The third Cormoran Strike novel is satisfying and engaging

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always been a real supporter of J.K. Rowling’s foray into the world of crime writing through the Robert Galbraith series of books. After all, publishing of The Casual Vacancy wasn’t a huge success under her own name purely because people couldn’t separate the author from her most famous character, Harry Potter.

Book 3 in the series, Career of Evil was one that got out of the starting gate very quickly. Within a few pages, we’ve had our first introduction to the murderer and his plans and have had him deliver an amputated leg to Robin, the partner and Secretary of our hero Cormoran Strike.

From there we are led into a story where someone is trying to destroy Cormoran Strike by targeting his reputation and plotting to abduct and hurt his partner Robin. Strike and Robin are unaware of his precise plans but simply know he is attacking young women, stealing body parts from his victims and is following Robin. There are several suspects from Strike’s past, some from cases he investigated from his Special Branch of the army career and one who is connected to his mother’s suspicious death.

It was at this point I felt the story could have used a little clarity. Strike and Robin spend much of the book tracking down these 3 individuals, recounting their back stories with Strike and following up on where they were when certain crimes took place. Unfortunately, their backstories were at times quite similar and sometimes I had to stop and remind myself of which one linked to which tale we’d had recounted. Just as we seemed to be gaining clarity on one we would be off on another’s trail and you had to be alert to keep track of each story and possible Villain we were tailing now.

In this book we spend a lot more time with Robin, learning more about her life before she met Strike, her desires to become a detective and her relationship with her fiance Matthew. Rowling takes time to really round out the character giving us a real modern day Watson to Strikes at sometimes bumbling Holmes.

It is a book that goes through some high points, I found the interviews conducted to establish back stories and information about their suspects to be the high points of the book. The dialogue in these chapters is inspired, it was at these points I truly wanted to keep reading and perhaps contributes to my disappointment when we’d leave that behind and go chasing down another lead, leaving the suspense and real character based detective work behind. There are also some great characters in this story who added much to the story and who I’d love to see in future books, Shanker is a stand out for me. This shady thug from Strike’s early life comes bursting to life in this book and leaves you rooting for him, he is clearly a thug with a heart of gold and was a high point for me.

Low points were that the book kept building towards a storyline that didn’t actually materialise. Instead, we got a few pages of it potentially happening then nothing. All that tension as a reader was left a little unfulfilled. Also, our dynamic duo ended this case pretty fractured and with their own agendas. They didn’t catch their guy together but instead kind of caught him separately and didn’t share that success, which was a shame.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than book 2, The Silkworm. This was based on the chapters that were dedicated to Strike and Robin really outlining and defining who their potential suspects were and the lives they had already affected. For me, this was a real return to the brilliance of The Cuckoos Calling.

Strike remains one of my favourite series characters and I always look forward to reading the next instalment and this time is no different. I’ll be excited to see his next adventure and how his relationship with Robin continues to grow, very much in the way I wait patiently to see what modern-day Holmes and Watson will do next.

A mystery focused on Family Liaison officer Maggie Neville is really fabulous

Gone Astray by Michelle Davies
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Michelle Davies is a new author for me and initially, it wasn’t this book that caught my attention but her latest release Wrong Place. When I did some research though I found that it was part of a series that began with Gone Astray and follows the cases of Family Liaison Officer and detective Maggie Neville. I decided, therefore, to begin with this book first before reading the newer novel.

The story for this book is an engaging one from the outset, the Kinnock family have recently won 15 million pounds on the Euro Millions lottery and are living a life many can only dream of. When their daughter Rosie is kidnapped and they receive a not demanding money for her return. Immediately from the opening chapter of the book when Lesley Kinnock realises her daughter is missing it’s a very fast-paced read. The chapters are short and snappy and therefore we are no sooner beginning the book than we are 5 chapters in and absolutely caught up in all the characters lives and have a host of suspects who could be involved in Rosie’s disappearance.

Maggie Neville is an engaging heroine, she’s instantly likeable and clearly a great people person, hence her role as Family Liaison Officer but she’s also highly intelligent and people aware and this made her a great character to spend this book with and to see many things through her perspective. We learn as much about Maggie and her background and life as we do about the family she is supporting and I am sure these stories and secrets we learn will form storylines in books that will follow in the series.

The other characters in the case are also really great for the story to be built upon. We all dream of what we would do if we won lots of money on the lottery, like life changing amounts but this book allows us to glimpse behind the curtain at the reality. We have Mack Kinnock, Rosie’s father, who has loved every moment. He’s happily given up work and spent money on an ostentatious new home in a gated community with every luxury life can offer. He loves living the high life, buying art, cars, clothes and flying off on golfing holidays with his friends every few weeks. He is sending his daughter to a private school with posh new friends and is happy with the ability to show his friends that he can splash the cash. On the other side, we have his wife Lesley, she is struggling with their new found wealth and sees their new home as cold and soulless. She misses her old home and friends and the quiet life they once lived. She doesn’t feel comfortable with the excessive spending and hates the letters they receive daily begging for money from strangers and the way the money has changed their relationship with family and friends.

This glimpse of life as a lottery winner is given an even more chilling turn when you realise it’s the reason Rosie has been taken, that due to their winnings someone is willing to hurt your child and it is this premise that really grips you from the outset. You sympathise with Lesley and the fact that she admits that her attitude to the money and inability to enjoy it has driven a wedge between the family and she feels like the odd one out between her, Mack and Rosie who both seem to love their new life. We also find out that Mack has secrets he hasn’t been open about and we wonder if this could be responsible for Rosie’s disappearance.

There are so many themes explored in this book from the teen perspective also, bullying, online presence and sexual harassment online, the peer pressure to be sexually active and the resulting impact this has on young people today. We look at jealousy and people entitled beliefs that they cannot bear to see other people being happy whilst they are struggling and the way they think they can manipulate people for money.

I loved this book and would definitely read another by the author and would look forward to learning more about Maggie Neville and her own circumstances along the way. It read a little like a James Patterson Women’s Murder Club novel and Maggie had similarities to Lindsay Boxer in the early novels in that series so if you enjoyed those then this may definitely be for you.