— please note, this review does contain spoilers —
Early on this summer I read the first three novels in the Cormoran Strike mystery series by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling, and very much enjoyed them. I had some minor issues with certain aspects but overall I liked the series, and the fourth novel, Lethal White, became one of my most anticipated new releases of the fall season. Unfortunately this book was a major letdown for me, to the point that I decided not to continue with it, which is something I rarely do. So this is less of a book review, and more of a breakdown of problems that made it a novel I simply could not get through. Rather than be too vague, I will include some things that would be considered in the spoiler territory for Lethal White and the third book, Career of Evil, so proceed with caution.
The third book, Career of Evil, left off with the dramatic conclusion that was Robin’s wedding to Matthew. As I mentioned in my series review, Career of Evil definitely went more into the personal lives of the two main characters, which I would not have minded if it hadn’t started to feel like something out of a soap opera. The Robin/Matthew dynamic became somewhat tiring, Robin’s decisions became downright baffling, and the story with regards to the personal relationships went in what I found to be an odd direction. Because the third book ended with a bit of a cliffhanger, it was hard to judge without seeing where the author was intending to go with everything.
Lethal White begins where the previous book leaves off, going over the events of Robin’s wedding. This part was interesting enough, however it sets up a tone and dynamic for the novel that magnifies the issues I had with the previous book, and the result is a cringe inducing soap opera with some mystery bits sprinkled throughout. The breakdown: Robin is terribly unhappy and resentful of Matthew, Matthew is insecure and controlling, Robin decides to leave him, oops something happens and she can’t leave him at that moment so she stays. Sound familiar? Of course it does, because this was the agony of Robin throughout Career of Evil and we get it all over again on repeat in Lethal White. But now poor Robin is in this marriage, miserable as ever, and even the author can’t seem to explain why she is still married, except that Strike is now dating and not paying attention to her in a way she would like. So it comes off like she is staying in a miserable marriage out of spite or to show Strike that she is strong and has it all together. It is so painful to read. What makes it worse is the attempt at creating tension between Robin and Strike simply through them not properly communicating and in turn assuming what the other is thinking/feeling, which leads to all kinds of angst and brooding. All of this combined feels forced and manufactured for the sake of unnecessary drama. Characters that started off in the series as compelling have become completely unsympathetic, and in the case of Robin, insufferable. Because of the repetitive and frustrating nature of this storyline I couldn’t help but cease to care. And what about the mystery? I couldn’t even tell you. It was difficult to get into, what with all the angst and brooding.
Maybe most readers won’t find all of this as problematic and irritating as I do, and I hope you do enjoy the series. Unfortunately this novel seemed to hit on just about everything I dislike in storytelling. When I find that I’m forcing myself to read a book, I have to call it a day.