Career of Evil is the third, but probably not the last, of J.K. Rowling’s books featuring private detective Cormoran Strike. Writing again as Robert Galbraith, she produces an intricate plot, good writing, and an interesting interaction between Strike and his pretty assistant.
What struck me especially about this book was that she chose to deal with a serial killer. The general public knows quite a lot about J.K. Rowling, and she seems to be a truly nice person. So why did she want to delve into the minds of such disgusting types as the ones she conjures up in this book?
I’m reminded of a television interview of a well-known British Shakespearean actor I saw years ago. I had never given any thought to why people want to be actors before, just assuming that it was some combination of a liking for play-acting and enjoying attention. But this man opened my eyes to a completely different attraction. He explained that he was fascinated by human psychology. The challenge of acting, for him, was to understand the psyche of the characters he played. Understanding the psyche of a serial killer is certainly a worthy challenge for a writer, but I wonder whether it’s possible. Fictional serial killers all sound the same, maybe because serial killers are all similar, or maybe because they’re all based on the same writings of psychologists and previous writers of crime fiction.
Anyone who wants to write a murder mystery faces the problem of coming up with a convincing motive for murder, and a psychopathic serial killer is one possible solution. When I first thought of trying to write a murder mystery I had a hard time finding a good motive, finally deciding that thwarted passion made the most plausible motivation and I would need some kind of love triangle. I started off in that direction and had given my unfortunate hero a really awful home life before I realized that there were actually plenty of motives for mayhem in his work place, a research laboratory at a university. So I switched gears, but having put so much time and effort into what I had already written, I left it as it was with mental apologies to the poor fellow.