Just received a brand new copy of ‘Lethal White’ the fourth volume in Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike detective series. We all know that J K Rowling actually writes it but what I didn’t know was that this hardback edition is large and heavy!
The cover has a nice grungy look and, no, I did not skid it across the tarmac.
It was difficult to photograph because the bronze lettering flared but I wanted to illustrate the interesting trend of books getting bigger again.
I can’t help wondering how it will compare to previous adventures. The book blurb reads “The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, ‘Lethal White’ is both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.”
I will post a review when I’ve ploughed my way through 647 pages.
American author Sue Grafton passed away in Santa Barbara on 28 December 2017 after a two-year battle with cancer. On hearing the sad news, millions of readers, writers and fans must have screamed “Noooo” and fallen to the ground, arms raised to the sky, wailing “Why, Sue Grafton, why?” Well, at least I did, and that’s no lie.
Famous for her 25-book Alphabet crime series, Sue Grafton’s last Kinsey Millhone book Z will remain unwritten. To quote her family “The alphabet stops at Y” and this has been echoed around the world.
Sue Grafton single-handedly brought me back into reading and showed me the joys of a good detective novel. I was floundering in a bad ten years of my life where I’d lost my father and was struggling with the care of my ailing mother while battling my own ill-health when, quite out of the blue, I was given a second-hand paperback of Grafton’s book “K is for Killer”.
PI Kinsey Millhone walked into my life. Grafton’s detective series – “H is for Homicide”, “N is for Noose”, “V is for Vengeance” and so on – transported me into a place I understood, 1980s an era I knew, yet detailed the life of a woman in a job which was so foreign, so far removed from my own experiences that I was immediately entranced. Or as my father would have said “Caught, hook, line and sinker.”
This fortuitous state of affairs meant I had many books to read before I was up-to-date with the current publications. Here I would like to thank my cousin Laurie who willingly sent me several paperbacks to feed my addiction. So I read one and moved straight onto the next, graduating from that first battered paperback to hardcovers and finally e-book editions.
The major characters are unchanging; Kinsey is a private detective in California who joined the police force then left to acquire her detective licence; landlord Henry Pitts is now forever in his kitchen; gregarious Rosie; love interest Cheney Phillips and Robert Dietz. It was fascinating watching Kinsey evolve, if that’s the right word, because in all she only advanced a couple of years and is destined to remain immortalised in her thirties.
It seems Sue Grafton did not even draft a copy of her final book. The old adage “Leave them wanting more” is true but not the case. Her family is adamant that although Grafton had a working title (prophetically) “Zero”, there will be no final book, no ghost writer, no movie and no happy ending – just a blank space on the bookshelf.
My condolences to her family. The final chapter has ended for Sue Grafton and Kinsey Millhone RIP.
Sue Grafton Alphabet Crime Series Featuring Kinsey Millhone
“The Empty Beach” is about private investigator Cliff Hardy’s routine investigation into a supposed drowning. Beautiful client Marion Singer wants to find out the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of her wealthy husband John Singer.
The truth about John Singer, illegal trader and poker machine guru, is hard to find among the drug addicts, alcoholics and ashrams of Bondi Beach in Sydney NSW. Not to mention the hindrance of PhD rich girl Ann Winter and creepy jailer Mary Mahoud. Hardy soon finds himself fighting for his life when his search for the truth involves some nasty venues controlled by an underworld of violent people and lead by kingpin Freddy Ward who does not appreciate his inquisitive nature.
Being an earlier novel, Hardy is ex-army, a law student dropout, insurance company investigator turned private eye who lives by a solid set of values. And he’s seen many gruesome murders in his time. Throughout Hardy shows understanding and tolerance of people from all walks of life, he embraces the city sprawl and the rural ethos, and doesn’t start a fight. But he can be tough and not play nice when it comes to his own survival. He has a habit, when in a tight situation, of jesting at the bad guy’s expense and consequently coping a beating. This is well illustrated in the chapter where Hardy is imprisoned inside a squash court.
My suggestion is read “The Dying Trade” the first Cliff Hardy book in Peter Corris 42-book series even though a later book “The Empty Beach” was made into an Australian movie in 1985 and remains his archetypal crime story. Based on Peter Corris 1983 novel of the same name, this movie starred Bryan Brown as Cliff Hardy and such notables as Belinda Giblin, Ray Barrett, John Wood, Joss McWilliam and Nick Tate as the ill-fated Henneberry.
While you may like to read the more current books like “Silent Kill” (above) the earlier ones are classic Australia in the 80s and 90s and my favourite is “Wet Graves”. They have changed with the times, think internet and iPhones, and contain physical changes to Cliff Hardy at the same time they happened to the author. For example, smoking habits or the triple bypass heart surgery Peter Corris underwent and kindly passed on to Cliff Hardy. The relationship breakdowns do not appear to apply too much to real life. Corris didn’t pass on his diabetes, however, the easy-going narrative speaks volumes, both men having a genuine affection for their family, the city of Sydney, and its diverse citizenry.
Now I’ve got that out of the way, let me say that one of the most enduring (and for me, best loved) of Australian crime fiction characters is Cliff Hardy.
Fast forward to future ‘Spoilers’ and Hardy is deregistered and operates on his own initiative but still maintains a rock-solid sense of fair play in the 21st century. To date, Hardy’s longtime friend Frank Parker is now a retired senior police officer and married to Hilde, Hardy’s ex flatmate. The reader watches this friendship evolve through a chain of novels and it’s just as interesting as following Hardy’s love life and family expansion. Although he still holds a torch for his late ex-wife Cyn, there’s even grandchildren. And there’s cameos from characters like tattooist Primo Tomasetti with his graphic artwork and sleazy patter.
Cliff Hardy represents the kind of bloke many law-abiding citizens would like to have on their side, a blemish yet dependable man who’d share a joke or reminisce over a cold beverage. When it comes to Aussie mystery solving, Hardy gets my vote every time.
POSTSCRIPT: Peter Corris, journalist, historian and author of the best-selling Cliff Hardy detective series, died on 30 August 2018, aged 76. Over 37 years, from 1980 to 2017, Corris wrote 42 Cliff Hardy novels making it the longest running series in Australia. The final installment is titled ‘Win, Lose or Draw’.