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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Mulholland Books, 512 pages, $28

Thank goodness we all know that Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of J. K. Rowling. After having read “Career of Evil,” I would be hard pressed to believe it was written by a “former plainclothes Royal Military Police investigator who had left in 2003 to work in the civilian security industry.” At this point in the so-far three-book Cormoran Strike series, the romantic by-play between Cormoran and his partner in the detective agency, Robin Ellacott, is a big part of the story. Although elements of the murders are indeed gruesome, it would be difficult to imagine a hard-nosed ex-cop writing this book.

Before I knew Galbraith was Rowling, I enjoyed and praised “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” the first book in the series. Even then the ex-cop author persona was hard to accept, but it wasn’t beyond the realm of reason.

Cormoran and Robin have had their professional ups and downs. Their agency takes a turn for the worse when a human leg is sent in the mail to Robin. When word reaches the public, the public runs away from hiring a detective who might attract the vengeance (for whatever reason) of a serial killer. The duo logically concludes that the perpetrator needs to be caught, and since the police don’t seem to have a lot of clues, Cormoran and Robin need to step up.

Cormoran decides it is one of three people from the past of his strange and wayward life. Top of the list is his stepfather, a wastrel, misogynist, and pathetic leech whom Cormoran suspects of having murdered his mother years earlier. Robin grapples with her own past issues that the current investigation has dredged up. Also, her upcoming wedding to manipulative weasel Matthew needs her attention. She alternates discussing floral arrangements with tailing miscreants.

As with the other two books in the series, this book has charm to spare. Toss in a moving look back into both Cormoran and Robin’s pasts and lots of adventures for heretofore second banana Robin, and you have a winner.

(This is a personal aside. I've lately become fascinated by singer and poet Patti Smith. Her autobiography "Just Kids" was compelling. She was an iconic punk presence in 1970s New York City. She was involved romantically and musically with Alan Lanier of The Blue Öyster Cult. Lyrics from the band's songs, including some penned by Smith, begin each chapter.)

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