Lethal White and NHS: Rowling Speaks

The fourth Cormoran Strike novel, Lethal White, included as an almost continuous backdrop references to the NHS in character names, the Olympics opening ceremony, hospital visits, long lines, and private medical care. I discussed this in Lethal White: Ghosts of Aneurin Bevan? Lorelei Bevan, Dodgy Doc, and the NHS’ and concluded that Rowling was presenting the glorious NHS as a socialist project in a state of near collapse.

Today Rowling released the following statement to The Daily Mail in support of their holiday program that signs up citizen volunteers to work in NHS hospitals, ‘Harry Potter Author J. K. Rowling Supports Daily Mail Christmas NHS Volunteer Campaign’:

 ‘The NHS is one of our country’s most cherished institutions, one that we can truly be proud of.

‘Despite the constant pressures and constraints, it never ceases to amaze me just how much work and time all those involved dedicate to continuing to make this organisation function, let alone excel.

‘And now, a new army of volunteers have stepped forward. The thousands who are giving up their time to help the NHS through the Helpforce campaign should be applauded.’

I suspect some readers will think this statement of support for the NHS proves I was wrong about what Galbraith’s portrayal of the NHS in Lethal White reflects about the “cherished institution.” I think she couldn’t have said anything that more clearly underlines my suggestion that the author, while admiring the dream of NHS founders and workers, acknowledges that it is a failed dream in many respects. Read the whole article for the reasons the volunteers are needed and for the problems the NHS cannot address with ‘civilian’ help. Not enough medical staff and not enough beds…

Let me know if and why you agree or disagree by clicking on the ‘Leave a Comment’ link up by the post headline. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Guest Post: Strike 5 A Bumpy Ride? Fasten Those Seat Belts! (Joanne Gray)

Fasten Your Seat Belts—Strike Book 5 Could Be A Bumpy Ride (Joanne Gray)

Strike fans received a gift in the early hours of Cormoran Strike’s November 23rd birthday when JK Rowling, in a tweet to another writer, wrote: “I’ll do the column if you write Robin’s internal monologue on the morning of her 29th birthday.”

To anyone who’s a fan of the series, this small bit of information actually says quite a bit. Besides finally confirming that she was currently working on the fifth book of the Strike series, it also revealed the date of the scene to anyone who knew that Robin’s birth date is October 8, 1984.

It also revealed to those who knew that the fourth book, Lethal White, ended on September 2012, when Robin was still 27. It would be another year and a month before she turned 29! 

A quick Strike fan tweeted JK Rowling: “So Strike 5 is set in late 2013!”

Unfortunately, she neither confirmed nor denied his comment. Nor did she reveal what chapter in Book 5 she was working on. So the question immediately presented itself—could there be another big time jump at the beginning of the fifth book—just like there was after the prologue in Lethal White, Book 4?

I personally do not believe that she will be making another big time jump in Book 5. I have no proof of this but when she wrote the ending of Lethal White she clearly seemed to be laying down a couple of story crumbs leading into the next book.

The last line of Lethal White contains a detailed description of “the magnificent mansion” on the Thames with “its front doors engraved with twin swans.” Both the detail and placement of this last image gives the reader an expectation that as a stepping stone into the next book, we should expect it’s story to be told in Strike 5.

Another expectation of something coming in the next book is the “Finsbury Park” echo that appears in the same position, in the next to last paragraph, on the book’s last two pages. Both times Finsbury Park is linked to Robin needing to get answers—to see if a man will talk to them. This has been crafted with real intentional emphasis.

As a further piece of reinforcement that these end pieces will play a part in the fifth book’s storyline, there is JK Rowling’s recent Twitter heading depicting St. John’s Gate. There is actually a link between St. John’s Gate and Finsbury since St. John’s Gate is in Clerkenwell and Finsbury is a sub-district of Clerkenwell. Interestingly, Finsbury Park is a neighborhood in Harringay, which has its own echo with Career of Evil.

Harringay immediately brings to mind the name “Digger” Malley of the Harringay Crime Syndicate, which is mentioned in the third Strike book. In Career of Evil, Strike had originally thought that “Digger” could be a possible suspect for sending them a woman’s severed leg, but he quickly struck him off his suspect list.

When the BBC TV (JK Rowling, Exec. Producer) version of Career of Evil did not even mention “Digger” among the suspects. I took this omission as proof that the Harringay Crime Syndicate was not coming back in future books. Surely JKR would have told them to include it in the script if she planned to use it in future books?

But then I saw the Finsbury Park echo on the last two pages of Lethal White and wondered if maybe “Digger” would actually make an appearance in Strike 5? “Digger” was, after all, a part of not only Strike’s past—“Digger owed his previous stretch of incarceration to Strike’s evidence” (Career of Evil Ch 12 pg 89) but Shanker also, at one time, actually worked for “Digger”!

Even though I believe that Strike 5 will start a few months after Lethal White, I also believe that October 2013 will loom large in Book 5. I base this on the closely reasoned findings and speculation of Prof. Granger in his wonderful October 27, 2018 post, titled “Lethal White:  The Big Change at the Turn — The End of the Strike Agency?

I agree with him that Strike crossing the legal boundaries he had always maintained between acceptable legal and unacceptable illegal tactics for his Agency in Lethal White may have some unforeseen consequences for Strike. Ironically, the very reason he crossed those boundaries—to save his Agency—could turn out to be the very thing that brings it all down.

Strike’s watershed moment in Lethal White came in chapter 10 (pg 110) when he crossed his own Rubicon and moved into the far more dangerous world of illegality with the words, “How d’you feel,’ said Strike, so quietly that she had to lean in to hear him, “about breaking the law?”

He convinced Robin they needed to engage in clearly illegal acts so he/they wouldn’t lose his/their highest paying client and risk him/them slipping back into abject poverty again.

If these repercussions are explored in Book 5 then Strike may experience a new level of fear (different than the fear for Robin’s physical safety he experienced during the events in Career of Evil). This new fear would be even more emotionally tormenting since he knows he is the cause if Robin finds herself in legal jeopardy.

As Prof. Granger also speculated, the UK Phone Hacking scandal could play a big role in Book 5. The year 2013 is when the biggest names in the News and the private eyes they employed to hack the phones for their newsgathering were being swept into the non-stop media coverage of the scandal. It was all reaching its final act of them all appearing before the Judges at Old Bailey.

Add to all this the possible trouble Cormoran and Robin could experience from both of their exes, Charlotte and Matthew, and it becomes a real “perfect storm” that could sweep them into the media tide of October 2013.

October 28, 2013 – The trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner begins at the Old Bailey in central London. All are accused of conspiring between October 2000 and August 2006 “to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, without lawful authority.” They deny the charges.

October 30, 2013 – It is revealed that former News of the World employees Neville Turtleback, James Weatherup and Greg Miskiw have pleaded guilty to phone hacking.

October 31, 2013 – Prosecutors reveal that Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson had a clandestine affair.

However, I have to believe that they can escape actual arrest or, at least, any convictions because such a prospect is just too hard to process. In the real world, the most famous of the arrested private detectives, Glenn Mulcaire, worked for “News of the World” and, although he was given a light sentence, he never afterwards found steady employment.

That fate would be one of Cormoran’s worse nightmares. Looking back over these speculations for Strike 5, it appears that no matter how you look at it, the  ‘Fasten Your Seat Belt’ sign has been turned on for Book 5. To paraphrase Bette Davis, we all need to prepare for a “very bumpy ride”.

Lethal White: Flints and Head Scratchers

I’m a big fan of both Robert Galbraith and J. K. Rowling but, like Aristotle’s ‘Great Souled Man,’ I’m proud enough that I don’t like to compete in any contest I am not likely to win or to make a respectable showing. Hence my decision not to watch Crimes of Grindelwald today or to participate in the feverish and global frenzy about it until I have a copy of the screenplay and have seen the film, probably next week. I’ll continue to do my “voice in the wilderness” schtick and post daily about Lethal White — and put up interesting guest posts about the new Fantastic Beasts franchise entry as they arrive by owl in the coming days.

Today’s Lethal White post is about mistakes in the story, both what Harry Potter fans used to call ‘Flints’ after the Slytherin student who played an eighth year at Quidditch because of auctorial nodding and editorial oversight, and a few head-scratchers as well, things which seem bizarre enough to be mistakes but might be clues. I’ve limited my list to seven, that magical number, and hope that you’ll share the gaffes and oddities that struck you in your reading and re-reading via the comment boxes after the post. See you after the jump! [Read more…]

Cuckoo’s Calling: 25+ Lethal White Finds

I mentioned in my most recent Lethal White post that I was re-reading the first Cormoran Strike mystery, Cuckoo’s Calling, to see if there were Lethal White pointers and echoes I had missed. I promised to share those I had not already discussed in ‘Lethal White: Cuckoo’s Calling Retold?‘ or in ‘Lethal White: Add Seven Cuckoo Echoes.’ Before I list them, I am obliged to explain why the echoes and correspondence between Books 1 and 4 of the Cormoran Strike series are important.

Close reading of the first four books has revealed that they are written in parallel to and perhaps even as commentary on their equivalent number in the Harry Potter series, e.g., Lethal White features a ‘Minister of Culture’ who is murdered by his psychopathic son very reminiscent of the Bartimaeus Crouch storyline in Goblet of Fire (see ‘Does Lethal White echo Goblet of Fire?’ for much more on this).

This strongly suggests that the series is structured in the same way as the Hogwarts Saga, which is to say, as a seven-part ring cycle or composition (for that structure, see Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle). While we have been able to chart each book’s structure as they come out to see if they are rings (they are; see Lethal White: The Ring Structure’ for the diagrams and explanations), we have had to wait for the fourth book in the series to see if, as with Philosopher’s Stone and Goblet of Fire, there were strong references and parallels between the first and middle books that will play out in the seventh. A proper ring has a story-turn which reflects the story origin and points to the finale,which pivot creates a story axis.

These parallels between Books 1 and 4, because they would confirm the ‘Series in Parallel’ theory, are especially interesting, too, because Rowling in person and her spokespeople have repeatedly denied that the Cormoran Strike books are a seven book series. As she repeatedly denied that she was writing murder mysteries before she was outed as ‘Robert Galbraith,’ however, makes her and allies in the game known perjurers and hence unreliable witnesses. We have to trust the texts.

Which brings us back to Cuckoo’s Calling, the series starting point, and the search for any pointers to or echoes in Lethal White. There are many more than those we have discussed here already in the posts mentioned above. “Many more” as in “more than twenty-five”! [Read more…]

Lethal White: Personal Assistant Drama

I am re-reading Cuckoo’s Calling in light of Lethal White and I confess to being whelmed by the number and quality of the echoes to be found of the fourth book in the first book of the series. I’m tabulating them as I go and will have to look up all the corresponding passages in Lethal White, but I think, if a Book 1 to Book 4 correspondence suggests another appearance in Book 7, the finale and end of the story axis, we have a lot of clues to sort through for the series finish. Do you remember the tomoto-red haired women in Cuckoo’s Calling? Me, neither.

One of the connections I have on my curious-but-not-obviously-important list of story echoes is that both contain references to Robin as a personal assistant or PA. Strike tells her in Cuckoo’s Calling after her week as a Temporary Solution that he’d like to hire her as a secretary but she can do much better: “If I could afford a secretary… but I expect you’ll end up pulling down a serious salary as some fat cat’s PA” (Part 2, chapter 5, p 82). Jasper Chiswell, who certainly qualifies as a ‘fat cat,’ offers her that job in Lethal White:

Robin was almost at the door when Chiswell said abruptly:

“You don’t want a PA’s job, I suppose?”


“Take over from Izzy? What does that detective pay you? I could probably match it. I need someone with brains and a bit of backbone.”

“I’m happy where I am,” said Robin. (ch 25, p 221)

When Robin reports this to Strike later, he says, “I’m always surprised that doesn’t happen more often” (ch 26, p 234).

This is a faint echoing between the books, I know, but it is audible. Events of the last week, though, are to blame for me being sufficiently sensitive to anything involving PAs and J. K. Rowling to hear it. You may not have heard about it in the media blitz around the Crimes of Grindelwald premiere but Joanne Murray, Galbraith and Rowling’s real name, sued a former PA, Amanda Donaldson, whom she claims “wrongly benefited to a value of £23,696.32 [just over $30,000] by spending on a business credit card and taking Harry Potter merchandise.” Ms Donaldson had been Rowling’s PA from 2014-2017 and was fired for “gross misconduct involving a substantial alleged breach of trust.” Amanda Donaldson is mentioned first in Rowling’s non-alphabetical list of seven assistants in the Career of Evil acknowledgements “without whose hard work I would not have any time to do my own.” She denies Murray’s charges.

Three notes: [Read more…]