I finished this book four days after it was released, spending every waking moment away from work reading it. Here is my emotional reaction, recorded the same night I finished it (full of spoilers!):
I just finished Career of Evil and OH THE FEELINGS, THE FEELINGS I HAVE.
THAT WAS NOT HOW I EXPECTED THINGS TO GO.
Okay, first what actually was what I expected, what I had predicted: 1) Robin’s explanation for what happened to her at uni (and both her and Strike’s emotional reactions); 2) Robin and Matthew’s break-up.
AND THEN IT ALL WENT SO VERY WRONG.
Robin taking Matthew back!!! GOING THROUGH THE WEDDING! But even worse — Strike sacking Robin! Nooooooo! Even though I cannot argue with the case he made! Nor with what she did! AUUUUUGH, THE FEELS
AND THE ENDING! Way to leave me super-conflicted with my FEELINGS. Because — Strike hasn’t actually taken Robin back as a partner! But she’s smiling at him! But she just said “I do” to make Matthew her husband!!!!!!!!
(I can just picture the reception, when she approaches him, beaming, and throws one arm around him in greeting, because the other’s still injured.)
OH MY GOD, what is going to happen when Robin finds out WHAT MATTHEW DID TO HER PHONE? I thought that was their last chance of blowing up the wedding — is it grounds for annulment? PROBABLY NOT.
But OH MY GOD, what a bastardly and not-good thing for a future spouse to do. NOT good grounds to build a relationship of trust and transparency!
Backing up now to the rest of the plot… The opening was very hard for me to get into, because the minds of misogynistic serial killers are the WORST thing for me, and I started the book the same day I’d been listening to two other stories (one was H is for Homicide, the other nonfiction) about men abusing and threatening to kill women. I get inundated easily with that material, these days. There’s too much of it. Sometimes the story is worth it to me, like True Detective — other times I’m not so sure, like with The Fall or The Devil in the White City.
At any rate, I’m going to start linking to this super-short story every time I write about such a story now: Pretty Dead Girl Takes a Break
Fortunately, I built up a tolerance to this killer’s POV over time. Yes, yes, you hate women and are going to kill someone else, but you’ll be caught in the end, let’s get back to Strike and Robin. And I was totally unable to guess his identity until the very end, until Strike had basically given it away.
- ROBIN NEEDS MORE FEMALE FRIENDS, STAT. This is huge and crucial. I was so alarmed for her that night she and Matthew broke up and she was sadly wandering the city, searching for a Travelodge.
- It was nice to get to know Shanker! And more about Strike’s mum. And the frustrating but realistic encounters with Whittaker and poor Stephanie.
- The new highly colorful characters of this book, which are Ms. Rowling’s trademark: Tempest and Jason. Tempest in particular, of course — it’s easy just to pity Jason. But I do wonder if Ms. Rowling has actually met someone claiming to be in the “transabled” community.
- I loved the exploration of different regions of the UK, including northern accents.
- At first I was pleased with how Strike was not making the police his nemesis again, as he did so thoroughly in the last two books — but of course it happened anyway, toward the end.
- They did not eat at pubs as often as in the previous book.
I am terribly concerned for the agency’s viability, as well as Strike’s ability to pay his next rent check, but at least the future was sorted out by the end.
But Matthew had imitated her, using the generic voice that stood for all women, high-pitched and imbecilic: “Oh, his hair’s so lovely –“
Yet Whittaker had never managed to claw his way out of the dirty places of the capital where criminality, poverty and violence bred like bacteria, the underbelly where Shanker still dwelled. Nobody who had not lived there would ever understand that London was a country unto itself. They might resent it for the fact that it held more power and money than any other British city, but they could not understand that poverty carried its own flavor there, where everything cost more, where the relentless distinctions between those who had succeeded and those who had not where constantly, painfully visible. The distance between Elin’s vanilla-columned flat in Clarence Terrace and the filthy Whitechapel squat where his mother had died could not be measured in mere miles. They were separated by infinite disparities, by the lotteries of birth and chance, by faults of judgment and lucky breaks. His mother and Elin, both beautiful women, both intelligent, one sucked down into a morass of drugs and human filth, the other sitting high over Regent’s Park behind spotless glass.
“You’ll hardly see them,” she said, stroking one of the stilettos with a forefinger. “They had some platforms, but –”
She did not finish the sentence. The truth was that Matthew did not like her too tall.
The boy looked around apprehensively; Strike registered the pronounced asymmetry of his pale blue eyes, one of which was a good centimeter higher than the other. It gave him an oddly vulnerable look, as though he had been finished in a hurry.
Alyssa had the wary, defiant look of one perpetually braced to take the next punch life was going to throw her.
And of course I loved the entire scene when Robin was attacked by the killer, and Strike almost loses it running down the street, shouting at random boys to lend him their phone, grabbing a taxi, continuing to shout into the phone even as Robin answers him. It was a delightful scene that satisfied my craving for healthy demonstrations of protectiveness, encapsulated in this:
“TAXI!” he bellowed at a distant glowing light. “ROBIN!” he yelled into the phone, sure she could not hear him over the screeching alarm. “ROBIN, I’VE CALLED THE POLICE! THE POLICE ARE ON THEIR WAY. ARE YOU LISTENING, YOU FUCKER?”