Wednesday, July 26, 2017

REVIEW | Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Mystery,Contemporary
Series: Cormoran Strike #3
Awards: Audie Award for Mystery (2016)
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: Robert Glenister

WHY?:  I am absolutely loving this gritty, contemporary mystery series set in London and have now devoured all three books currently in the series. *twiddles thumbs* This is why it is smarter to start reading a series when it is completed.

SYNOPSIS:  Robin receives a mysterious, threatening and very alarming package in the mail which sets she and Cormoran on the trail of a killer.  It also brings the fragile recovery of their business to a screeching halt and brings Robin and Strike closer together while also simultaneously introducing a boatload of complications into their working relationship. 


It's a little weird to be writing this review without having reviewed the previous two books  especially because this book grows so organically and satisfyingly from them.  I've always touted that one of Rowling's (Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling in case you are one of the 20 people in the world who don't know this) strengths as a writer is that she's obviously a planner.  When she sits down to start a new series, she's not just thinking about the manuscript she is writing right then but is planning out where she wants the full arc of series to go and who her characters will be 5 books down the line.  It's brilliant and in this case surprising to me that she's gone to that trouble with the Cormoran Strike series because mysteries, traditionally, are all about plot, with each book self-contained.  The best series, however, have some good ongoing character development for their recurring cast and the Cormoran Strike series is up there with the best of them in this regard.  

All that to say that the series is heavy on character development and it is incredibly satisfying in this regard.  When the reader meets Strike in book one, his personal life is a shambles, he's just out of a 16 year destructive relationship and really has a hard time focusing on anything else.  To be honest, I didn't like him much.  His obsession with his strikingly beautiful but obviously manipulative and poisonous ex-girlfriend makes him seem shallow and emotionally immature.  Over the course of the first book and definitely in the second, Strike gets over the ex-girlfriend and more of the core person shows up - compassionate, confident but not arrogant, whip-smart and appreciative of this in others.  While at first he treats Robin quite dismissively, he pulls his head out of his posterior long enough by the end of book one to recognize her abilities and value and he makes sure she also realizes her worth. He empowers and encourages her without be patronizing.  In Career of Evil, we learn much more about Strike's chaotic childhood and also his time in the military and why he might be targeted by a psychopath. One of the best additions to the story and Strike's life is his childhood "friend" Shanker - a streetwise, London criminal who, through circumstances, is like a brother to Strike. A brother who you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley and who demands payment for every favor.

 The real star of the books for me though is Robin.  Robin starts off as a temp for Strike on the day after she has become engaged to her high school sweetheart, Matthew.  Through book one it is revealed that Robin left University before completing her course work, that she's always had a secret interest in police and investigative work and that even though staying on with Strike doesn't pay nearly as well as being a secretary in some anonymous business firm she's going to stay.  We also find out that her fiance Matthew is a wanker - selfish, materialistic, chauvinist, who mostly wants a pretty little wife who will cook and clean and bring in a tidy little salary to supplement his as an accountant.

The most satisfying part of the series for me has been watching Robin come into her own and realize how capable and strong she is.  This book has so much Robin! Many of the blanks in her past are elucidated and it is her turn to be in full on relationship angst mode.  I loved every minute of her story, even while I was mentally screaming at her not to do this or that.  She's a wonderful, real, flawed woman and her journey through the books to this point is awesome.

While I've just spent four paragraphs and a bunch of words going on about the characters,
 the mystery plotlines throughout the series have also been brilliant - unique, convoluted, and enthralling  - and they have each served to examine a different theme. For someone who wrote a beloved and heroic series of books for young people, Rowling has a surprising amount of insightful criticism for the world.  Book one focuses on celebrity/fame, book two skewers the publishing industry and Career of Evil tackles misogyny and violence against women. SO, ALL THE TRIGGER WARNINGS.  It feels like the series has been building up to this and Rowling examines her theme at all levels from horrible violence to subtle discrimination. She even skewers Strike, "our hero", for his subtle sexism, not truly believing Robin can take care of herself.

The mystery in Career of Evil is also more personal than the other two  - someone from Strike's past is trying to ruin him in the most psychopathic way possible and the investigation has them hopping between three individuals.  It kept me guessing, though there were definitely enough clues scattered throughout that I maybe should have figured it out.  In other words, the perfect mystery plot!

One last note about the audio.  The narrator for these books, Robert Glenister, is fantastic and I have really enjoyed consuming all the books in this medium.  He has to do numerous British accents and he handles them all (as far as my American ears can tell) really well!

FINAL VERDICT: This is my favorite book in the series thus far and combines a great mystery with some stellar character drama. 5 out of 5 stars. 


*Both of these reviews are a little more spoilery than mine so beware!

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