I didn’t realize it had been almost three years since the last Cormoran Strike book, Career of Evil. I actually ended up reading recaps of the books on Wikipedia because I knew it wouldn’t be easy to jump right back in and Rowling thankfully started right where the last book stopped, but then jumped forward a year.
I’m not sure why, but this book felt more like Rowling had an axe to grind than any of her other books. It may have had to do with the way she wrote/dealt with the Tory minister (or politics in general):
“This so-called celebration of the Olympic spirit, of fair play and amateurism is normalizing repression and authoritarianism! Wake up: London’s being militarized! The British state, which has honed the tactics of colonization and invasion for centuries, has seized on the Olympics as the perfect excuse to deploy police, army, helicopters and guns against ordinary citizens! One thousand extra CCTV cameras—extra laws hurried through—and you think they’ll be repealed when this carnival of capitalism moves on?” (Loc. 1,092)
Rowling excelled in her personification of British politics and those who embrace them. Her lambasting of all the major parties and the various other loose collectives was spot on. I remember studying in the UK and being introduced to this pseduo-broad spectrum and then realizing just how innocuous and noisy some of them were.
Or it may have been how she dealt with Robin and Matthew. Honestly, that could’ve been dealt with a lot sooner. It felt dragged out for the drama and the final connection at the end, but there must’ve been a better way to do it without making it feel so laborious. Or maybe that was the point and I just didn’t get it.
I’m not going to lie though, Rowling writes a great surly character. If I would’ve been drinking or eating when I read this line I would’ve done a spit take.
“‘Pringle. That’s what they call the eldest grandson. Fizzy’s got three children,’ Robin explained, ‘Izzy was always banging on about them: Pringle, Flopsy and Pong.’ ‘Jesus Christ,’ muttered Strike. ‘It’s like interviewing the Teletubbies.'” (Loc. 5,164)
The sarcasm and yet absolute accuracy of it again was spot on.
The thing that really got me in this book was that the big reveal actually did catch me off guard. I don’t know if I was distracted or something else, but I usually figure out what’s happening a hell of a lot earlier than I did reading this one! For some reason I either missed all the clues or fully immersed myself as the observer who missed all the clues but I was definitely like wait a second what just happened when the drama came to a head.
I’m debating on adding a new section to my review of words I learned. Rowling loves throwing in words that are unique or that I’ve never seen before and I’ve noticed in general most books I read I learn one or two new words and it might be fun to track. This books word was “vituperative” (Loc. 1,900). [Dictionary.com link to vituperation]
Recommendation: I enjoyed it, even with the long drawn out drama between Robin and Matthew. I liked the not-liking the rich people and I liked the being annoyed by the smarmy political people. I wasn’t a big fan of the homophobia some of the characters showed, but let’s face it – it’s real and people experience it every day.
Opening Line: “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.”
Closing Line: “Head bowed against the rain, she had no attention left to spare for the magnificent mansion past which she was walking, its rain-specked windows facing the great river, its front doors engraved with twin swans.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Lethal White
“Such is the universal desire for fame that those who achieve it accidentally or unwillingly will wait in vain for pity.” (Loc. 488)
“Strike’s incurable predilection for getting to the root of puzzling incidents tended to inconvenience him quite as much as other people.” (Loc. 928)
“‘I agree with Jane Austen on the ideal tenant,’ he told Matthew, standing in the cobbled street. ‘”A married man, and without children; the very state to be wished for.” A house is never well cared for without a lady! Or do you two share the hoovering?'” (Loc. 1,212)
“He got into bed between the chilly sheets and lay, hands behind his head, staring up into the darkness. He wished he could feel indifferent, but in fact his ego had stretched luxuriously at the idea that she had read all about the cases that had made his name and that she thought about him while in bed with her husband. Now, though, reason and experience rolled up their sleeves, ready to conduct a professional post-mortem on the remembered conversation, methodically disinterring the unmistakable signs of Charlotte’s perennial will to shock and her apparently insatiable need for conflict.” (Loc. 7,035)
“Because men’s crimes are always ours in the final analysis, aren’t they, Mr. Strike? Ultimate responsibility always lies with the woman, who should have stopped it, who should have acted, who must have known. Your failings are really our failings, aren’t they? Because the proper role of the woman is carer, and there’s nothing lower in this whole world than a bad mother.” (Loc. 7,370)
“Life had taught him that a great and powerful love could be felt for the most apparently unworthy people, a circumstance that ought, after all, to give everybody consolation.” (Loc. 7,394)
“How often were you aware, while it happened, that you were living an hour that would change the course of your life forever?” (Loc. 7,437)
“Strike was faintly surprised to discover the double doors to the locked ward at the end of the ground floor corridor. Some vague association with belfries and Rochester’s first wife had led him to picture it on an upper floor, hidden perhaps in one of those pointed spires.” (Loc. 7,596)
“You can bloody hate someone and still wish they gave a shit about you and hate yourself for wishing it.” (Loc. 7,920)