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'C.B. Strike: Lethal White', starring Holliday Grainger and Tom Burke, is the latest mini-series based on the crime novels by Robert Galbraith (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling).

Steffan Hill/HBO / Crave

According to Dostoyevsky, no slouch in the storytelling department, it is suffering that gives value to existence. Right. Well, as Captain and Tennille informed us, “Love will keep us together.”

On Wednesday, a long period of suffering will end, as many people see it. And some of them totally unfamiliar with Dostoyevsky. One of the more abstruse spectacles of American democracy will unfold, in unusually fraught circumstance. Events will go on, all day, in Washington, each moment covered by TV cameras and chuntering pundits. (Details below.) Then there will be celebrities aiming to entertain. Since it will go on and on, by late evening you might well need a relaxing diversion. Like, say, a hokey but congenial British mystery.

The awkwardly titled C.B. Strike: Lethal White (Wednesday, HBO Canada, 10 p.m., and Crave) is just the ticket. It is the latest mini-series based on the crime novels by Robert Galbraith (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) about a brooding private detective Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) and his female sidekick Robin (Holliday Grainger). They solve mysteries in a contemporary London that all is pubs, cigarette smoke, shifty police officers and scheming toffs.

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Binge-watching guide: More than 30 series and specials to help you get through winter

The material would be garden-variety British crime story were it not for the complicated and simmering attraction between Cormoran and Robin. Talk about longing, meaningful stares and emotional turmoil. Honestly, at times it was so suggestive, I didn’t know where to look.

As the mystery begins, Robin is getting married to a chap named Matt, who happens to be the most boring man in England. Since a bedraggled Cormoran is also present at the nuptials, Robin is in a tizzy. While on honeymoon she calls Cormoran, to say something deeply meaningful, but doesn’t reach him. It’s just like Angel not getting Tess’s letter in Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Oh, the agony that ensues.

Anyway, some time later, Robin returns to working at Cormoran’s detective agency and a new case presents itself. Plus another one that might be connected. A disturbed fella named Billy turns up and claims that, at age 6, he saw a young little girl strangled on the eye of the White Horse of Uffington, that Iron Age hill fort, and he knows where her body is buried. As it happens, he says it’s buried on the estate of a rich Conservative politician with the glorious name of Jasper Chiswell. What happens next? Well, Jasper Chiswell independently seeks out Cormoran to help him deal with a matter of blackmail.

Stuff happens, in beery pubs and in politicians’ offices where all the men look predatory and all the women act flirty, but in a posh way. Then a body is discovered.

There is some other stuff, plot-wise, but the entire four-part series is really about the achingly melancholy attraction between the two main characters. Cormoran is a bear of a man who looks like a vagrant, wears a beard and a long overcoat and only occasionally admits that he lost part of a leg while serving in Afghanistan. Robin looks to be as tough as nails, even when she’s demure, but suffers from PTSD because she was viciously attacked some years previously. Heavens what a love story, with a tangled mystery thrown in. Readers, I was smitten. What a great diversion. Dostoyevsky can eat his porridge.


Coverage of the inauguration of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris (all channels, everywhere) will start at the crack of of dawn as Donald Trump leaves – currently scheduled for 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m. – for the golf courses of Florida. The swearing-in begins at 11:30 a.m. and the morning’s inauguration ceremony will include Lady Gaga’s performance of The Star-Spangled Banner, as well as a musical act from Jennifer Lopez.

Celebrating America (all U.S, networks, 8:30 p.m.) is a 90-minute special, hosted by Tom Hanks, and celebrating Biden’s inauguration, with performances from Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi and Ant Clemons. Bruce Springsteen, the Foo Fighters, John Legend, Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington will make appearances as well. The program also aims to honour “American heroes who are serving their communities, including front-line, health care workers and teachers.”

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