Galbraith, Robert. Career of Evil.

NY: Little, Brown, 2015.

If there was any doubt that J. K. Rowling had a much more varied selection of arrows in her quiver than Harry Potter, this third volume in the series featuring London private detective Cormoran Strike should put paid to that. Strike, rising star in the British Army’s criminal investigation branch before an IED in Afghanistan took most of his leg, has had two recent and highly newsworthy successes as a civilian detective, at the expense of the badly embarrassed Scotland Yard — but the publicity is bringing in the clients, so that’s okay.

His assistant, Robin, who started in the office as a temp, then became a permanent employee, has now had some training and has begun functioning as junior partner on Strike’s cases. Her stuffy accountant fiancé still hates her job, but she couldn’t be happier. Until a parcel courier delivers them a severed leg.

That’s the opening of what becomes a fight for professional survival as Strike tries to figure out who wants to destroy him by killing his business. There are three primary suspects from his past, all of whom hate him — two of them from his military days and the other being the manipulative stepfather whom he loathes and who probably killed his mother, though the jury back then decided otherwise. We learn a good deal more about the early lives of both Strike and Robin — not very pleasant in either case, though for very different reasons — and we make the acquaintance of Shanker, Strike’s boyhood . . . well, “friend” isn’t quite the right word, but they trust each other implicitly — in certain things, anyway — and he’s a very interesting character.

We also get three POVs this time: Strike himself, Robin (who is struggling with doubts about her looming marriage), and that of the unknown killer, who has been very busy lately. The author scatters clues thickly, and more than a few red herrings, and you’re not likely to know whodunit until almost the end. There’s also a great deal of tension, especially since we know the killer has now targeted Robin — because that danger is the best way to cause Strike the most agony.

This is not great literature but it’s first-rate writing and an above-average thriller.

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