Lethal White

by Robert Galbraith

The fourth installment of the detective series by J.K Rowling (whose pen name is Robert Galbraith) is my favorite so far. It is the longest (not unlike the Order of Phoenix in the Harry Potter series) and I think my joy is largely from occupying the world of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott for longer than in the past. Rowling is a class-act!

These two characters are some of the best written people in the literary universe. Period. We read about their thoughts, their attitudes and their experiences and it is so detailed, consistent and wonderfully flawed that you just want to buy Cormoran Strike a Doom Bar in his Tottenham Court digs. We wonderfully inhabit his familiar yet dingy office-cum-dwellings and his relationship with his assistant-turned-partner Robin Ellacott. Rowling is an expert in writing these characters which makes me wish for a romantic novel from her as well. The tension she creates between them – they are not just friends, not lovers (yet) and their ego’s and unsaid words get between them. It is something I thought couldn’t be captured using words alone and boy am I glad to be proven wrong! The tension, the chemistry and the undercurrents of love between the main characters is the best yet in this book.

It is also the most political statement Rowling has made yet. Her description of the political groups, the dark leftist groups and the radical thoughts are well captured in this book. Galbraith brings class-warfare that has been lurking in the shadows out in the open with her characters of Jimmy Knight and Flick who showcase the dark undercurrents of the left and also expose the fear and oppression they face.

“Because Rowling is so straightforwardly liberal, it’s a pleasant surprise to find that Galbraith is an equal-opportunity satirist. He is just as happy to send up the self-righteous anti-capitalists of the left as the clueless twits of the right.”

The New York Times

The most enjoyable though, is the Chiswell family – the rich, conservative politican with favorable views on death-penalty and a dysfunctional family. The family drama is well described and the wealth of characters does not muddle the readers and each character is given plenty of time and space to develop. (That might explain the 656 pages). The story begins very mysteriously with a mentally ill man who stumbles into the detective’s office claiming to have witnessed a murder. The novel starts with a prologue after the Robin Ellacott-Matthew Cunliffe wedding and Galbraith’s attention to physical and emotional detail are exemplary. The novel seems to fly-by despite the length largely due to the wonderful characters. Galbraith also takes the reader inside the House of Commons and gives a closer look inside the working lives of politicians and British politics. Even when the book slacks plot-wise, you just enjoy the company of the characters and the world they inhabit.

I cannot wait for the next installment. Rowling remains an all-time favorite and has seamlessly transitioned across genres. I just hope, her other writing commitments don’t keep us away from the world of Cormoran Strike for too long!

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