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Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
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This is the fourth book in the very entertaining detective series by J.K. Rowling using the pen-name of Robert Galbraith. It begins immediately after the previous book, Career of Evil, ended, i.e., at the wedding of Robin Ellacott. Robin is the assistant to, and business partner of, Cormoran Strike in a private detective firm.

In this installment, the personal problems of Strike and Robin are deftly woven into the development of their newest cases. They are hired by Jasper Chiswell, a minister in the House of Commons, who says he is being blackmailed, although he doesn’t feel the need to disclose the reason for it. He does know who is behind it though, and hires Strike to find out “dirt” on his would-be blackmailers so he can turn the tables on them.

Strike is also unable to resist taking on the case of a mentally unbalanced and impoverished man, Billy Knight, who claims he has witnessed a murder. As in the past, Strike’s willingness to address Billy’s concerns places into relief his character as a champion of the downtrodden, as well as his disgust and impatience with his usual client pool of “the mistrustful, endlessly betrayed rich”:

“Strike, who had met countless rootless and neglected children during his rackety, unstable childhood, recognized in Billy’s imploring expression a last plea to the adult world, to do what grown-ups were meant to do, and impose order on chaos, substitute sanity for brutality. Face to face, he felt a strange kinship with the emaciated, shaven-headed psychiatric patient, because he recognized the same craving for order in himself. In his case, it had led him to the official side of the desk, but perhaps the only difference between the two of them was that Strike’s mother had lived long enough, and loved him well enough, to stop him breaking when life threw terrible things at him.”

Strike, a 38-year-old ex-military policeman who lost a foot in Afghanistan, perseveres with the necessary surveillance for his business in spite of the pain he often endures from putting continual pressure on his prosthesis. He is sloppy, eats too much, is “a bit beaten-up-looking," and has a broken nose. Yet, he is never at a loss for attractive women who clamor for his attention. We are given to understand it is his authenticity and his caring nature that are the basis for his appeal, rather than movie star looks.

As for Robin, now 27, although she is married, she realized even before the ceremony she didn’t want to be with Matthew anymore. She wondered “how she, Robin, had ended up with the pompous, self-involved man beside her, who reminded her of a handsome boy she had once loved.” But although she is miserable, she keeps waiting for “something definitive to happen, something that would release them both with honor, without more filthy rows, with reasonableness.”

Much of her fighting with Matthew centers around the topic of her risky work for Strike, as well as over the very presence of Strike, since it is assumed no one can resist him for whatever reason. Indeed, Robin is constantly battling her own feelings toward Strike, just as Strike avoids facing his feelings about Robin.

Robin is also dealing with PTSD after her deadly encounter with a killer in the previous book. She hides her panic attacks from everyone, not wanting to seem like “a flake,” as Matthew accuses her of being.

Nevertheless, Robin performs her undercover work admirably as usual; she is persistent, creative, and intelligent. Along with Strike’s obsessive analyzing over the clues, they manage to solve all the cases on their docket, but not without considerable danger.

Evaluation: Those who are following the BBC television series “Strike” based on the Cormoran Strike novels, will be delighted that this book focuses so much on the personal relationships of Robin and Cormoran. The unraveling of the mystery and crimes committed was almost secondary, but well constructed; the solutions caught me completely by surprise, as usual. I can’t wait for the next installment! ( )
  nbmars | Jan 16, 2019 |
Review of the Audible Audio edition narrated by Robert Glenister

I caught up with this entire series in only the past few months as they became quite addictive as audiobooks with the excellent narration by Robert Glenister. This latest is now the magnum opus of the series at approx. 700 pages in paper or 22+ hours on audio but it was still entertaining throughout. Both Strike and Ellacott have crises in their personal lives here which up the stakes somewhat.

Trivia humour
Listening to the audio on the road and sometimes only half hearing things at points, for the first several chapters I kept wondering who was "Henry Gibson" and why was something called "RossMuss Home" being quoted as an epigraph for every chapter. It was only at a quiet driving moment that I realized that they were quotes from Henrik Ibsen's "Rosmersholm." ( )
  alanteder | Jan 10, 2019 |
I was disappointed in this, the 4th book of the Cormoran Strike series. It was a complex plot which normally is welcomed by this reader. For some reason, though, it dragged a bit. The relationship between Cormoran and Robin continues to evolve, and that aspect kept me engaged. I will keep an open mind until the 5th book. ( )
  hemlokgang | Jan 9, 2019 |
Cormoran Strike and his partner,Robin Ellicot, are trying to figure out the blackmail of a British minister. Then the man is murdered. ( )
  lilibrarian | Jan 7, 2019 |
Probably not the best of the series, but a pleasure to read. ( )
  sberson | Dec 24, 2018 |
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To Di and Roger,
and in memory
of the lovely white Spike
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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.
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Book description
"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.
Haiku summary
A decades-old crime
Blackmail in House of Commons
A dead minister
(passion4reading)

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