J.K.Rowling isn’t just famous because she was creative enough to come up with a whole new magical world of her own. She is actually a damn terrific writer who knows how to create strong characters, people you can’t help fall in love with. She’s also amazing at writing a whodunit (pretty much all Harry Potter books are whodunits). Why I say all this is that, with the third book in the Cormoran Strike series that JKR authors under the pen name Robert Galbraith, she finally gets to show the best of herself: the way she can weave a deeply personal story out of a mystery thriller.
For people who are unaware of the story thus far, Cormoran Strike is an ex-military officer who’s lost one of his legs in war and he now runs a little detective agency in London. Robin Elacott joins as his assistant and the only staff member, and slowly becomes his confidante and good friend. Robin is very unconventional in the sense that she doesn’t care about the meagre salary that Strike pays her but stays with him because she actually loves the job! Something her fiancé Matthew seems to hate and constantly prods her to look for a much more “safer” (and boring) job. In the first two books, Cormoran and Robin team up to solve some high-profile cases and get some good press which leads to a flourishing clientele.
But just when I was thinking that we know everything we needed to know about Cormoran and Robin’s personal lives and their past, Rowling drops Career of Evil, a book which entirely deals with their demons from the past. I was not expecting that we would get to know these people at such a deeper level but Rowling is after-all a master at this sort of thing.
So the basic premise is this: Robin gets a package delivered to her one day at the office front door and when she opens it there’s a severed leg of a woman inside. Cormoran immediately suspects that whoever did this did this to get at him, using Robin as a weapon. So he digs into his past and comes up with three people, one of which being his own step-dad, who he knew would have a vengeance against him. The rest of the book follows Cormoran and Robin’s investigation on each of the suspects, revealing a lot of backstory in parallel. It’s an intriguing tale told in a slick way and never gets heaved down by its own story.
What also keeps the proceedings interesting is the increasing romantic tension between Cormoran and Robin. Sure, Corm has a girlfriend and Robin is actually engaged to be married to someone else, but there are some fleeting moments where Rowling lets us see how these two are just perfect for each other. And she also doesn’t shy away from letting her characters actually consider this alternative. You just have to read this book to find out how it ends.
It was also quite a brave move to deal with a concept as mind-boggling as Body Integrity Identity Disorder wherein a person would actually wish to be an amputee (don’t worry this isn’t a spoiler!). It adds a whole new layer to the book and I thought Rowling was probably making this all up but I looked up online and apparently it’s really a thing.
If there was a little negative, it’s only that the clue-dropping wasn’t effective enough. This is not the kind of book that is gonna give you a lot of AHA! moments on your second read. When the murderer is finally revealed, you don’t go “Of course! How did I not see that!”
But I still think that this is a brilliant addition to the detective novel genre and since Rowling has said that there is seemingly no end to the books that she could write in this series, I’m sure we’re gonna get a lot of exciting books in the future.