Does Lethal White Echo Goblet of Fire?

Rowling recently — as in “yesterday” — repeated her declaration that Cormoran Strike is not a closed seven book series.

It’s been widely reported you have seven Cormoran Strike novels planned.  Is this correct?

It’s not, there are actually more than that.  The beauty of writing these types of novels is that they each have their own discrete story, so the series is pretty open ended.  It will run for as long as I have stories to tell.

This is not, if you read it again, a denial that the first seven novels will constitute a distinct set or that they are running in parallel with (and as commentary on?) the corresponding Harry Potter numbers.

Forget what Rowling says for a minute. What does Lethal White tell us? Are there lines and plot points in the fourth Strike novel that any serious reader of the Hogwarts Saga will recognize as echoes of Goblet of Fire?

There are a bunch of them. And there are parallels of the biggest events we might expect to appear in a shadow-novel that are not present.

After the jump I list the seven echoes I heard on my hurried first reading; it’s not a definitive list or even a “most important” catalog. The point is only to start the conversation. I hope that you will share any Lethal-Goblet correspondences that you have found in the comment boxes below. (And, if you don’t want spoilers, don’t make the jump!)

  1. 2012 London Olympic Games — Quidditch World Cup: 

Louise Freeman was the first person to suggest that Strike4 would have a natural Goblet correspondence because it could take place in 2012, the year of the London Olympic Games. For a while, this was taken so seriously as to be offered as evidence for the series-in-parallel theory. And then Rowling said that Strike 4 would begin at the wedding, right where Career of Evil left off. It seemed that had to mean the fourth book would be in 2011 and not 2012 with the Olympics.

As you know, the Prologue of Lethal covers the wedding and Part 1 begins ‘One Year Later.’ It is set in a London crowded with international visitors, whose Metropolitan police are distracted by terrorist concerns and threats, and with a fairly constant slow-drip of references to events of the Games with special emphasis on the opening and closing ceremonies, the ticket lottery, and a few famous athletes. Rowling was in the opening ceremony and no doubt shared Strike’s prayer, “Let it not be shit,” with everyone in the UK that night.

To be explored later! For now, we have a Goblet-Lethal match between the Quidditch World Cup and the London Olympic Games, most especially with Strike’s hobnobbing with ‘Ministry officials,’ watching their Death Eater and Pure Blood behaviors, and becoming even more famous in the process, just as Harry did in his fourth year.

2. CORE — SPEW:

A large part of Goblet  is devoted to Hermione’s adolescent idealism and her simultaneously heroic and pathetic ‘Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare.’ The Muggle-born witch is clueless about what the House-elves themselves want and is deaf to anyone pointing out that this is not a black-and-white issue of “oppressor and oppressed.”

Lethal White features plenty of attacks both subtle and in your face on UK conservatives and aristocrats. But Rowling sems to reserve some special comic and pointed ire for ‘progressives’ who wear anti-semite and terrorist clothing, come from privileged backgrounds, and who live in an ideological fog well removed from any political reality. CORE is a clear correspondent with SPEW; check out the argument between a Marxist and feminist at a party (ch 51, p 444) and ask yourself if the author doesn’t want you to laugh or at least roll your eyes at their self-important cluelessness.

3. The Eyes

There are some white horses in Goblet of Fire, right? Madame Maxine’s herd of firewhisky-drinking uber Clydesdales? Nothing like the number of white horses in Lethal White, not to mention those in Ibsen’s Romeersholm, which we’ll have to explore at some length in a separate post. Though Billy thinks of the Uffington White Horse as a dragon (it is on ‘Dragon Hill’), it’s not horses that Goblet and White  have in common as a symbol set, but the eyes of major characters.

There are at least two correspondents with Mad-Eye Moody in Strike4.

The first is the blind Minister of questionable virtue, Della, who was born without eyeballs, usually wears dark shades, but on state occasions is known to insert artificial eyes. We don’t know whose side she is really on throughout the book and she is credited with mythic status (ch 54, p 470), not unlike Mad-Eye Moody, the Haephastus of Harry Potter

But Robin is the story’s more potent Mad-Eye stand-in. She is constantly playing a role to deceive others, an undercover agent, in which the big feature of her disguise is a change in her eyes. At least as important is her PTSD status throughout the book. I look forward to reading Louise Freeman’s posts on this subject because her work on Moody’s psychological condition laid bare his PTSD status.

4. The Bugging

A key part of the mystery in Goblet is how Rita Skeeter is getting the information from inside Hogwarts that she publishes in The Daily Prophet. It turns out, as you know, that Skeeter is an unregistered animagus bug whom Hermione outs and captures after overhearing the word ‘bug’ used as a synonym for electronic surveillance. Rita Skeeter is breaking the law to get an inside story.

Robin takes on the Rita-role in Lethal White. Her ‘bugging’ of Geraint Winn’s offices are patently illegal (not to mention dangerous) but the ends justifies the means to the Strike partners who benefit mightily from all they learn from the recordings. Or do they? That will have to be the subject of a later conversation, no?

5. The Romance

Goblet  has a lot in common, perhaps, with Casual Vacancy, about which Rowling joked that there was plenty of sex but none of the characters enjoyed it. The snogging and pairing-off in Goblet is painful to characters and readers alike as the adolescents long for relationships, struggle with them, and break off or continue in awkward, unlikely matches. It gets worse (and funnier) in Phoenix and Prince, but Harry’s feelings for Cho Chang and the Ron and Hermione (and Viktor!) problems around the Yule Ball take up a lot of the very large central book of the Hogwarts Saga.

Lethal White is at least as much if not more about Robin and her failing marriage to Matt and Cormoran’s meetings with Charlotte, abusive relationship with Lorelei (in the sense that he uses her, as she puts it, like a “restaurant and brothel” he can visit for free), and growing understanding of his feelings for his partner. We get next to nothing of the over-arching back story, Leda Strike’s death, because Galbraith went all in on the romance element of the series.

6. The Graveyard Scene

If there’s one scene in Goblet readers cannot forget, I think, it must be Harry’s one-on-one battle with Lord Voldemort, newly risen from a cauldron in a whole body, in the Little Hangleton graveyard. We do not get a corresponding meeting with a series villain equivalent to the Dark Lord in the end of Lethal White but Rowling clearly wants us to think of the resurrection scene in the graveyard when Barclay, Strike, and Robindig late at night in the dell of the Chiswell Estate for the body Billy says he saw buried there.

When Robin says,  Let there be nothing,” she thought. “God, let there be nothing there” (ch 65, p 571), I’m confident almost every serious Potter reader remembers Harry thinking, as Wormtail adds the ingredients to the Black Mass cauldron, Please… please let it be dead” (ch 32, ‘Flesh, Blood, and Bone,’ p 643). The italics are original to both texts. That it is a horse’s head in proximity to the Uffington White Horse and in relation, at least in Billy’s mind, with a sacrifice made at its eye, not to mention Ibsen’s use of white horse imagery in Rosmersholm to represent ghosts of the dead, I think seals the deal of the parallel, if there is a lot to unpack there, no doubt.

7. The Big Save

Albus Dumbledore saves Harry Potter in chapter 35 of Goblet of Fire from Barty Crouch, Jr., who has been living as Alastair Moody via Polyjuice Potion throughout the school year. It is quite the dramatic entrance he makes to save The Boy Who Lived:

“Stupefy!” There was a blinding flash of red light, and with a great splintering and crashing, the door of Moody’s office was blasted apart (ch 35, ‘Veritaserum,’ p 679).

Harry had been secreted away by Crouch pretending to be Moody and only the quick thinking and decisive action by the Headmaster saves his life.

With a great splintering of wood, the door crashed open. Raphael spun around, pointing a gun at the large figure that had just fallen inside (ch 69, p 633).

A recently escaped convict, paroled well ahead of schedule due to the influence of his aristocratic family, has been playing the part of repentant bastard son. He gets the Gothic heroine to come to his ‘office’ on a house-boat by pretending to be someone Robin trusts, if she has conflicting feelings about, namely, her soon to be ex-husband. Enter Strike, through the wooden, door to save the day.

Just as Harry has a conversation with faux Moody about all that has happened in hopes of a rescue, so Robin and Raphael go over the whole case in her wild hope that she will be saved. Again, that “great splintering” and the arrival of the one person who understood and could subdue the Black Hat, I’m pretty sure was a direct pointer to the parallel scene near the end of Goblet.

There are a lot more, but that’s a decent start. I look forward to seeing if any of you think the “treacle tart” mention was an echo, if Della’s “super injunction” is akin to the Ministry’s control of the Daily Prophet in the Wizarding World, and if you heard dialogue and plot points from Goblet as I did on pages 94, 423, 539, and 541.

To repeat myself, however, the big event of Goblet of Fire, the quite literal re-incarnation of the Dark Lord, the person Harry wil be fighting the next three books, doesn’t happen for Cormoran in Lethal White. I wanted Jonny Rokeby to appear ex machina with Charlotte Campbell-Ross in that art gallery, but he is barely mentioned in this oversized tome.

Unless you think Charlotte is Strike’s Nemesis. Because she returns in all her glory in Lethal White… Check out point #3 in this post for a fuller discussion of this possibility.

That ‘Charlotte is Voldemort’ possibility aside, could these Goblet resonances and parallels inside White just be a Rowling-Galbraith inside joke for serious readers? Or even a joke on those looking for story correspondences and commentary? Maybe!

Still another discussion for another day. Let me know today, thiugh, what you think of the seven echoes I note above, your own catches, and whether you think Lethal White is a shadow of sorts of the “crucial” fourth book in the Harry Potter series.

I will be charting Lethal White tomorrow and sharing here my first thoughts about its structure. Or maybe I’ll write something shorter about the links I caught to Cuckoo’s Calling — besides the Green Dress that Louise Freeman predicted and we have dead center in the story (bullseye, Louise!). Stay tuned — and thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts below!

 

Comments

  1. Louise Freeman says:

    You caught a lot, John. A couple of minor parallels to add:

    1. Robin’s Green Dress and Harry’s “bottle green” Yule Ball dress robes that inspire such jealousy in Ron.

    2. The press as the enemy and a weapon: In addition to the “bug” parallels, there are multiple instances of the tabloid press creating trouble, and people feeding stories to the media intentionally to hurt or exact revenge; similar to Draco and Pansy giving the goods to Rita.

    3. The big-headed minor government official covering for his errant son, with disastrous results. Minister Chizzle seems to have had not one but two sons whose crimes were covered up or who he arranged to get out of jail early; Mr. Crouch had just one. And the family secrets ultimately get spilled by a poorly treated female servant, whose family had served the Purebloods a long time.

  2. Louise Freeman says:

    4. Not to mention, good old-fashioned unrepentant patricide.

    There was also one reversal to one big element of GoF: it ends with Dumbledore and allies “parting ways” with Fudge, who does not believe his explanation of the murder of Cedric. LW ends with Strike and allies joining with the official, as the police take their ideas seriously for once and cooperate with them in solving the crime. (And pretty lucky for Robin that they did!)

  3. Those are some fantastic connections, Louise!

    Could we add that the Yule Ball meeting of Madame Maxime and Hagrid, one interested in a union, the other not at all, being overheard and reported on by Rita Skeeter, is paralleled by the chance encounter of Charlotte and Cormoran at the Paralympian charity event sponsored by Della’s ministry being reported in the tabloid press? Cormoran makes an excellent Monsieur Maximos?

    Again, great Goblet-Lethal connections!

  4. Louise Freeman says:

    May be a stretch, but both have an epilogue of sorts with Strike dining with someone who is potentially inheriting a huge amount of money, and are having an atypically subdued response to that.

    Both mysteries involve finding an essential piece of handwritten paper tucked away in a place few men would think to look.

    Both involve Robin going undercover in a wonen’s Retail establishment of the type she had never visited. Key information is obtained from chatty saleswomen.

  5. Louise Freeman says:

    I must say, if the Dig up the Dell scene is supposed to parallel the Little Hangleton graveyard, I am glad for Mr. Barclay’s sake (an intriguing new character, to be sure!) that the similarities did not extend to “Kill the spare!”

  6. Chiswells: the Winns:: Crouch: Ludo Bagman. Minister for sports in tension with another minister who is strongly conservative. Add that the son of Chiswell/Crouch was investigated by a one legged detective, and the parallel increases. As well, the narrative of the Chiswells offers commentary on the Death Penalty, much as the Crouch narrative did through the Dementor’s kiss administered at the end of GoF. Also, there seems to be some degree of parallel between Aamir with Percy, including the differently circumstanced distance from his family. Also, the minor mystery of the book, though first introduced (in this case Billy’s memory), parallels Bertha Jorkin’s disappearance, as that mystery within which the larger mystery is resolved.

    Also, the parallel is strong here from a predictive perspective. Frankly, I am miserable at determining the correct solution to mystery novels while reading them (I tend to always find and stick to one of the harder to find red herrings). I noticed the Crouch/Bagman parallel while reading Strike’s first meeting with Cheswell at the club. At that point I knew, by assuming the existence of a parallel with GoF, that Cheswell would be murdered, and by Raphael. I was utterly unable to predict much of anything from intratextual reference, but intertextual was enough that I was actually able to predict the result. Assuming parallelism to GoF proved predictively powerful.

    GoF was also the first mention of the Death Eaters by name, on the occasion of causing chaos in response to international sporting events. Is CORE parallel to SPEW, or the Death Eaters? (Also, in listening to the audiobook, I mistakenly thought that it was COR rather than CORE. Had it been, it would have been an excellent C.S. Lewis horse reference.)

  7. There’s also the more general “Muggles (or, in this case rich people/ aristocrats)? They don’t notice anything.” It’s what Stan says to Harry when asked if the Muggles don’t notice the bus running over lampposts and stuff – and Raff uses it in relation to the pictures at Chiswell House when he talks to Robin on the boat.

    And there’s the hanging people upside-down and the gallows.

  8. And, of course, there’s Tottenham Court Road where Hermione Apparates with the boys after Kingsley’s Patronus arrives with a warning at the wedding, because she used to go to the theatre there with her parents.

    It’s right on the edge of the West End, but if I had to pick a theatre I’d be inclined to pick the Palace, where Cursed Child is currently playing. Most of the others on that street play musials at the moment (but I don’t know if that’s always been the case). Funny spot for a detective agency, and not exactly cheap either, but perhaps convenient for choice of transport links if one has a false leg. Then again Baker Street isn’t that far from the centre of London, either, but considerably further when walking.

  9. Evan, this Crouch-Chiswell catch that you and Louise have made is brilliant. I love the embedded death penalty question point, too. I think these two finds with the ones Louise and I list above all but settles the question about whether Rowling is just teasing old readers with fun parallels or writing the second series in correspondence with and as commentary on the first. As you point out, as soon as you see the Crouch-Criswell connection and you review your ‘Goblet of Fire’ notes, you know not only the murderer but who is murdered!

    I look forward to reading your thoughts on the ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ correspondences and the mythological developments in ‘Lethal White.’ I thought of you and Joanne Gray when Charlotte appeared pregnant with twins! Charlotte as the new Leda…

    Again, great catches! You’ve all but settled the question of whether the series are written as deliberate re-tellings.

  10. So if your Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike parallel theories and coincidences prove to be correct in the end.. that means Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott will not end up getting married to each other and live happily ever after. As Harry and Hermione never did either.

  11. I forget where I wrote that Cormoran and Robin correspond with Harry and Hermione. Can you share a link to the post in which I shared that remarkable idea?

  12. Well John, I don’t know if you ever did write that Cormoran and Robin correspond with Harry and Hermione but they are both the two main characters in the books and obviously every Potter fan thought Harry and Hermione were a match made in heaven.
    It’s crazy to think that they didn’t ‘get it together’, isn’t it?
    The same goes for every Strike fan. You only have to ‘pore over’ their tweets and discussions on the fans’ website to see that everybody thinks Cormoran and Robin should get together romantically. So now we know that J K Rowling is going to disappoint everybody once more.. possibly in Book Seven of the series… if all goes according to plan.

  13. Also John, there is the question of Cormoran Strike’s estranged father Jonny Rokeby and his dead mother Leda.
    Harry Potter was also separated physically from his father and mother, was he not?
    I know Harry talks to his parents through various means and scenes throughout the Harry Potter books, so can we expect bigger things to happen in future when Jonny Rokeby (Johnny Depp, casting?) finally makes an appearance, as surely he must, and perhaps a dream scene where Strike’s mother Leda comes back from the dead to give him advice at the end in Book Seven perhaps.

  14. Strangely, I never saw Harry and Hermione as couple material, let alone with a chance of getting married. Granted, I couldn’t see an alternative either in the earlier books. Sure, Ginny had a crush on Harry before she starts Hogwarts, and gets correspondingly nervous when he turns up at her place during the holidays, but I didn’t quite see them ending up together until the later books.

    Also, I think Cormoran and Robin are more like Harry and Ginny, with Matthew standing in for Ron. The engagement/marriage imposes the same boundary as Ginny being Ron’s sister does, until they both admit their feelings (which hasn’t quite happened yet). There’s also the parallel of Robin being the only girl in her family, after several brothers (though I’m not quite sure they’re all older than her) – one might almost surmise her parents might have continued trying for a girl just like Ginny’s did. Plus they’re not exactly rich and at least one of them has red hair. And Robin’s temperament seems to be more like Ginny’s, too. In fact I’d say Robin might have been sorted into Gryffindor – she’s certainly brave, and occasionally reckless.

    Of course, the major difference is that Strike and Robin are grown-ups, rather than adolescents in the middle of a storm. Not that being makes things any easier, on the contrary perhaps. But at least Harry and Ginny have been fighting the same war, if not quite from the same position on the front. And Cormoran, like Harry, is trying to keep his girl out of the worst of the trouble – and both had equally small chances of succeeding in that quest.

  15. Thanks Kathrin. It’s a great summing up of the story so far. Ginny as Robin puts a whole new wheel on the wagon, at least in my thinking on the matter anyway.
    Some Strike fans have been talking recently about the Kairos moment when Cormoran is given a walking stick by both his previous girlfriend Charlotte (in Book One) and now by Robin in Lethal White. Shades of symbolism here and possibly a substitute for a WAND?

  16. Actually, Charlotte gave him the stick before book one, just after he came out of hospital, I believe. And Robin gave him one in one of the earlier books (a cheap one from a pharmacy), I think it may not have survived for very long though.

    Not sure about the wand substitute thing, I’ll have to think about that. Sure they use their wands to channel the magical energies and Cormoran uses the cane to help him walk, but that’s about the only thing I can make of it. Unless you count the difference between Malfoy’s (and Charlotte’s) fancy canes, and the more utilitarian options used by Lupin (not sure if that’s merely a film thing) and provided by Robin on both occasions. (I have Prisoner running in the background just now.)

  17. Please do read the Evan Willis post about Cormoran and Robin as Castor and Pollux. This is a much more likely parallel than anything dot-to-dot in correspondence with the romance elements of Harry Potter. The parallels with the Hogwarts Saga, as far as I can tell, are plot points and thematic in character rather than ‘shipping.

  18. John, I thought more in terms of personality both wth Robin and Cormoran.

    Robin just seems more like Ginny than Hermione, apart from the big family and the red hair. She jumps in, sometimes contrary to orders (like Ginny in the battle) rather than planning everything to death and missing the right moment, like Hermione does. Now we don’t know as much about Robin’s brothers as we do about Ginny’s but it seems to be a case of if you gorw up the only girl you start thinking everything is possible – even if no one believes in you. But unlike Ginny, Robin has her own tragedy before the story starts.

    The big difference is, of course, that both of Robin and Strike are grown-up and have been through other relationships, whereas Harry and Ginny haven’t. Yes, I know, both of them have dated others in the books, but it never really has come to anything, as far as we know – not like Strike/Charlotte and Robin/ Mattew, at least.

    I don’t mind whether they end up together or not. If they do, it’ll probably take another bit of time (say a book or two, depending on how much time passes between Lethal White and the next one in the story’s time line) though, if JK works it in parallel with HP.

  19. As soon as I started reading Lethal White, I looked for Ring Cycle attributes within this series as well as GoF connections.

    My first impression of Lethal White was that it felt like reading Order of the Phoenix, though. Cormoran is in such a pissy mood for the first half of the book, more so than in any of the others yet. I too noticed that this book seemed to be “on the other side of” Career of Evil in terms of the violence level and sexual deviancy overall. I started to wonder whether Lethal White might not be the fourth in a five book ring cycle.

    Both Lethal White and The Silkworm have dogs; a burial site of sorts on the killer’s property; a mentally ill side character who turns out to be very important to solving the mystery; a lone discovery (by Cormoran in Silkworm and Robin in Lethal White) of the body; a murder that required delivery of supplies via a stolen credit card.

    I know this could also be a Book 2-Book 4 turtleback structure for a seven-book series. But with Robin’s wedding in Career of Evil (a major turning point, even if expected), it seems that Lethal White could be on the other side of the halfway point.

    Looking forward to more ring cycle commentary in the coming weeks!

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