Author: Robert Galbraith
Finished on: 15 May 2016
Where did I get this book: A 38th birthday present from my husband
Some books, when I’m part-way through, can go untouched for days. Some, when life is busy and hectic, just don’t call to me. Even at bedtime, in this age of twitter and facebook to distract me, I sometimes don’t get my usual few snatched pages before sleep.
But not this one.
Our friends came to stay last weekend, and we stayed up drinking prosecco and elderflower liquor (which I’m sure should have some incredibly glamorous name, they were bloody delicious) until 1am. And I still read two chapters of this book when I went to bed. (Admittedly, I did have to recap the next morning – some details were not retained through the prosecco fug).
All three of these Cormoran Strike crime novels by JK Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, have had the same effect on me. They are good, gripping crime novels. And while the plots are interesting (this one in particular was very much my cup of tea – I suspect I would be a fan of any novel where a severed leg arrives through the post by page seven), it is the two central characters that are the star of the show. Hardly surprising really from the creator of Hermione Granger, Molly Weasley and Luna Lovegood (my own personal top three of Harry Potter characters there), but Rowling/ Galbraith has created a brilliant crime fighting duo in Strike and Ellacott. It is as if Mad-Eye Moody and Hermione Granger teamed up to form the greatest partnership of private detectives ever. But actually not, because the frisson of attraction between the two is really ramped up in this one, in a way that would be deeply weird and inappropriate between Mad-Eye and Hermione. Anyway…
Comparisons with Harry Potter are inevitable, and the truth is that these books, whilst highly enjoyable, are not as extraordinary as her tales of the boy wizard. That is not a criticism, because Harry Potter holds a very special place in my heart indeed.
It is likely that there are a lot of similarly good, gripping crime novels out there that don’t happen to have been written by an uber-successful squillionaire. Rowling, in my view, more than deserves the success she has enjoyed. But I would like to be better at supporting less well-known authors. Crime fiction is a genre is love. I find a lot of it deeply comforting (for reasons I don’t fully understand, or necessarily want to delve into) as well as compulsively page-turning. And, were I not restricted by a book-buying ban of course, I would like to branch out beyond the more widely read and publicised writers in this field.
Career Of Evil certainly has its flaws. It is repetitive: I lost count of the number of times we are reminded that Ellacott’s finacee* is shallow and materialistic. And beyond our two central crime fighting heroes, the supporting cast of characters is surprisingly one-dimensional. Almost everyone else, including our suspects, are only described in snippets of flashbacks or second-hand description (with the exception of some quite chilling The Silence Of The Lambs-esque sections from the perspective of the killer with his identity concealed, which work well).
This book, whilst different in almost every other respect, is reminiscent of My Name Is Red in that you are presented with a trio of suspects, but never really get to know them well enough for the big reveal of who the killer is to feel exciting. The book is compelling through the developing lives of, and relationship between, Strike and Ellacott – so much so that the whodunit feels rather secondary to that main action.
But terrifically gripping stuff. I can’t wait for the next one. And in the meantime I will try and seek out a non-squillionaire writer of crime fiction or two.
*Still no sign of those accents, sorry.