Cover image of "Career of Evil," one of J. K. Rowling's excellent adult novels

In Career of Evil, the third installment in J. K. Rowling’s pseudonymous series about the detective with the unlikely name of Cormoran Strike, we learn a great deal more of Cormoran’s backstory and that of his intrepid sidekick, Robin Ellacott. The one-legged detective, formerly a military police investigator, turns out to have a long history of run-ins with very bad men. Ellacott, who began work with Cormoran as a temporary secretary, possesses both a natural ability as an investigator and an uncanny ability to get herself in very serious trouble. She also has a squeamish and jealous fiancee who will seemingly stop at nothing to make her quit the job. This is the backstory that comes to light in Career of Evil, one of Rowling’s excellent adult novels.

On the surface, Career of Evil is a traditional whodunit, with three chief suspects, all of them highly credible. It’s full of suspense, with twists and turns in the plot and unexpected revelations about the two leading characters. But the book morphs into a psychological thriller that demonstrates Rowling’s considerable depth of understanding of the evil that some men are capable of.

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling (2015) 498 pages ★★★★☆

The eerie spell that the novel casts is underlined by the often gruesome quotes that appear at the heading of each chapter from the songs of the band Blue Oyster Cult. Never much of a fan of popular music myself, I was unfamiliar with the group but now know enough to stay as far away as possible from its work.

J. K. Rowling is, of course, the celebrated author of the phenomenal Harry Potter series, which has sold more than 400 million copies worldwide. In Career of Evil, and in The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm before it, she has demonstrated more than enough talent to cross over into adult fiction. As the series grows in length, it seems likely that the name Robert Galbraith, the pen name she insists on continuing to use, will come to be considered a worthy counterpart to Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George, Tana French, John Connally, and other writers whose novels of crime and punishment demonstrate considerable psychological depth.

For more great reading

I’ve reviewed all the books in this series at J. K. Rowling’s thrilling Cormoran Strike detective series.

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