Lethal White – a Review
J.K. Rowling’s (a.k.a. Robert Galbraith) latest Cormoran Strike novel (the fourth in the series)- Lethal White – continues the adventures and misadventures of this handicapped, ex-military detective and his able assistant, Robin Ellacott. The novel begins when their last adventure ended: at Robin’s wedding to Matthew Cuncliffe. The action begins on the first page and never ceases.
In Lethal White Rowland revisits the British political scene (this time not at the local Pagford community of The Casual Vacancy, but at the Houses of Parliament pre-Brexit). The time is 2012, and the London Olympic Games are about to begin. They serve as the major setting for Robin’s sleuthing.
A second setting is the rural world of a mentally disturbed street person, Billy, who comes to Strike’s office to seek help in finding a child’s murderer.
At the same time a Cabinet minister responsible for the Olympics hires Strike to investigate a blackmail attempt against him. In order to pursue this case, Robin becomes an apprentice in the Minister’s office.
At the same time, intrigued by the distraught street person’s plea for help, Strike begins informally to pursue him for more information while at the same time investigating the Minister’s case. Step-by -step the two cases become intertwined through the actions of a variety of characters, the Minister’s wife and children, and eventually Billy’s family.
Underlying the detective story in typical Galbraith/Rowling fashion, the author weaves together several other plots. Robin is plagued by the effects of several violent sexual attacks, her lost love of Matthew and her newly dawning love for Cormoran.
The results from the first are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) panics, and from the others, the concerted attempts to carry on her detective work efficiently. Cormoran, in turn, is weighed down by the loss of his long term partner who is now married, and the new complexities of his relationship with Robin. In this book the reader begins to know the inner workings of both these characters.
As in her earlier novels, Rowling demonstrates her research into psychopathology that marked her earlier works. In Lethal White, she portrays the workings of PTSD with insight and precision. The psychotic episodes of Billy, and the psychiatric attempts to help him are realistically portrayed within the plot of the novel.
In addition she describes the inner workings of the politicians and their parliamentary offices at Westminster during the preparations. and challenges of its involvement with the Olympics. Again there is an interweaving of these two worlds.
Lest all of this seem very technical, it should be said that a reader quickly discovers that these details are woven into a complex and intriguing detective story. As usual it is played out by complex characters who are of great interest and who give the plot depth and colour. Lethal White was well worth waiting for, and its sequel anxiously awaited!