J. K. Rowling's one-legged detective stars in Lethal White.

J. K. Rowling is off to a roaring start in a second career as a detective novelist with the fourth entry in the Cormoran Strike series. As is well known, the author of the Harry Potter books writes these mysteries under the name Robert Galbraith (which defeats the purpose of a pseudonym). Rowling doesn’t just prove she can write with a sure hand for adults. She demonstrates a rare ability at character development. Just read a couple of these novels, and you’ll come to think that Rowling’s one-legged detective and his partner Robin Ellacott are living, breathing human beings. Who knows? Maybe they’re even looking over my shoulder as I write.

Lethal White is a complex mystery that runs to well over 600 pages. It takes a long time getting to resolution. But that’s time well spent. The conflicted private lives of both Strike and Ellacott, and for that matter of all the principal characters, are well worth exploring for their own sake. You’ll enjoy getting to know them.

Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling (2018) 656 pages ★★★★☆

The title’s meaning comes late in the plot

The title of this novel refers to Lethal White Syndrome, a condition that affects young white horses. “Pure white foal, seems healthy when it’s born,” one character explains, “but defective bowel. Can’t pass feces.” The condition is, apparently, fatal. But don’t hold your breath to figure out what that has to do with the plot. The explanation comes late in the story.

A “naturally surly-looking [man with a] boxer’s profile”

Cormoran Strike would be hard to miss on the street. “Even in an uninjured state Strike tended to intimidate, given that he was large, dark, naturally surly-looking and sported a boxer’s profile,” as Rowling describes him. And in a conversation with a police officer from Scotland Yard who remarks on the good-looking women who fall for him, Strike remarks, “Some women just like fat one-legged pube-headed men with broken noses.” Yet on reflection Strike realizes that “[l]ife 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.”

For additional reading

I’ve reviewed all the books in this series at J. K. Rowling’s thrilling Cormoran Strike detective series.

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