First there is Cormoran Strike, who, in other hands, might have been yet another twist on the broken ex-(military)policeman with a complex past and a tempestuous love life, but who Galbraith brings to the page as huge presence, a hulking, belligerent Cornishman, with a full-strength bullshit detector, a keen intelligence and a hunger to know.
Then there is Robin, the temp who grabs hold of her opportunity to work with Strike with both hands because it is a life-line that gives her a chance to haul herself out of the life she had been about to submerse herself in and become something different.
Finally, there is London itself, both the place, which is evoked with accuracy rather than reverence, and the social worlds it supports.
In “The Cuckoo’s Calling” the social world revealed is the tiny ecosystem beyond the velvet ropes of VIP areas where the demi-monde of fashion models and rock stars interact with upper-middle-class wealth and entitlement.
In “The Silk Worm” the acrimonious, narcissistic, money-driven world of publishing was dissected against a backdrop of gruesome murders and poisonous relationships.
By the end of the second book, Strike and Robin are a team, although neither of them is able to define exactly what that means, and the shifting boundaries of their expectations of themselves and each other, their misunderstandings, conflicts and shared triumphs had become almost a character in its own right.
“Career Of Evil” takes this much further. The relationship between Strike and Robin is now at the centre of the book, not in the typical romance novel “Will they? Won’t they?” way but because the plot is driven by monsters from both of their pasts.
The violence in this book is graphic and the crimes are a heinous and yet my attention was more on finding out more about both of these people than it was on guessing who the killer really was. We get an insight into Strike’s past through the men he arrested in his time in the Military Police’s Special Investigation Bureau and through his relationship with his mother and her charismatic but fundamentally monstrous lover. We learn surprising and difficult things about Robin’s history that set her relationship both with Strike and with her fiance in a new context.
The plot is pleasingly complex, laying multiple false trails to pique my interest without ever breaking faith and cheating by omission or simply leading me down dead-ends. All of the trails lead somewhere worth going even when they don’t lead to the killer.
If you have the option, I strongly recommend listening to the audiobook versions of these novels. Robert Glenister does a superb job. He IS the voice of Cormoran Strike but he also does an astonishingly good job of doing believable versions of the very wide variety of accents that Galbraith’s characters have.
If you’d like to hear Glenister’s thoughts on reading Cormoron Strike, click on the SoundCloud link below.