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…]

Two Weekends, Two Virginia Magic Festivals and One Tired Professor

It’s definitely Harry Potter copyright-free Magic Festival season here in the mid-Atlantic, with the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival hereafter ‘QCMM’) in Staunton, VA on Sept. 28-30, the Generic Magic Festival (hereafter ‘GMF’) in Roanoke, VA on Oct. 6th, The 7th Annual Harry Potter Conference at Chestnut Hill College, PA on Oct. 19-20 (and the associated Wands and Wizards Festival in the town of Chestnut Hill) and finally Scottsville, VA’s Wizarding Fest On October 27. All of these events, of course, began as bona fide Harry Potter Festivals, and all, except the academic conference, which has a Shield Charm based on its educational nature, changed their name after receiving cease-and-desist Howlers from Warner Brothers.

To my delight, my own institution decided to get a bit more into the act for the QCMM this year, sponsoring a reptile show on the main downtown stage and “Hufflepuff Village” (based in part on our shared yellow school/house color) on the main campus, as well as the academic presentations at “Beauxbatons Academy” that I coordinated. After two long days during that weekend, I trekked down to Roanoke yesterday to present a talk, be on a panel and record a podcast at their festival. This flurry of activity makes my missing the Chestnut Hill conference for the first time since 2014 (thanks to a conflict with my 30th college reunion) a little less depressing. I have had a great time giving and hearing presentations over the last 10 days, and I want to summarize some highlights here. [Read more…]

Taylor Swift’s “White Horse” is Lethal White’s Perfect Playlist Selection.

I don’t know how popular Taylor Swift is in the UK, or if JKR RG is a country music fan, but if either of those is true, I’d be willing to bet Swift’s  “White Horse” is is the song the author had in mind for her official playlist, rather than Andrea Ross’s “White Horses.” See my earlier post for links to both tunes. Ross’s song, of course, gave away fewer spoilers, and therefore was the safer choice for a pre-publication interview. For the same reason, I’ll explain why after the break, for the benefit of those still reading.

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