Has Tom Burke Read ‘Lethal White’ Yet?

Maybe he has. Maybe he hasn’t.

When asked about Robert Galbraith’s fourth Cormoran Strike novel two months after its publication last year, Tom Burke said he simply didn’t have the time or mental space to take Lethal White on.

Burke has starred in three series of the TV drama about Cormoran Strike, the former British military policeman injured in Afghanistan who becomes a private investigator in London.

Writing as Robert Galbraith, Rowling published the fourth Strike novel two months ago. It’s called Lethal White but Burke admits he hasn’t read it and has no idea what happens.

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” he says. “But my head has been full of Friedrich Schiller (the playwright of Don Carlos) and we’ve been touring the play with a cast of 13. When you tour you even start to calculate how few pairs of socks you can get away with – so taking a big hardback book would be a problem.”

That was 8 November 2018. His next play was, as we know, Ibsen’s Rosmersholm which opened on 24 April and closed on 20 July this year. Did he take the time to read Lethal White in the three months he had between starring in Schiller’s Don Carlos and taking the lead role in Ibsen’s classic? If not, is he reading it in preparation for filming the BBC adaptation this fall? Or will he, a la Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, just read the script?

I confess to hoping that Burke did not read Lethal White until he had a memorized knowledge of Rosmersholm. That would give him a truly unique perspective on Cormoran’s adventures in White and the intertextual relationship of  the play and the novel because I doubt there are many other serious Strikers who read Rosmersholm closely until every single epigraph in Lethal White came from that play.

If Tom wants the short cut to getting this relationship, of course, he can listen to the Reading, Writing, Rowling podcast about Lethal White which includes a discussion of Rosmersholm or he could read my longish post on the subject, Lethal White: Ibsen’s Rosmersholm.’

More from Burke on Cormoran and Robin:

Filming for Lethal White is pencilled in for late 2019 and Burke looks forward to getting back to playing Strike. “Maybe this is there in many great characters but I think key to him is that deep inside he’s on the run. In some ways he can be a centred, grounded individual but then you realise he’s had an incredibly strange and darkly exotic childhood. All that ‘man’s man’ side to him may be an insulation for some very raw nerve – that’s what stirred my curiosity.”

Viewers may be hoping finally things will stir too between Strike and his former secretary – now business partner – Robin Ellacott, played by Holliday Granger.

Burke has no inside track on what may eventually happen. “I suppose it will have to develop in one direction or the other – but the author is so gifted with the slow burn of relationships without ever losing their intensity. When Holly and I have been filming we’ve found a real nuance there.

“Sometimes when you’re doing TV you’re aware there are voices behind the scenes saying these characters definitely need to share a kiss by the end of episode two. But maybe they never will. As an actor and maybe as a viewer you just want it to play out moment by moment and see where that gets you.”

Those are pretty insightful comments, frankly, about both the character and the author. He may be far too short and handsome for the part, but he certainly has the smarts.

Do you think the actor has read the fourth book yet? Why or why not? Does it matter? Do you think he’s been given some kind of heads up beyond the books in print about Strike’s “strange and darkly exotic childhood”? Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below.



  1. Joanne Gray says

    I have no doubt that at this point Tom Burke has read Lethal White. Knowing him (being a long time fan) he has probably read it more than once. He is an extremely dedicated actor–who researches all the parts he plays. Also, anyone who reads War and Peace twice(!!) while playing a supporting character (albeit a very important one to my mind) in order to play the part of Fedya Dolokhov as he did in the recent BBC miniseries, will definitely read Lethal White while playing the lead role.

    You are spot on about him being smart and he actually went out and bought the first Strike book, Cuckoo’s Calling, as soon as he found out he was up for the part of Strike. He did that even though he knew they would send a copy because he couldn’t wait to find out about the character. He was well into the second book when he made himself stop because he began to have doubts he would get the part (since the audition process was taking so long). When he takes a part. he gives it his all.

    I think we all got lucky with the casting–because quite frankly I was relieved that they didn’t cast someone who closely fit the physical description that JKR gave Strike in the books (someone who out Hagrid–Hagrid+Mad-Eyed Moody). I actually had a hard time believing super models and other beyond stunning women would jump into bed with her book description Strike–especially when the fact that he was dead broke was added to the equation!! That hit me as more fantasy than reality.

    As far as too attractive–Tom Burke is but not outrageously so. It just seems if men are given a gorgeous co-star to look at then why women supposed to be fine looking at an uglier version of Hagrid? I confess, this is one time I’m glad the book wasn’t religiously translated to the screen.

Speak Your Mind