Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
“Such is the universal desire for fame that those who achieve it accidentally or unwillingly will wait in vain for pity.”
So begins the latest addition to J. K. Rowling‘s CORMORAN STRIKE series, and one can’t help feeling that the author would feel particularly empathetic towards her protagonist, the eponymous Cormoran Strike. Hot off the heels of his last case, Strike found himself unwanted fame that now, paradoxically, has cost him the anonymity needed to do his job in the first place.
Lethal White (2018) takes place in the middle of the summer 2012 London Olympics. Rowling’s previous novels concerned themselves with the world of famous models, the publishing industry, and war veterans. This latest addition to the series is Rowling’s attempt at navigating the murky waters of UK politics. We meet Strike as he attempts to infiltrate a group of radical working-class leftists, whilst Robin, his newly promoted partner, works at the other end of the spectrum amongst the upper-class Tories as she goes incognito at Westminster. Both parties are trying to blackmail the other, and a complex web of double-dealings ensues.
As with the previous Strike novels, the central driving force is the relationship between Strike and Robin. Readers will remember biting their nails at the finale of the previous novel, in which Strike arrived to the church just in time to see Robin marry the insufferable Matthew. One year on, Robin is still soldiering on with her increasingly unbearable husband and Strike is holding down a relationship of his own (albeit an emotionless, stringless one). The tension between the pair of detectives as they navigate their feelings for each other makes for utterly compulsive reading and, indeed, is what will have readers trailblazing through the first half of this substantial novel.
The mystery itself is a little less compulsive. Lethal White‘s central murder does not occur until about halfway through (a whopping 300 pages in), and the lengthy political dealings can seem a little dry (if not preachy). The beauty lies, as always with Rowling’s writing, in the characters themselves. It doesn’t really matter what Strike and Robin are trying to solve: readers will be happy to follow them wherever they go, for it is always a great pleasure to spend time in the company of Rowling’s characters.
Particularly enjoyable was indulging in a growing hatred for Matthew, Robin’s new husband, who by the end of the novel has become utterly insufferable. What’s more, with the return of the legendary Charlotte, the woman Strike came closest to marrying, tensions between the two detectives are running high. It is the most compelling case of will-they-won’t-they since Ross and Rachel of Friends fame.
The pacing of Lethal White does stutter every now and then, due in large part to the meandering plot and complex politics. One thing this does serve to do, however, is immerse the readers in a world so richly detailed and plotted that despite its occasional lulls, the story is utterly convincing. As always, Rowling can do no wrong and this series moves from strength to strength.
I’m glad you reviewed this! I think I’m going to wait for the paperback before I read it. And those British covers make me wonder if there’s a “Strike; the TV Series” in BBC’s future.
There is indeed a series – it came out last year. Worth giving it a look!