I am so bad at figuring out mysteries. I swear, I'm the absolute worst. I had a theory all throughout this one, but it is a good thing I am not a detective, because it was dead wrong. As always, I fell for the red herring. To be fair, though, Galbraith/Rowling can do a really subtle red herring; at points I felt like some bits were heavy-handed, but I'm starting to think that this is just a technique used in the mystery genre to keep you looking away from the real decoy, so that the truth jumps out at you from around the corner when it comes.
Let me back up.
So, Career of Evil is the third book in "Robert Galbraith," aka J. K. Rowling's, Cormoran Strike mystery series, about an ex-military private detective who has solved a few noteworthy cases in the relatively recent past, but is still struggling to keep his business above water. Joining him is Robin, his assistant who really wants to be more of a partner due to a long-buried love of mystery solving. The first two Strike novels involved murders, as does this one, but this one goes in two directions that the previous ones didn't: the pasts of the two main characters, and serial killers. In this book, Robin herself becomes a target, stalked by a serial killer who we get perspective chapters from now and then. Additionally, Galbraith starts to really lay out the pasts of the characters that brought them to where they are, in what I think is more detail than in the previous two novels. The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm both had some of Strike's background in them, but very little of Robin's; that comes out more here, along with increased detail about Strike, amidst a slew of relationship problems for Robin and an increasing tension between her and Strike on several different levels.
Honestly, the characters are what fascinate me about these books more than the plots. The murder mysteries are fun to try to solve, even if I never get them right, and are always just chilling enough without straying into territory that could be considered cheesy and overblown. But Rowling has always had a knack for developing really believable characters, and she's carried that skill over into her Galbraith persona, making Strike and Robin three-dimensional characters who are more than just the sum of their parts. Even the secondary and tertiary characters that appear here are nuanced to a degree that I think is rarely seen in fiction, which is nice. It makes the story as a whole very complex and helps to create a full-bodied world that supports the story rather than just acting as backdrop.
But I still hate Matthew. I know that is the point, but I hate him and I hated the chapters where I had to read about him for more than a minute or two because he was so terrible. Also, this book relied very heavily on Blue Oyster lyrics, and it kind of made it feel like a fanfic. Not that fanfics are bad (I've read some really excellent ones) but it seemed off from the tone of the first two books.
Overall, this series has maintained solid 4-star ratings from me, and that's true for this one as well.
4 stars out of 5.