Published: 18th September 2018
Started reading: 21st September
Finished reading: 1st October
So, this is the first time I have decided to review a book that is part of a series! The Cormoran Strike series is one of my favourites, and I certainly have a lot to say about this latest entry. In the meantime, I shall do my best to avoid spoilers 🙂
Having solved three high-profile murder cases, private detective Cormoran Strike has become something of a minor celebrity, and a year on from the previous book his agency has taken on a number of extra cases. Meanwhile, his assistant Robin Ellacott has become a junior partner.
One afternoon, Strike is visited by Billy, a troubled young man who asks for help in investigating a crime he believes he witnessed as a child. After telling his story, Billy bolts from Strike’s office in panic, but despite his obvious distress, Strike is compelled to investigate.
There is very little to go on, but Strike and Robin’s investigations take them deep into the heart of government, uncovering blackmail as well as a dark and complex family history. Then, when one of the central figures in the investigation is found dead, the stakes grow immeasurably higher and Strike is hired to look into it.
As they enter a long and labyrinthine investigation with numerous suspects and sub-plots, Strike and Robin’s own personal lives become increasingly fraught and the tension between the pair reaches a new high…
Well, well. This was the book that I had been waiting to read for two years. The last Cormoran Strike book, Career of Evil, finished abruptly and so fascinatingly poised that I just needed to know what happened next!
And thankfully, this book starts almost exactly where the last one left off, and the prologue alone really was worth the wait. It is almost word-perfect. It fulfilled all of my hopes and expectations, but surprisingly it takes much longer for its events to have a profound effect.
Then we fast forward a year and it develops into the most complex book in the series so far. Indeed, the story is very slow-paced at first and takes a long time to become truly interesting, but as more characters and sub-plots are introduced and the case moves in unexpected directions, it held my attention to the point where I was trying to work out the answer even while I wasn’t reading!
There are so many minor bits of information to remember and a lot of possible suspects to consider, in fact probably too many – especially when the book is so full of long, descriptive passages. They are all relevant and add more to what is a very clever, richly detailed, though slightly convoluted plot, which at times felt like a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle with several of the pieces missing.
I constantly found myself running through all of the suspects in my mind, so often coming to different conclusions. In the end, I did manage to crack part of the case, but not the whole thing, but the way everything was revealed was very interesting. It felt like it might be something of an anti-climax, but then it pulls the rug from underneath you and delivers a wonderfully gripping and tense ending.
And even more interesting, although some of the technical aspects are hard to gauge, the answer is actually hidden in relatively plain sight. This book really does make you think long and hard, but without wanting to give too many hints, the identity of the culprit did not come as a big surprise.
It was as if the book was slowly building up to that the whole way through. The pace was often a problem, in that it took until about 280 pages, when the killing takes place, for the book to properly get going. I do not mind a slow-burner, but for me this was just a little too long.
The characters were a mixed bag. It is not often that I say this about J.K. Rowling’s work, but there were several characters I didn’t especially care for, mainly the politicians. Some of them were memorable, but the only interesting thing about some of the others was their possible involvement in the case.
As for Strike and Robin themselves, I really enjoyed this next chapter in their story. I thought Strike’s character development was wonderful, and I especially loved the scenes at the hospital and a more caring nature coming through. Robin’s life has become much more intense and I liked how it talked about her mental health and her fragile relationship with her terrible husband Matthew. She is definitely edgier here than in the previous books, and this in itself has its own high and low points.
It was fun to read about all the infiltration Robin does in this book, and I noticed just how different her working life is to her home life – it’s like reading about a superhero and her alter ego. She actually ends up overtaking Strike and becoming the most influential character in the book by the end.
The writing, as always from J.K. Rowling, is magnificent, and she did amazingly well to weave together such a finely detailed and intricate plot without leaving too many loose ends.
Overall, I would say that this book once again shows what an incredible storyteller she is, but I think she tries to fit just a little too much into this book. I liked it a lot and it is another impressive book in a great series, but I cannot say that it was a captivating read all the way from start to finish.
This book contains descriptions of a child being killed, animal cruelty, suicide, drug use, and capital punishment. If any of these may cause a negative reaction, you may decide to give it a miss.
Lethal White is a quite the reading experience – a totally complex book with loads happening and so much to take in. Its brilliant detail and intricacy is a little undermined by a slightly convoluted plot that takes just a bit too long to get going.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5