Fifteen Things That Have to Happen in ‘Lethal White’ (With Ten Fun Predictions Pre-Publication for the Serious Striker)

Less than a day until we can read Lethal White! Here are my promised lists of the things that almost have to happen, because they occur in every Strike novel, and my predictive wish-list, the events I think could happen and I kinda sort of hope will happen.

The Fifteen Things that Have to Happen in Lethal White

  1. Crime-Detection-Solution: There is a murder committed and Cormoran and Robin figure it out. Duh.
  2. The News Media is Shown in a Bad Light: Reporters are slimy, border-line criminal agents who hound the innocent and bend the truth to their own ends. Strike’s Denmark Street offices will be the scene in Lethal White of journalists and photographers accosting Robin and Cormoran as it has in the first three books.
  3. The Metropolitan Police Fail Again: We’re promised time with a new cop, Vanessa Ekensi, in Lethal White, a character given significant play in the teevee adaptation of Career.  I doubt very much, though, that she will prove in the end to be any more helpful than Carver, Anstis, and Wardle have been. Strike will have to find a way to prove the murderer’s guilt outside the theory accepted by the Met.
  4. Leg Issues: Strike will once again re-injure or otherwise struggle with his amputated leg.
  5. Matt and Robin Will Fight: She sleeps on the couch at least one night in every book. The question in White, though, seems to be if she will leave the loser at last when she learns what he did to her phone before their wedding in Career.
  6. Sex-Dead Body-Police: Strike is lucky with the ladies but fornication with the lovely seems to bring him some bad luck. He tends to find a dead body after such trysts and wind up being interrogated by the Met on the next day (note the English Renaissance poetic conceit of conflating sex and death, not to mention the universal joining of sinful pleasure and punishment).
  7. Robin Promotion: Whether she remains Ms Ellacott or Mrs Cunliffe in Lethal White, the fourth book will end with her elevated status in Strike’s office (yes, assuming that the firing near the end of Career only cemented her true-partner status in the firm).
  8.  Shanker Re-Dux: Every book has given us more of Strike’s childhood chum. Here’s hoping that Lethal White will explain the “favor” Strike “called in” in Cuckoo to get information to trade for the Lula Landry file — remember, Shanker does nothing for free, not even for Brother Strike — and why Strike felt he had to ask Shanker in Career if he’d finked on him to Digger Malley. Was Shanker somehow part of the Joint Ops between SIB and the Met Vice Squad back in the day? He’s a known drug dealer after all.
  9. Profanity: Robin will say “Bugger” or “Sod you.” Strike will bellow “Bollucks.”
  10. Leda’s Death: The narrative slow release about the circumstances of the death of Strike’s mother will continue. Who found the body? What happened at the funeral? Her estate amounted to what exactly?
  11. SIB Data: We will learn in Lethal White as we have in every bhook so far more of Strike’s memories about his career as an Special Investigative Branch soldier. There’s a trip to Angola, time in Bosnia, a case in Iraq, and of course the “wrongful death” investigation in Afghanistan that we know nothing about except that the last cost him half a leg. How about the medal he earned?
  12. The Charlotte Virus: In every book Strike feels the stirrings of his feelings for Charlotte. He describes it as a virus which has reservoired in his body, a disease that prevents him from having real feelings for and relationships with other women. Look for an outbreak of this illness in Lethal White.
  13. Psychological Condition: We learn about a mundane or relatively exotic psychological condition in every Strike novel. Rochelle and Lula had their issues in Cuckoo (not to mention “bat shit insane” Bristow), Orlando is mentally challenged in Silkworm (and every writer and publisher is a narcissist), and we meet people in Career, the trans-abled, who want to cut off their own limbs. The excerpt from Lethal White published in The Guardian has already shown us ‘Billy,’ a character with a tic of sorts that Louise Freeman tells me may be “motor stereoptypy rather than a true tic.” Robin and Deebee Mack studied psychology — and we should see more fruits of that in White.
  14. Epigraphs: Before every chapter and Part of the book not written by a psychopath. We have a clue that this Strike adventure will feature Catullus; we can be almost sure, though, that there will quotation headers as there have been in the first three books, from Virgil to Jacobean Revenge Dramas to Blue Oyster Cult.
  15. Childhood Chum: Strike, if Lethal White is like the first three books, will feature a meeting or conversation with a friend Strike made in Cornwall or London as a boy. Me? I’m rooting for his best mate, Dave Polworth, to make an appearance in Strike 4, especially if Charlotte returns (Dave understands she is bad news…).

There’s more, of course, and I hope you’ll add your ‘Have to Happen’ nominees in the comment boxes below before reading Lethal White. How about Galbraith showing us the murderer in the central chapter of every book so far? (be sure to count the chapters and mark the middle before you begin reading Lethal White early tomorrow morning). And a birthday, funeral, wedding ‘formal family event’?

On to the SWAGs!

Ten Fun Predictions Pre-Publication for The Serious Student of Cormoran Strike

  1. Echoes of Cuckoo’s CallingIf the Strike novels are a seven part ring composition that is somehow running in parallel commentary with the Harry Potter novels, the fourth book, Lethal White, should echo the first book in the series and point to the finale, 1-4-7. (Listen to this podcast for more on that.) Calling opens with Robin’s engagement with Matt and Strike’s break up with Charlotte Campbell. I’m guessing that White, in reverse echo, will feature the break-up of the Cunliffe marriage and the reunion of sorts between Cormoran and his crazy ex-fiancee, now Mrs Jago Ross. Might Strike fail in his resolve not to see Charlotte because of his frustration about Robin’s marriage to such a loser? I think the pairs work in some kind of reverse parallel until the finale.
  2. Cuckoo Characters Redux: On the same theme, I am hopeful that we’ll see two characters from the series opener that had cameo roles not all about the Lula Landry case: Spanner, the tech guru, and Melanie Telford, the journalist who writes the column which introduced Rochelle Onifade. Spanner is somehow related to Nick and Ilsa, I’m guessing Nick’s brother, and I hope we’ll learn in White why he calls Strike ‘Federico.’
  3. Jonny Rokeby in the Flesh: Yes, I think Strike’s supposed biological father is the Big Bad Guy of the series and that he arranged the death of Leda Strike (see Heroin Dark Lord 2.0 for all that). Again, if Lethal White is a corresponding chapter akin to Goblet of Fire, Rokeby should appear at the end of the book in the flesh. It’d be nice, too, if we learned about Strike’s first two meetings with him, events that clearly did not foster any kind of bond between them other than enmity and suspicion.
  4. A White Horse: Sheesh, if there’s no white horse in this book, Rowling has gone to a lot of wasted effort with her clues. See my review of the hints and pictures here and Beatrice Groves’ fun guess here. Yesterday Rowling told the New York Times there was an Olympic backdrop in White, which brings us full circle back to our original guesses about the meaning of the fourth book’s title.
  5. Birthdays: I’m hopeful that Strike or Robin finally does the math on his conception to figure out that he couldn’t be responsible for one of Jonny Rokeby’s divorces. Which should raise questions about the reality of Rokeby’s paternity and Leda Strike’s death…
  6. Speaking of Confused Dates: Strike tells us in every book that the dates Charlotte gave him for the conception of their child “did not add up” and that his pressing for clarification caused their split. When Ms Campbell-Ross returns (Godiva-like? On a white horse?), I have to hope she gives us at least a clue about this problem — and if she was the one to send the Strike office the huge bouquet of red roses in Career.
  7. The Radford and Khan Cases: Strike mentions two cases he loses in Career due to the arrival of a leg in his offices and the attendant publicity. We’re given an office power-relations diagram for what seems to be the Radford case. I suspect this will take off in Strike 5 in parallel with Career where the idea is introduced, but, besides this desire for a neat ring, we’ve been told the core mystery of White will be on a country estate or manor house.
  8. P. D. James Echo: Rowling is really a big P. D. James fan, so much so that she rarely mentions her preferred source for great names, Pettigrew to Peverell, and story plots. I’ve read the complete James, believe it or not, this year and I can tell you almost every one centers on a house or building that was built in the days of Britain’s glory and which has been reconfigured to postmodern uses, almost always a change acting as social and political metaphor in James’ more-than-capable hands. Look for this in White.
  9. The SIB/Vice Squad Joint Ops against the Digger Malley ‘Drug Ring:’ It’s only mentioned in an aside in Career but it flips Wardle out and potentially at least it could be the event that leads us to why Strike’s Viking was blown up in Afghanistan. I’m hopeful something Anstis says to him triggers Strike’s repressed memory about the fateful day he lost a leg.
  10. Rokeby Family News:love reading whatever is offered about Strike’s relationship with Rokeby. Career was something of a disappointment in this regard. Where was brother Al, the AmerAnglican? I’m hoping that Strike’s Aunt and Uncle will tell him, too, about how Leda’s child support money from Rokeby was “tied up” so she and her various boyfriends couldn’t waste it. Which leads to an investigation or just grounds for suspicion (we know already that Cormoran doesn’t trust Al) of the tabs Rokeby has kept on his love-child.

I’m outta here! Let me know what you think — before you peek at Lethal White and with your best gueses or objections to mine!


  1. Louise Freeman says

    1. Strike will grab at least one quick meal of take-out curry. He will eat chips in a pub. He will drink multiple Doom Bar beers. He will be stuck having at least one meal in a fancy restaurant with someone he despises.

    2. Robin will dig up information on an internet search that will be crucial to solving the case.

    3. Robin will serve tea or coffee in the office on multiple occasions, and at least one cup will go cold before anyone drinks it.

    4. Robin will impersonate someone, either live or on the phone, to get crucial information.

    5. Lucy will ask nosy questions about Strike’s love life.

    6. Lucy will insist on Strike attending some event in her home, where he will be irritated by his nephews.

    Fun predictions:
    1. Robin will get to show she is as talented with horses as she is with cars. This will make Cormoran feel inadequate.

    2. Robin will reveal her feelings for Cormoran by in some way sabotaging his reunion with Charlotte. This may involve some sort of cooperative endeavor with Lucy.

    3. Ciara will re-appear and will be transitioning from modeling to her promised spot at Oxford.

    4. Robin’s impersonation will involve her going to some sort of fancy dress event with Cormoran. And of course, the only thing she has to wear is That.Green.Dress. She will assure the Flobberworm that it is just business, after all. Cormoran will not think of Charlotte the entire evening.

    5. (OK, this isn’t so much fun). Near the end of the book, there will be the rather senseless death of some innocent person close to Cormoran, perhaps an old Army or Cornish friend who has been helpful to him in the past, or his aunt or uncle. Something analogous to the death of Cedric Diggory.

    6. Finally, when the TV version appears, Carol Burnett will play the role of Denise, reprising her “Mrs. A-Wiggins” persona.

    Finally, my uber–prediction for the series finale……
    In a nod to the “Jack the Giant Killer” folk tales, Cormoran will meet a tragic end at the hands of his adoring nephew.

  2. Brilliant! Today’s the day we begin Book 4! Audio book already downloaded.

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