There are unseen connections in this world.
I’m not (necessarily) talking about back-channel diplomatic communication lines or conspiracies here. No, I’m talking about the ties between people. We’re all connected by friendships, family, work or some interest. We’re bound to events and people in our pasts, as well. These connections are invisible when we walk down the street but they impact every move that we make.
Cormoran Strike, hero of Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)’s mystery series, knows how the past still connects with the present. After all, his military injury affects his everyday life even though the accident happened years ago. But, in Lethal White, those unseen connections not only affect his missing leg. They string together secrets and murder.
First, there’s the mentally-ill man who wanders into Strike’s office. Is this poor man crazy to think he witnessed a murder as a child or did witnessing a murder help drive the poor lad insane? Is he connected to the government official who wants Strike to stop a blackmailing scheme? The official won’t explain who the blackmailers are or what he’s being blackmailed about. He just insists “it was legal in the past.” Strike’s junior partner, Robin Ellacot, goes undercover in the minister’s office and finds more connections and schemes instead of the extortionists. And the secrets continue to multiply and spread until one of the secret-keepers turns up dead.
Then, it’s up to Strike and Ellacott to untwist the lies and excavate the connections. That’s no easy task, for clients who want leverage, not the truth. The search is even harder because of the ties and secrets both detectives are trying to keep from themselves.
Followers of this series have known for years that Strike and Ellacot belong together, personally as well as professionally. They share core values and have complementary skills. They bring out the best in each other. But both have ties to their pasts that keep them from acting on this mutual attraction. This conflict often makes communication difficult. It deepens their unspoken romantic feelings for each other. And it drives both of them into dangerous places.
Changes & Connections
This unacknowledged passion often echoes in the epigraphs of Lethal White’s chapters, all of which come from Ibsen’s play, Rosmerholm. Because the theme of Rosermerholm is that while progress means change, it conflicts with the immutable past. See, people change as they age They either continue to learn and grown or they stultify. They become more or less tolerant with time. And none of us are exactly alike, to begin with. So change drives formerly close friends apart, even as their history and affection bind them. And that creates conflict. This conflict between changing outlooks and unchanging ties can fuel a lot of misery and drama. And, as entertaining as those fights can be, they can also harbor a lethal distraction. Because, when we’re being whipsawed by change and conflict, we may not see the puppetmaster manipulating us through our connections. The shadowy one who trades in secrets. The bad guy who smiles and smiles and still remains a villain.
Lethal White has a large cast of characters, layers of story, and a definite point of view. It’s not a quick read but it is entertaining. It’s worth re-reading too, just to sort out the ties and the secrets. And discover the smiling villain.