It’s been almost three years since Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith was published and it has been a very long wait to find out what happens following the cliffhanger ending of ex-military policeman and private detective Cormoran Strike’s late arrival at the wedding of his agency partner Robin Ellacott and her insufferable fiancé Matthew Cunliffe. The prologue of the fourth book in the series published last month, ‘Lethal White’, picks up exactly where ‘Career of Evil’ left off and the story then jumps forward a year later to the summer of 2012 when London is hosting the Olympic Games. A mentally distressed young man named Billy Knight arrives at Strike’s office and then flees again shortly after claiming to have witnessed the murder of a child many years ago. Strike is subsequently approached by Jasper Chiswell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who has been receiving blackmail threats from Geraint Winn, husband of the Minister for Sport Della Winn, and Billy’s older brother, Jimmy Knight.
‘Lethal White’ is the most intricately plotted book in the series yet, effectively combining two cases in one, and that’s without the space dedicated to the developments in Strike and Robin’s will-they-won’t-they relationship which has been simmering under the surface ever since they first met. While their personal lives remain complicated, the financial fortunes of Strike’s detective agency have been transformed due to the publicity generated by the cases he has solved. However, it also means his celebrity status as well as the ongoing discomfort of his prosthetic leg make it much more difficult for him to carry out surveillance work. This allows Robin to step up as an equal partner in the business having started out as an assistant. She dons disguises to work undercover at Chiswell’s parliamentary office and at a shop in Camden where Jimmy’s girlfriend Flick works. It is notable that even though the story is set six years ago, the most prominent themes feel very current, such as the culture of sexual harassment in Westminster and Jimmy’s left-wing political activities which share more than a few similarities with the Labour Party’s Momentum movement.
At 650 pages, ‘Lethal White’ is a fair amount wordier than the first three books in the series, drawing comparisons to a certain other well-known series by its pseudonymous author where the fourth instalment is longer than it really needed to be. However, the numerous twists and red herrings throughout the 70 chapters of Galbraith’s latest outing are expertly navigated and being in the company of such well-developed characters as Strike and Robin is still an absolute pleasure.