Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Lethal White

Date Started: 9th January 2019
Date Finished: 19th January 2019
Time taken to read: 11 days
Rating: 4 stars

If only the swans would swim side by side on the dark green lake, this picture might turn out to be the crowning achievement of the wedding photographer’s career.

Lethal White is the fourth instalment in the Cormoran Strike detective series, written by J.K Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. As it is the fourth instalment, I will try to not spoil too much of the series so far, but please be aware that there may be unintentional spoilers.

For anyone that is unaware of the series but wants to read this review, the Cormoran Strike series follows Cormoran, an ex-military investigator turned private detective, as he solves complex crimes generally relating to individuals in the public eye. He is ordinarily hired due to his connections within the police and criminal underbellies to solve what the police fail to unravel. He is accompanied through the series by his assistant turned agency partner, Robin. Whose knowledge and experience is developed over the course of the previous three novels.

Following the success of their case in the first novel, both investigators have reached a level of minor fame meaning in the latest novel, Lethal White, they are hired to assist a parliamentary MP who is being blackmailed in the build up to the 2012 London Olympics. During their investigation there is a dark twist, leading them to investigate a different crime altogether.

I will preface this review by advising that for the majority of this novel, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Robert Glenister. Therefore, I am aware that my review will be skewed by the fact that I really enjoy Glenister’s narration style, and I have a fondness for his character voices/accents. If you are reading this series and enjoy an audiobook, I would encourage you to give them a go in that format.

Galbraith/Rowling in my opinion has a skill for crafting a very complex mystery which consists of a number of twists/turns and red herrings that will keep a reader guessing for the majority of a novel. I do not read a high level of mystery/thriller novels, so I am limited in my comparison but I always feel as though the deductions and clues explored are well thought out and developed. Which given the ever-growing length of the Strike novels is required to keep the readers interest over so many pages.

However, unlike in previous instalments, I did actually manage to figure out the whodunnit (or at least the people involved). In part I believe because in this particular novel unlike previous instalments, a much larger number of characters were introduced, but the author developed only a small portion of them. Therefore, meaning it seemed unlikely the conclusion would point to a character on the distant peripheries who had been given limited page presence (or had it done, readers may have felt cheated out of a fair chance to solve the mystery themselves). As such, it felt as though the focus was significantly narrowed following the first story twist.

Despite feeling that I knew the outcome however, the story was crafted well enough that I still enjoyed watching it unfold and there were times that I doubted my initial guess. Plus there were some elements in the conclusion that I hadn’t figured out, so there was still a reveal that I hadn’t anticipated.

I felt this novel had a slower start, focusing more on the overarching domestic stories of our main characters rather than delving straight into the particular case of this novel. In some ways I felt it was good to get a greater insight into Robin, as we found out a lot more regarding Cormoran in the previous book. The ongoing dynamics of Robin’s romantic relationship has however been grating on me for a while, as it has felt like there was an obvious eventual outcome that has been playing out at a glacial pace over the past few novels. I was therefore really pleased that this element of her character was progressed and hopefully will be a limited feature going forward.

My main criticism for this novel, and across the series, is the backdrop and settings of the crimes. Generally, all the cases have revolved around the wealthy and famous, and often crime novels feel the need to get bigger and wilder with each novel. I worry that if this is the model that Galbraith/Rowling intends to follow, the plots will begin to get too far-fetched and over the top. So far, I haven’t had this bother me as it may have done for some readers, but it is something I am very aware of for whenever we get book five in the series. I also wonder how future relationship dynamics may shape the books going forward – but I look forward to finding out.

TLDR? Cormoran and Robin solve another complex crime, with an enjoyable plot but slightly more expected ending than previous instalments.

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