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by Robert Galbraith
Mulholland, October 2015
488 pages
ISBN: 0316349933

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Having been a fan of the first book in the Cormoran Strike series, CAREER OF EVIL arrived to some anticipation, and a bit of panic as the second book was still on the unread pile despite the strongest feeling that it had been read. Reading them sequentially seemed like a serendipitous event, although the outcome was somewhat less expected.

Whilst THE SILKWORM continued the promise from the first book with strong character and relationship development, a nicely tongue in cheek premise that has a big dig at the publishing industry and a well developed plot, something happened with CAREER OF EVIL that's less easy to fathom.

The character of Cormoran Strike remains a strong central focus in all the books. The physical aspects of learning to cope with his war-inflicted disability are nicely counterbalanced by the mental complications. Whilst his taciturn nature seems to have initially come from his birth and early life, it's not helped by the loss of one leg. What CAREER OF EVIL does really well is continue to expand on his background, and provide glimpses of the worst as well as the best of his childhood relationships, friends, and a background that would have to give you a slightly warped feeling towards others.

Unfortunately, his sidekick, assistant, apprentice detective Robin Ellacot doesn't come off quite as well in this outing. Whilst she's flailing about trying to work out if she is going to marry her long-time boyfriend / fiancé (who frankly comes across as an utter prat in most of the books), the on-again / off-again relationship, combined with the am I your secretary or your colleague aspects of her portrayal rapidly went from tedious, to teeth-threateningly annoying. Which was a pity as the revelations of her past should have provided some mitigation for her vacillating behaviour. To say nothing of the way that the major plot threat seems to be directed right at her.

Unfortunately, neither character is well served by the number of elements within the narrative that become repetitive - from the relationship stuff, to the irritation between the two central characters, to aspects of the investigation that came back as regularly as a drunk to the bar.

Unfortunately much of the narrative seemed to lurch drunkenly over the same ground, whilst too frequently glossing over those elements that had any sense of potential. Any chance that some of those flaws might have been excusable was blown away by the weird ignoring of consequences and an odd lack of credibility in the threat directed at Ellacot. She's the recipient of the odd parcel, she's the centre of everyone's attention and yet, keeping count of the number of instances of fem-jep that she waltzed around the edges of contributed too many bookmarks to a tome that was already hefty enough to threaten life and limb for those dozing off. Which sadly, was an issue as maintaining attention became quite a chore.

It was marked how different the approach in the second book - THE SILKWORM and this third outing, CAREER OF EVIL are. Character driven with a plot that remained pertinent and cleverly constructed in the earlier novel albeit with a bit of meandering around the back lots, CAREER OF EVIL is weighed down with too much that is too inconsequential to warrant the constant repetition, nor are the elements of jeopardy and threat believable enough to lift what were two really good characters out of the mire.

§ Karen Chisholm has been reading crime fiction since she could hold a book upright. When not reading she builds websites and pretends to be a farmer. Her website, AustCrimeFiction has been covering fiction from Australia and New Zealand since 2006: http://www.austcrimefiction.org/

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm, November 2015

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