Book Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

by Britney

I didn’t grow up a “Harry Potter kid.” In fact, I was already in college when the Harry Potter books came out. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t fall completely and utterly in love with J.K. Rowling’s fantastic wizarding world. Even now, having read the series multiple times, they still hold a sort of intangible magic for me.

That’s a lot to live up to.

So when I heard that J.K. Rowling was penning a new series – one for (gasp!) adults – I was skeptical. And also intrigued. What would she write about? Would it have any of the elements of Potter? Of magic? I waited in anticipation. I certainly did not expect the hero to be a surly, ex-military amputee detective with an addiction to cigarettes and beer. But man, oh, man, am I glad he is. Because I ❤ Cormoran Strike. He’s the kind of hero I can relate to – flawed, hates mornings, and is suspicious of everyone. My kind of guy. And his sidekick, Robin, is #girlgoals.

I devoured the first three books in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil. I loved them. And when British TV produced a 3-miniseries production for each of the existing books, I spent three sleepless nights watching them. (They are wonderful, by the way, and the cast is brilliant.) So when Lethal White was released, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, finally, I’d have some answers about things left up in the air at the end of Career of Evil. So, I read all 650 pages as fast as I possibly could. And this is what I discovered:

I am normally not a crime fiction reader. It’s not my go-to, as I don’t have the stomach AT ALL for blood and gore, or for children in peril. That said, if this series ran to 37 entries, I’d read every single one, and that’s a testament to Rowling’s skill as a writer. Her ability to meticulously plan a super complex plot without dropping a single thread is nothing short of amazing. Not only that, but her characters are unique and developed, not just caricatures, and I genuinely care about them and what happens to them. She makes me feel every raw rub of Strike’s prosthesis, so that I flinch when he takes a step; she makes me feel Robin’s bone-deep trauma when she has a panic attack; she makes me want to throttle Matthew for being such a selfish wanker. I become invested in these books, immersed in Strike and Robin’s adventures, in their danger, in their success, in their very survival.

I’m not going to lie – this book was a beast. And I may even go so far as to say that parts of it were a *bit* repetitive. But not to the point where I was annoyed, or ever lost interest. In fact, I think the repetition may have been done purposefully, to really drive home some of the themes.

I liked the further character development that took place in this book. Strike is in a semi-normal relationship, but he refuses to commit to any more than “casual.” He is focused on his business, and experiences something that makes him want to become closer with his family. He borderline acknowledges his feelings for Robin, and summarily refuses to act on them (even though I keep screaming inside for him to just kiss her, already). He makes some almost hilarious – but also heartbreaking – mistakes about Robin that show what a blind spot he has where she is concerned. And he is also a brilliant, brilliant investigator, as always. Robin is one of my favorite fictional characters. I love her grit and her bravery in the face of danger, and I also empathize with her in her impossible situation at home. I am constantly frustrated with her because she capitulates to Matthew and lets him treat her like she’s inadequate, yet simultaneously understand that she suffers from PTSD, and that Matthew is, in a way, her constant. It’s maddening. There are times in this book where she’s so far out of her element she has every right to mess up or refuse, but she doesn’t. And, in fact, she succeeds admirably. And when she *finally* has her say, it’s a beautiful thing.

The mystery in this book is very complex with a lot of moving parts that don’t seem to make any sense at all. But once those pieces start falling into place, and the threads start getting pulled tighter, the revelations are astounding. I must say I did guess the culprit, but not because it was obvious, or predictable; rather I just didn’t like the character, because I don’t like that type of person, and was predisposed against them and wanted them to be guilty. 🙂

Overall, a wonderful addition to the Strike saga. If you like mysteries with a low level of yuck but a high level of intrigue, give this series a try.

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Here a Book, There a Book

by Britney

As the director of the Belding Library, one of my responsibilities is curating the library’s materials collection. That’s a fancy way of saying…

I get to pick the books.

So, that stack of books you just walked out of the library with? The best seller, the quirky YA, the picture book for your kiddo, the manual to help you build your new bird feeder? Those were selections that I made, with the hopes that people would check them out and enjoy them, and justify the dollars I spent on them from an extremely limited budget.

No pressure or anything, right? If no one wants to check out the books I buy for the library, not only am I fully responsible for wasting the library’s resources, but I’ve let my patrons down by not providing them with materials they deem valuable. Therefore, I take my collection development job very seriously.

But I’m also a Book Lover, with a capital B.L. And as such, I want to buy all the books.  All of them, I say! But, as painful as it is for me to admit it, that’s simply not financially feasible. Sadly, heartbreakingly, the library does not have unlimited funding. In fact, because of some other financial obligations the library has, our materials budget is one of the smallest allotments we have. So every single dollar counts.

Recently, I had a friend ask me how I decide which books to purchase for the library. And the answer to this question is: very carefully.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2018-1-18,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

One of the biggest factors in building a collection that circulates well is knowing my population, and which types of books they like. I spend a lot of time looking at the books our patrons check out, and becoming familiar with what their interests are – at all ages and reading levels. I mean, there’s no point in me buying a book no one is going to read.

After that, I choose books that are entertaining, are good for creating discussion, are thought-provoking, and are bona fide must-reads. And every now and then, I get specific purchase requests from patrons for books, and try very hard to accommodate these requests.

One thing that makes my book-choosing job easier is talking to my patrons. The more I talk to people about books, the better idea I get about what they like to read, and what they want to see in the library. And on top of that, I just plain like to talk about books! So if you’re in the library and see me, chat me up about what you’re reading – I’d love to hear what you have to say, and I’d love to hear your recommendations!

At the library, we’re in the business of patrons and books – and if the two can compliment one another, all the better.

Happy reading!