The fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling), is a lengthy, involved, murder mystery featuring the London Olympics and the corridors of political power. It equally ridicules the conservative upper classes with their idiotic nicknames (Izzy, Fizzy, Torks and Tinky) and country estates as well as the extreme left wingers finding their identity in rebelling against anything and everything.
The book has blackmail, murder and quite a bit of character development of the detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant turned business partner Robin. In investigating a murder that may or may not have taken place many years ago, and the blackmail of a government minister, Strike and Robin find themselves dealing with politicians, their families and their detractors. The two of them, despite the sometimes unsavoury nature of the work and despite difficulties in their personal lives, are people who really love what they do and have a clear sense of right and wrong which makes them instantly appealing to the reader.
While we feel that the author has from the outset dealt with Robin Ellacott with a lot of affection in the series, it is only in this book that we felt the same affection extended to Cormoran Strike. This changes the tone of the book, making it as much about the protagonists as it is about the mystery. Cormoran Strike, the way he is written in this book is very much a grown up Harry Potter, living in the normal world. Scarred, with a tragic back story, dealing with the aftermaths of a war and cursed with the kind of fame that he doesn’t want, he is a person who has sympathy for people and a desire to do good. Robin Ellacott, with her intelligence, capability and earnestness has, from the first book in the series reminded us of Hermione Granger.
Rowling is very good at writing about friendships and supportive working relationships between her characters. We wonder whether there is an element over here of atoning for the lack of anything else between Harry and Hermione, which Rowling had once rued, after the Potter series had concluded.
With plenty of food (not necessarily appetising), drink and detailed descriptions of London during the Olympics, Lethal White is a sprawling, chunky book that one can sink one’s teeth into and be thoroughly entertained. It helps that it was less gruesome than the previous two books in the series. Which bodes well for re readings.