Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling)

               This is the fourth novel in the series featuring Cormoran Strike, former soldier, amputee and now private detective, and Robin Ellacott, his recently married business partner – and this is the best, despite its mighty size (650 pages) and predictably complex plot, not to mention the usual raft of characters that initially are hard to keep track of:  well, fear not!  Galbraith/Rowling is too good a storyteller to let the reader wallow in confusion, and apart from having to have strong wrists the page-turning proceeds at a satisfyingly high speed, as we would expect from a writer of this calibre.
            Due to recent successes Cormoran has gained something of a media reputation – not that he is enjoying the spotlight, for his M.O. depends on his anonymity and the ability, despite his size, to blend into the background.  Fortunately, he is able to hire new staff for various surveillance jobs, and Robin is invaluable as always, despite a severe case of PTSD caused by their last case – a condition about which her new husband is spectacularly unsympathetic;  he is hounding her to leave ‘that shitty job’ – not because it is dangerous and obviously stressful, but because he is jealous of her good relationship with Strike.  She should stay at home and be a good little wife.  Not a good start to a marriage, but hardly surprising:  Robin’s husband and Strike have never hit it off.
            Thanks to Strike’s enhanced reputation, a Minister of the Crown comes calling.  He is puffed up with privilege and self- importance, especially considering his aristocratic background:  Strike will get onto his problem, find out why some anonymous bastard is trying to blackmail him out of forty thousand quid – which he WILL NOT PAY!  And do it right away.  And it’s none of Strike’s business what the blackmailer knows:  suffice to say that in days gone by ‘it used to be perfectly legal’.  So get to work.
            Reluctantly, Strike does, sending Robin in to the House of Commons undercover;  she will be the Minister’s Goddaughter, come to assist his daughter Izzy who is snowed under with Admin – and to plant a bug in the office opposite of a man who plainly loathes the Minister and would be thrilled if a scandal surfaced that would see him retire in disgrace;  in fact that sleazy little man could be the obvious suspect as blackmailer – until the Minister is found dead shortly after in his townhouse, supposedly a suicide.  Really?
            The plot thickens nicely and in the process we meet a great cross-section of London Society, from its rarefied heights to its scummy depths, including various members of the Minister’s family -  all damaged to a greater or lesser degree, and a poor psychotic homeless man who is convinced he was witness to a murder at the Minister’s country home twenty years before.
            Apart from an overlong and fruitily melodramatic unveiling of the blackmailer/murderer (poor Robin is in the hot seat again – her PTSD will never leave!), ‘Lethal White’ is unputdownable, even though it weighs a ton.  FIVE STARS.

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