The job of a detective, in my opinion is to investigate a crime that has occurred. I don’t usually like it when he himself becomes enmeshed in a crime be it as a victim, a framed suspect or in any other way. Thus though I had enjoyed reading the first two outings of Cormoran Strike, I was wary of the third novel in which Strike has a case forced upon him when his young assistant Robin Ellacott receives an amputed leg in the mail. Our protagonists are forced to crack the crime as soon as possible since the negative publicity surrounding the event threatens to destroy their budding detective practice which now includes colourful clients like a man hoping to catch his stripper girlfriend cheating and a lady gather evidence of her ex-husband’s interference with their children’s lives.
The basic plotline in relation to the ‘crime’ unfolds in a rather simple manner. The sender of the amputed leg is a serial killer who likes chopping of bits of his victims and hates Strike. So in order to track him down Strike and his assistant focus their efforts on four primary suspects who have reasons to wish revenge upon Strike.
The key thing that sets this novel apart from the earlier two in the series is that (thankfully) the book is hardly about catching the murder alone. While Robin’s engagement with her boring accountant fiancé, Matthew and its contrast with the sexual tension between her and her boss was just occasionally mentioned in the first two books, it becomes an almost equally important side story in this one with enough twists and turns to rival the hunt for the serial killer. This also sets the stage for revealing to us, Robin’s past which offers some explanations for her behaviour and elements of her unique personality. Since two of the suspects crossed Strike’s path in his former career as a Military Police Officer and one is his step-dad, we learn a great deal about Strike’s past as well, thus leaving us with a much enhanced understanding of the two protagonists of the series.
This novel is also clearly the darkest of the three so far with themes ranging from paedophilia, Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), and detailed descriptions of violence as also of Strike’s mother’s sordid sexual liaisons. The various side stories of Strike’s relationship with each of the suspects adds colour to an otherwise straight forward tracking down of four suspects and attempting to link them to the killings.
What made the straightforward storyline of this book into a great novel that I enjoyed reading was the tremendous evolution of Robin’s character and her storyline in this novel. She is the real star of this show and makes the book a great read!
Disclosure : I was supplied with a review copy by Hachette India.