Title: Lethal White

Author: Robert Galbraith

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 778

Rating: 3/5

Oh boy, this is going to be a challenge. For those who aren’t already in the know, I have a policy where each of my reviews is designed to have the same number of words as the book has pages. And if you’re watching this on TikTok, I basically use my written reviews as scripts.

So, where to begin? Well, the first thing to mention is that it’s been a while since I read any of the books in this series. Fortunately, I managed to get back into it pretty quickly, because I do remember that Robin was about to get married, and that’s where the book starts.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been one for weddings, and considering that I find Strike, Robin and Robin’s husband all to be unlikeable characters, that was a bit of a slog. It felt like the wedding was going on forever, and it was tedious at best to sit there reading it. It was kind of like watching a match between two teams you’ve never heard of playing a sport you don’t like.

It got to the point where I almost bailed before there was even any suggestion of this being a crime novel, but I stuck with it. I’m not necessarily sure whether that’s a good thing. Given that I write crime/mystery novels myself, I feel duty bound to read this series, but I’ve found it to be underwhelming except for the first book, which was just kind of okay. There’s too much beating around the bush, which is what led to it having nearly 800 pages. Only about a quarter of those were actually necessary to tell the story.

We also have the fact that Robert Galbraith is J. K. Rowling, and perhaps I’m finding it difficult to separate the art from the artist. I enjoyed Harry Potter as much as the next man, although it was Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books that made me fall in love with reading, and I’ve gone on to stay reasonably up-to-date with Rowling’s books. I don’t agree with most of what she comes out with on Twitter, but I don’t deny that she has a right to say whatever she wants. She just doesn’t have a right to not be criticised for it.

But let’s get past that and go back to the book. See, the thing is, I think there’s a lot of promise here. The characterisation is pretty good, as you might expect from the author of Harry Potter, it’s just as though she’s written an entire book where all of the characters are even more annoying than Colin Creevey and Rita Skeeter. It was difficult to get too engaged with the book given that I didn’t like reading about any of the people who were in it.

The plotting is also pretty good, but again, it’s one of those where there’s good and bad and she just kept all of the bad in rather than streamlining the novel and putting her best foot forward. It’s a bit like finding a diamond and then putting it straight onto a ring without cutting it, or painting a masterpiece and then leaving it rolled up in a storage cupboard.

I think part of that might be because Rowling is now at the level of someone like Stephen King, where people would publish (and buy) her shopping list if she put the manuscript up for sale. That can lead to authors not being as hungry and kind of phoning it in, thinking “this will do” rather than putting in the work to make it better. Or maybe her editor was too intimidated to do anything more than copy edits. Who knows?

I’ll keep reading the series because it’s a classic charity shop book, so it’s not as though I’ll need to go out of my way to get them. I’ll just wait until I spot them going cheap, pick them up when I see them and get to them whenever I get to them.

But I don’t have high hopes for what’s coming next, especially given that the next book is Troubled Blood and I’ve heard bad reviews of it and opinions that it’s a product of transphobia. Maybe you can’t separate the art from the artist after all.

If you’re in the market for a crime novel, I wouldn’t recommend this series, at least not until after you’ve read a bunch of others. I’d suggest giving Peter James’ Roy Grace books a go before this one. Hell, I’d even give Morse a go.

Learn more about Lethal White.