexical word games, dissembling and lies (or are they simply versions of the truth?) in order to uncover the killer.

As in the first novel, Strike’s personal life and his awareness of own weaknesses feature and this makes him such an attractive character. His self-reflections, his understanding that he occasionally uses people and the way this pricks his conscience, are beautifully drawn. You feel Strike’s physical and emotional pain, but also his stoicness in the face of forces beyond his control. Thus, you engage with him even when you don’t necessarily approve of his decisions – how can you not when the most critical judge of Strike’s choices is himself?

Robin really comes into her own in this novel as her personal life throws up questions and challenges and she’s forced to make some clear cut choices. You can feel the relationship between her and Strike grow – but it’s also organic, respectful and extremely gratifying, even when the lines of communication fail.

Found this book very hard to put down – clever, eminently readable, and for a genre that’s well trod, highly original as well.


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