Because what else should I talk about on Xmas Eve? Taking the day off tomorrow, back next week with other books I should've blogged about months ago...
Galbraith wastes no time in establishing that our criminal is one sick dude right there on page 1. By page 3, you know that this guy is at best some sick, misogynistic creep -- and probably something worse. I really appreciated that -- none of the silly trying to fake us out with charm, or attempt to make us sympathize with the guy -- nope, he's just a horribly person. Thankfully, this isn't one of those detective novels that tells you who the killer is in Chapter 1 -- all we know is that you don't want him dating your daughter (or anyone you know -- or anyone, ever) and that he's a little obsessed with Strike and Robin.
When your assistant receives a woman's leg in the mail, you pretty much have to assume it's personal. So naturally, Strike (and the police) aren't looking to the public at large to start compiling their lists of suspects, but to Cormoran's past. The fact that he has a list of three strong candidates is pretty disturbing, and while he and Robin look into the current whereabouts of each of these, we get to learn a good deal about the suspects and their history with Cormoran. Clearly he's seen plenty of evil in his career -- we knew that already, but this is the first that we really get details. Wow. How he's managed to get this far in life and stay pretty adjusted is a marvel. As a P. I., as Military Police, and as a teenager Cormoran 's seen the worst of humanity and keeps going.
Of course, the title also refers to the suspects, all of whom have pretty impressive (for lack of a better word) résumés when it comes to evil. While Cormoran and Robin are on the hunt (while trying to service existing clients), things get worse -- there are new people tortured, cut up, stalked and killed. And all of the initial suspects stay suspects. Each of them, in their own special way, has shown propensity of violence, a contempt for women, and a desire for revenge that could conceivably drive them to these acts.
You can't say that Robin Ellacott has much of a career related to evil, but it turns out that her experience in the field is more than theory and observation. Galbraith gives us a look into her past as well in this novel. Receiving a body part in the mail is mild compared to some of what she's experienced. Even more than getting pieces of her boss' backstory, I appreciated learning this about Robin (and it solidified my low opinion Matthew). While we're getting that, we also see her growth as a P.I., holding her own (for the most part) with Cormoran. Until she reaches the breaking point, that is, which you'd expect when some psycho is threatening you as a way of tormenting your boss. Thanks to a combination of ambition and a desire to maintain (take?) control over her life, she -- as one friend of the blog put it -- "goes and does something that is monumentally stupid." I bought it, but...man, Robin let her insecurities get the best of her. How human of her.
Galbraith keeps the tension turned up to at least 8 (sometimes, up to 11), while exploring the myriad ways our own psyches, pasts and insecurities can lead us into all kinds of trouble.
I've enjoyed each installment in this series, but I think this one is the best, and I can't wait to see what's next (assuming Galbraith's alter ego has time for it).