Sunday 31 May 2020

Lethal White Didn't Live Up To Its Predecessors

Title: Lethal White
Series: Cormoran Strike #4
Author: Robert Galbraith
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2019
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"I seen a kid killed...He strangled it, up by the horse."

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike's office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy's story, Strike and Robin Ellacott - once his assistant, now a partner in the agency - set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike's own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been-Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.


It took me 8 months of reading Lethal White on and off before I could finally finish it. I would attribute that to how slow the first 500 pages of this book is, as well as a lot of meandering through subplots and minor events that, honestly, didn't have to really be introduced.

Strike and Robin make their reappearance in what I had hoped to be another thrilling and intense crime-solving story. Their investigation takes them into the lives of politicians and ministers, who all seem to be motivated by greed and power. The backdrop to this is strongly focused on corruption and secrets amongst officials who are supposed to be upright and law-abiding citizens. It's definitely a different take to what the first 3 books were like, in that instead of being focused on finding a killer or solving a mysterious death, there's a stronger element of political intrigue and uncovering political corruption, power privilege and issues of sexism, discrimination and forms of sexual assault.

Perhaps because I had an expectation that Lethal White would be similar to its predecessors, I was heavily disappointed in discovering that it wasn't. Rather than being fast-paced and shocking, Lethal White plods its way through the first 1/2 to 3/4 of the book to ultimately arrive at a more exciting and quicker paced ending. I didn't particularly enjoy the first 500 pages, finding the events to be unmemorable and really stagnant for my reading experience. Is it harsh to say that Lethal White could've foregone a lot of what happened in the first half of the story? Is it also harsh to say that I didn't really care for Robin and Strike's personal matters? Only because it was so repetitive and didn't have to take up so much of the story, like it did. I mean, it could've served as an example of how toxic relationships and behaviours can become a cycle, but I wasn't sure if Lethal White was attempting to deliver this message on top of its crime-solving plot.

It also didn't help that Galbraith wrote her characters as though this was the first time we were meeting them, instead of reading about Robin and Strike in 3 books already. So much of their past and what happened in the last three novels was repeated, which I know most sequels do, but it honestly came across as though Galbraith was worried, as a reader, I would have completely forgotten who the characters were.

However, once the story picked up (finally) the focus on the crime kicked in and I sped through the remainder of the book. I will still applaud Galbraith for her crime-writing abilities, in that they carefully and cleverly crafted the crime and the solution to it. When the truth was revealed it was such a satisfying "ah-ha" moment for me and somewhat made up for the time I spent wading through the first three-quarters, almost, of the book.

Anyways, the relief in finishing Lethal White basically told me that despite my enjoyment of the ending, it couldn't fully appease my not as enjoyable experiencing when reading the majority of this book.

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