The BBC’s Career of Evil: Hits, Misses and Clues to the Future of the Series?

This post began as a comment on the Career of Evil TV series post, but ballooned to something longer than I had anticipated. So, at the request of our Headmaster, I’m re-posting it as a post of its own, with a few expansions. 

This TV adaptation was probably the most butchered book of the lot so far, in terms of leaving things out. The BBC needs to devote at least 3 episodes to do one of these novels justice, which is why I am very glad to hear the Lethal White will be four episodes.

The neuroscientist in me was most disappointed in the dropping of the Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) plot line in favor of  the much simpler “Kelsey has a crush on Cormoran” angle. I assume this move was made both to save time and to avoid accusations of insensitivity that would arise from having our hero call people suffering with this genuine neurological disorder “nutters” on screen. Although, if you pause at the scene of Strike reviewing his fan site, you can see the screen name “NowhereToTurn” and “I heard he did it himself” message. The “schoolgirl crush” approach also put more emphasis on the killer’s efforts to set Strike up as a suspect, and made the Met much more inclined to accept that as a possibility.

But that was just the beginning of the cuts that were made to Strike3 — not to mention the changes and flat-out additions that point to possibilities in coming novels.

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Charlotte Campbell: The Broodmare of Lethal White?

It would not be a J.K. Rowling–or Robert Galbraith–novel without doppelgangers, echos and inversions. With horses popping up all over Lethal White, we should expect multiple equine connections to characters. And we see plenty, overwhelmingly female: Ilsa, delighted over her Olympic dressage tickets, Robin, the former pony-rider who knows the nuances of equine coat color terminology, Tegan. the stablehand turned racecourse worker.

But the most obvious horsewoman in the text is Kinvara, who, after the tragic stillbirth of her own baby, seems to have thrown herself into breeding the finest horses possible. Despite owning at least two stallions herself–which she unwisely keeps in the same field–she apparently has repeatedly begged her husband to spend money he can ill afford on stud fees to impregnate her favorite mare, Lady. Unfortunately, Lady’s death from laminitis ended that plan, even if Jasper had been persuaded to cough up the funds.

But there is another “Lady” in the text who appears to have been successfully “put in foal”– Strike’s ex-fiance, Charlotte Campbell. I’ll examine Charlotte’s pregnancy, and argue that her condition echos and inverts that of Kinvara’s broodmare, after the jump.

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Science in Cormoran Strike: Narrative misdirection or plain old error? Part 2: Pharmacology.

Strike was familiar with the behavior of heroin addicts; he had met plenty at the last squat his mother had lived in. The drug rendered its slaves passive and docile; the absolute antithesis of shouting, violent alcoholics, or twitchy, paranoid coke-users. Strike had known every kind of substance-abuser, both inside the army and out. The Cuckoo’s Calling, p. 165

The principal lesson that Strike had learned during his two months of home-based education was that cannabis, even if administered spiritually, could render the taker both dull and paranoid.The Cuckoo’s Calling, p. 64

We have known from the beginning that Cormoran Strike is familiar with substance abuse, having lived it with Leda and policed it in the SIB. Thus, it is not too surprising he immediately recognizes Lady Bristow as addicted to sleeping pills (specifically, Valium) when he visits her deathbed.

“Could you please look in that drawer,” she whispered, pointing a withered finger at the bedside table, “and get me out my pills?” Strike slid it open and saw many white boxes inside, of varying types and with various labels upon them. “Which…?” “It doesn’t matter. They’re all the same,” she said. He took one out; it was clearly labeled Valium. She had enough in there to overdose ten times.

Later, he speaks to her nurse:

“Her Valium addiction’s as bad as ever, then?” he said. Unsuspicious, trusting, the nurse smiled a tolerant smile. “Yes, it is, but it can’t hurt her now. Mind you,” she said, “I’d give those doctors a piece of my mind. She’s had three of them giving her prescriptions for years, from the labels on the boxes.” “Very unprofessional,” said Strike.

It surprised me, therefore,  to see the Doom Bar Detective make a rookie error in his lengthy exposition of the crime to John Bristow. He tells the the client/perpetrator,  “Your mother hardly knows what day it is, the amount of opiates she’s got in her system.The trouble is, Valium is not an opiate. Why is this important?  I’ll tell you after the jump. [Read more…]

Science in Cormoran Strike: Narrative Misdirection or Plain Old Error? Part I: DNA and Paternity Testing

There have been numerous speculations by more than one writer on this blog that Jonny Rokeby really isn’t Cormoran Strike’s father. (See here, here, and here for some of the key posts.) I want to look a little closer at what Cormoran has been told of his past, and evaluate the ways that he, and we readers with him, may have been deceived on this matter.

Cormoran believes:

  1. that he is aging rocker Jonny Rokeby’s son;
  2. that this has been common, if not public knowledge since he was 5 years old;
  3. that it took a DNA test to make Jonny acknowledge paternity;
  4. this revelation caused the break-up of Jonny’s marriage and a hefty alimony pay-out.

In The Cuckoo’s Calling, he tells his client he is “the extramarital accident that cost Jonny a wife and several million pounds in alimony.” In The Silkworm, we hear this narration as an internal monologue:

 The occasional fascination of total strangers, which at five years old he had thought had something to do with his own uniqueness, he eventually realized was because they saw him as no more than a famous singer’s zygote, the incidental evidence of a celebrity’s unfaithful fumble. Strike had only met his biological father twice.

It had taken a DNA test to make Jonny Rokeby accept paternity.

The trouble is, this story cannot be entirely true. For why, join me after the jump.

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Rattenbury the Wonder Dog: The Secret of Lethal White’s Yapping Terrier

Part of the fun of reading J.K. Rowling (or her alter-ego, Robert Galbraith) is making the connections that give you a brief, private peek into the author’s mind. For example, picking up on not one but three examples of V.S. Ramachandran case studies, and being able to speculate on where Ms. Rowling did her research about amputations. Or, when a chance googling of “British gallows exports” leads you to the Guardian article that almost certainly inspired Minister Chiswell’s blackmail-able offense, which, as Bea Groves pointed out, Ms. Rowling probably read sometime before Deathly Hallows was published.

On my latest re-read through Lethal White, I was struck by the rather elite-sounding name of Rattenbury, the smaller and more aggressive Chiswell dog. The other dog, the overweight black Labrador named Badger, seemed more intentionally designed to catch the attention of readers who know the true Galbraith identity, especially when you consider the other Labrador in the novel, Minister Winn’s guide dog, is yellow. But, while the yellow and black “badger” dogs are flopping, nuzzling and quietly woofing, undoubtedly trying to nudge a few self-important Potter pundits into writing essays about how the Chiswells are all clearly Hufflepuffs, it is the little Norfolk terrier that is truly yapping for attention, eager to alert us to a more interesting story behind its own name. [Read more…]