An entertaining and engaging return to form for the world’s most prominent writer, who’s third book in her Cormoran Strike crime-thriller series, A Career of Evil, is the best one yet!
Such is the extent of the impact Harry Potter had on an entire generation that every time JK Rowling picks up a pen, it’s news-worthy and follows an explosion of excitement. Her most recent book, A Career of Evil, the third in the Cormoran Strike series written under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith, was published last month, her fourth post-Potter effort.
Even when JK Rowling retained her anonymity, before the press leaked the details of her alias, the first book in the Cormoran Strike series The Cuckoo’s Calling was more warmly received than The Casual Vacancy, her adult political-drama novel that was her first Post-Potter work. There was a lapse in quality with the second book, The Silk Worm, but A Career of Evil represents a fine return to form for Rowling.
The protagonists are loveable and well written, and even the most predictable developments in character and relationships come with such an authenticity that we believe them, and therefore don’t mind that the plot seems to be veering down such a well-trodden path.
The predictability is only in character, though. The plot itself is original and inventive, and much more gripping than it’s predecessor, but even with all it’s twists and turns it does not divert far from it’s path. Rowling doesn’t throw in random curveballs just to keep us gripped, she doesn’t withhold anything so that we can’t guess the plot; she lays it all out in front of us. In fact, an expansion of POVs from Robin and Cormoran to now involve the anonymous antagonist means we often know more and know before the Two Protagonists, a sense of dramatic irony that heightens the tension and makes the novel feel a bit more like a thriller than your run of the mill murder mystery.
One of the failings of the Crime Genre is that some of the authors, even in the greats like Sherlock Holmes, use the tactic of withholding information to create the mystery, a finger print we never knew about, a specific kind of weapon only one person holds. The fault of this is then that audience can never truly follow along on the Detectives journey, and they are never of equal knowledge. It’s easy to hide the solution by hiding some of the evidence, it’s not easy to lay out all of the evidence in front of us, put us on exact equal footing as the Characters, but still have the mystery there. Rowling does that, and ties up all the loose ends beautifully, and in such a way that you’ll find yourself constantly face-palming in the last few chapters, wondering how you could have missed such a crucial thing. Rowling is a clever writer, genius in fact, and her confession that she put more work and more research in to this book than any other she’s written is evident in it’s depth and quality, but also it’s simplicity. It’s tactile and subtle, and in sheer quality it justifies the longer period of time between publications.
Creation of character and worlds has always been JK Rowling’s strong point, and the London she paints is less glamorous and more humane than we’re used to. Her wealth and riches have not shrouded her from reality, she has not deluded herself to the darkness behind the big city. Rowling has all the marks of a writer that is perceptive and self aware, and so she can speak in great detail, with an air of truth and confidence, about the world she see’s around her. She’s proven she has a talent for making characters so loveable or so detestable so quickly without making them caricatures or cartoonish.
She further proves her perception and awareness to the world around her in her extensive descriptions of things seemingly irrelevant; architectures and landscapes; we’re not left to assume anything, visually; the pictures are painted very clearly.
The books are set to be adapted by the BBC in to a television series, and this one shows most of all that the best person to write the script would be Rowling herself; her writing, especially in description, is fluid and eloquent, with an excellent command of the English language, but her dialogue is normal and humane, distinct to regions and distinct to character. She shows a humour that was evident in Harry Potter, but more adult, and more risqué, and shows that intelligence and a strong vocabulary can still include swear words.
A Career of Evil is a novel heavily influenced by the high-culture and pop-culture of it’s period, and in many years, if ever we look back on this like we do Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie (And though I may be being overly generous, I would say it deserves it), it will provide an insight so far unparalleled to the realities, both good and bad, of that period. With The Wizarding World she creates a world of such expansive depth that we can be forgiven for believing it as we read it, but in the Cormoran Strike series, especially this one, it is in her abilities to perceive the world, and then write about it so well, that makes for such an immersive experience.
A great introduction to the genre for those who might otherwise avoid it, but it is by no means a light one; heavy in plot, and an expansive novel, not a subtle small one.
There are faults, of course. What I love is it’s vastness, it’s over-stuffed with content and is the biggest of all the books yet, but I could forgive if if you thought otherwise, and felt that it had begun to bog down the narrative. This novel takes them nation wide, rather than leave them in London’s confines, and shows more of either protagonists personal lives than the other books combined. For me, this is a marked improvement, for others, it’s endless drivel that distracts from the story. She may not be overly eloquent or sounding like she’s swallowed a dictionary, but Rowling both appeals and appeases to a broader audience than literature is currently accustomed. Words on their own aren’t what makes a book special, or the reader love it so much, it’s the picture you paint with them, which is where Rowling exceeds. She is not quick to alienate an uneducated audience by spitting out extra syllables and words we never use just to show her intelligence; her purpose is mostly to entertain, and she sticks to it.
With A Career of Evil, JK Rowling (or rather her pseudonym Robert Galbraith) does not break the wheel, but she keeps it steadily rolling onwards….or should I say Rowling onwards? No, you’re right. I probably shouldn’t have.
This is the best of JK Rowlings Post-Potter publications, and if we have to wait a while for a worthy follow up to come from her, then so be it; If it’s anything like this, it will be more than worth the wait.
Will A Career of Evil get the academics swooning? No, likely not; she will not feed people with a love of lexicography with her prose style, but to feed the masses (and that is by no means a less noble audience to win over), with a novel that is fun, entertaining and makes you want to keep turning the page just as your favourite show makes you want to keep watching through the ad breaks, JK Rowling stand head and shoulders above the rest.
For more information about the book, upcoming books or JK Rowling herself, visit her website, and leave us a tweet @CelebMix or comment below with your own thoughts on the book!