Career of Evil— the Latest Murder Mystery from J.K. Rowling

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One thing we know for sure about Edinburgh resident J.K. Rowling— she knows how to right long novels which keep people’s attention right to the end. This is no small feat in the age of short attention spans, and twittering and tweating. If you mention 140 characters to Rowling she’d laugh and say— “yes that’s how many interesting characters had roles in my last novel”. The Cormoran Strike series of detective fiction is now in its third installment, entitled ‘Career of Evil’ (512 pages) is a good read full of misdirection. By misdirection I mean that Rowling sets up at least three or four possible persons who could be sending female body parts to the office of Strike and Robin Ellacott (Strike’s intrepid ‘girl Friday’ if you remember that whole deal), and so our heroes spend a lot of energy chasing down three very different but equally sick human beings at once, not knowing ‘who dunnit’. The published blurb reads as follows…

“When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible–and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on one of the suspects, Strike and Robin delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…”

Just by way of reminder, Strike, is a striking figure– large, ex-military with a prosthesis from when he had his leg blown off, with a mind like a steel trap, whom the police don’t much like due to his stealing their thunder by solving crimes before they can even get out of the starting blocks, and Robin, herself a victim of violence, with an equally keen mind, who desperately wants to keep her job, all the while dealing with a whining fiancee who sees Strike as a threat.

These novels are a lot of fun, though at times they get a little gory and gruesome. What you notice about these novels is that the bad guys are truly wicked, and the good guys are quirky but likable. I would rate this novel a little behind the second one in the series for intrigue, and a little ahead of the first one, but it definitely keeps you guessing until near the very end when one can say “alles klar….” This is fun summer reading with real crime solving without the benefit of magic or even sleight of hand.

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