Review: Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) ~ by Robert Galbraith (Pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)
656 pages ~ Detective, Mystery, Crime
September 2018~ Sphere (Little, Brown, and Co.)
My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”
When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.
Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.
And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been—Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.
Ok, let’s be honest, I’ll always be a little bias when it comes to Jo Rowling. She gave me one of my favorite series, which has been a constant source of light and love since first reading The Sorcerer’s Stone when I was 17. I can never thank her enough for bringing Harry into the world. That being said, her detective novels deserve the same amount of praise as far as I’m concerned. The attention to detail and suspense that we get in HP, works so well in her detective series. Every tiny detail is crafted to come together at the perfect moment, and suddenly, all of the pieces fit together and it is so satisfying. I have loved every Cormoran Strike novel so far, Cuckoo’s Calling being my favorite, but Lethal White was so much more intricate than the other 3 novels. I can now see why it took so long for this book to finally make it to publication. The level of detail and intersecting plot points make it seriously remarkable. Was it long? Yes. Did I care? No. The length was absolutely necessary when considering the intricacy of the plot and the investigation. Unlike all of the other Strike novels, we are not dealing with one crime in Lethal White. There is policial corruption, blackmail, and a repressed memory that, for the majority of the book, we’re not even sure is real). The length was completely welcome for me. I wanted to stay with Strike and Robin as long as I could and continue to take in all of the minute details of the case as they unfolded. I would have welcomed another 500 pages if it meant staying with these two a little longer.
Below were some high points for me:
- The Detail!- Unlike most detective novels, where certain pieces of information are withheld from the reader until the perfect moment, Rowling doesn’t do this. The reader gets EVERYTHING! And I mean everything. All of the tiny pieces of the mystery that Strike and Robin are grabbling with and trying to fit together, are given to the reader. You have all the pieces to the puzzle, but like Strike and Robin, you don’t understand how they fit together. Because you have all of the pieces, seeing how they fit together at the end is even more satisfying. This is my absolute favorite element of Rowling’s detective novels, and it is really beautifully done in Lethal White.
- The Realistic lives of Strike and Robin- If you haven’t noticed, I love these two. They are smart, funny, real, honest, and good, truly good – with no gray area. But now that we are into the 4th book with them, their personalities, their imperfections, and unique way of seeing the world and themselves are really coming through. There is so much of their own inner dialogue in this book and it was great to get to know them even more.
- Politics: Every member of this diverse cast of characters has a political connection. There’s Jasper Chiswell- the Tory MP; his rich, dysfunction family; Della Winn- the blind, Liberal, Saint-like MP; her sleazy, power-hungry husband – Geriant Winn; Flick Purdue – upper-class daughter, turned Liberal activist; Jimmy Knight- troubled, Liberal activist, bent on bringing down the Tories; his brother- Billy Knight- mentally disturbed and convinced he witnessed a murder when he was young. All of these characters are multi-dimensional, none are wholly good or bad, and you find yourself liking them all at certain points in the novel. I also loved that no political leaning came out squeaky clean. The Liberal characters (or Whigs in the UK), come out looking just as bad as the Conservatives (Tories), and vice versa.
- Undercover work for Strike and Robin was new in this novel. There are small moments in the other novels, but we get so much more of it here. This was a really fun element in the novel. It was great to see them both thinking on their feet, taking on new personas, and reacting when things didn’t go as planned.
- Romance: I have heard the comment so many times that J.K. Rowling can’t write romance, and I really just don’t agree. The subtle moments of tenderness and affection between Strike and Robin are realistic and in tune with their working relationship. I don’t want to give anything away, but there are so many lovely kernels of romance throughout the book- it’s just enough to give you the warm and fuzzies, and leaving you guessing.
Needless to say, I loved it. Rowling continues to be one of the favorite writers, and I can’t wait for book #5. I am keeping my figures crossed that this is planned for 2019.