A Spoiler-Free Look at “Career of Evil” from “MuggleNet Academia”

Today marks the day that fans of J.K. Rowling have been waiting for… the release of the third book from the Cormoran Strike septology, Career of Evil. Although the book was just released today, MuggleNet Academia‘s John Granger has already read and dissected the book in full detail and helps us analyze the storyline of the Doom Bar detective. For the full story from John Granger, head over to his blog at cormoransarmy.wordpress.com.

While the first two chapter’s chilling excerpt was previously released, this look into Career of Evil will remain relatively spoiler-free for the fans.

We will begin by stating that we understand why J.K. Rowling had nightmares from the research she did for this book. It is no less than a 21st century Jack the Ripper-esque killer who is loose in London and has a special hatred for Cormoran Strike. From John Granger:

The murderer, who narrates chapters throughout Career, sends Strike’s partner, Robin Ellacott, the dismembered leg of a woman he has butchered. The story when it hits the newspapers dries up work at the detective agency, so Cormoran and Robin do their best to track down the three men from his past that Strike believes are sufficiently twisted and motivated to commit these crimes. During their investigations across the UK, we learn both Robin’s painful backstory in the context of her imminent wedding to Matthew Cunliffe and the circumstances of Leda Strike’s death.

One of the important discussion points we shared on MuggleNet Academia‘s special Cormoran Strike lesson was how there would be a significant narrative release to the larger over-arching seven-part mystery that creates something like fascination with the story to come while still maintaining a satisfying individual mystery story within its own covers. Well, Rowling accomplished this!

Just as the Marauder revelations in the Shrieking Shack gave Harry’s parents’ death and his battle with the Dark Lord a third dimension, so Strike’s memories in Career about his mother’s death and our meeting the man he thinks responsible for her death bring that event, the core enigma of the series, into greater focus.

During one of the recent lessons from MuggleNet Academia, we discussed the large role that violence against women played in the Harry Potter series with Professor Patrick McCauley and his recently released book, Into the Pensive. In the Strike series, this violence is even more pronounced and certainly more disturbing.

Sensitive readers will certainly flinch at the violent histories and events recounted in Career, all of which seem to involve the rape, beating, or mental torture of wife, girlfriend, mother, or sister. Not to mention the stalking of Robin Ellacott and our murderer’s fantasies of dismembering her.

Our analysis shows that Rowling may well end up being known as a writer consumed by the nightmare of women at risk, women in abusive homes, and relationships they cannot escape in a similar manner as Charles Dickens is known for the helplessness of children in 19th-century industrial England. Like Dickens and his orphans, Rowling’s women stay with the reader and bring to the front of the mind the tragedies that surround us, those we too often dismiss as inevitable or inconsequential.

Finally, as good as the writing is – and again, Rowling’s sophistication as a writer and wordsmith is almost apace with her brilliance as a plotter and storyteller – as wonderfully real and archetypal as her stock and new characters are, as exciting as the book itself and the backstory revealed are, and as relevant as the pictures of suffering women must be, this installment is painful enough, the exposition so specific and memorable, we unfortunately doubt it will inspire joyous repeated readings and conversations as her Potter adventures did.