When I read mystery novels there is one thing that I am looking for that will either make or break the novel and my experience reading it regardless of every other thing in the novel. If I can figure out who the perpetrator is before the point where the author intentionally reveals his or her identity…well, I never find that mystery novel is any good. It is not that I really try to figure it out and ruin the ending, but I feel like trying to do a little detective work of my own while reading is fun.
I am so pleased to report that I did not figure out who the murderer was in Robert Galbraith’s Career of Evil. Not only that, but I started reading the book on October 23rd in the evening, and finished reading in the afternoon of October 25th. Pretty much I sat down and started reading, blocking out significant chunks of time to fly through the pages of this book.
Unlike the previous books, The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm, Career of Evil has one new element that not only provides a new perspective but actually gets under your skin. Galbraith delves into the psyche of a killer and writes numerous chapters from the point of view of the killer. This is an extremely dangerous game to play, as it opens up a wide opportunity for the reader to figure out the identity of the killer, but Galbraith exhibits writing prowess by keeping everything under wraps.
I can clearly see why the research for this novel and the writing of it cause Galbraith nightmares for the first time in their writing career. From the outset, Robin’s receipt of a woman’s severed leg definitely sets the tone of the rest of the novel. The inclusion of Body Integrity Identity Disorder—a psychological disorder in which “transabled” people wish to amputate their healthy limbs—is not only creepy and “skin-crawling”, but the handling made me question why we define this disorder as “creepy”. What I mean here is why people automatically assume the ones suffering are simply “crazy”. Do they need help? Yes, they do, but they are not crazy. While Galbraith may not have had this specific nightmare, it would be enough in my mind to keep me up at night if I were the one researching this disorder. Frankly, since I would have had to spend a lot of time deep in the psyche of someone suffering from BIID, I imagine I would have had at least one nightmare where I cut off my own limb.
Even with the crime in the novel, Galbraith takes the time to further develop Cormoran Strike, Robin, and a few other characters by delving into their backstories. For Robin in particular, I thoroughly appreciated the way in which Galbraith handled her backstory. I think you will understand what I am talking about should you choose to read this book. I cannot reveal too much in fear of spoiling the book, but I will say this element is an emotional or otherwise sensitive issue and if not handled with care, could direct a lot of harsh criticism not just towards the book it happened to appear in, but to the author as well. Thankfully, I think Galbraith avoided that. Of course, there will still be criticisms, but there always are.
The language used in this book, I think, was the right “fit” for this genre. I am as much a fan of flowery language as the next avid reader (I know, a generalisation) and I love Tolkien, but I do not believe that flowery language fits for mystery novels. Sure, you need some description, but I also think that it absolutely needs a grittier tone to invoke a macabre feel to the novel. I think that Career of Evil does this to a certain extent, for which I am glad. It is a departure from the other books that Galbraith wrote, but I think now I have gotten over the little bit of hesitation I had transitioning form Harry Potter to her writing under this pseudonym and a completely different genre for a new audience.
However, there is one criticism that I have. I think that this book could have been much darker than it was. I am not saying that it was not dark, but I do feel it could have gone further. For example, it could have used more urgency and fear with Robin and an escalation with the killer. That said, it is darker than The Silkworm, and much darker than The Cuckoo’s Calling. I think, therefore, that we as readers can expect this trend to continue. I imagine—among other elements—that this might mean more chapters written from the killer’s perspective.
Overall, I very much encourage you to pick up a copy of Career of Evil and sit down to read it. Once you have finished, or if you already have, let me know what you thought of the book in the comments. Try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but for those who have not read the book yet, read the comments at your own risk.
Book Title: Career of Evil
Author: Robert Galbraith
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company