Mail Bag: Books Like Cormoran Strike?

Hello Professor,

I love all of your articles on the Strike series. I have read the series several times now and I’m dying for the next one. The detective genre is completely out of my wheelhouse as I usually read epic fantasy like Robert Jordon or Brandon Sanderson. But I’m enjoying this so much I would like to read more like it and I was wondering if you had any books or authors to recommend that are similar to the Strike series.

Hope you are having a great weekend.

Phil

Great question, Phil! Here are five recommendations for murder mystery books with a Cormoran Strike resonance:

(1) John Fairfax’s Benson and De Vere courtroom dramas

We’ll be discussing the first, Summary Justice, here beginning tomorrow! Go here for more on these stories and their relationship with Strike.

(2) Ian Rankin’s John Rebus novels

Cormoran Strike is in several ways Rowling’s re-imagining of Rankin’s John Rebus but with him set in London rather than Edinburgh and as a private detective rather than police officer. ‘Ian Rankin and Cormoran Strike‘ is a good first stop to learn about these two.

(3) P. D. James’ Cordelia Gray thrillers

There are only two, alas, but it is hard to overstate the influence of Cordelia Gray on Galbraith’s Robin Ellacott. Check out the Duchess of Malfi debts discussed here.

(4) Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books

I’m just starting Case Histories but, having read Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Life after Life, and A God in Ruins, I’m more than confident that Rowling is a great fan of Atkinson and that Cormoran Strike and Jackson Brodie would recognize each other as types.

(5) Boris Akunin’s Sister Pelagia mysteries

Akunin is a treasure whose Erast Fandorin novels — each a different genre (I kid you not) — are an international sensation and delight. His much shorter series on a plucky Orthodox nun in Tsarist Russia who is given leave to re-join the world in disguise to investigate crimes in obedience to her bishop are personal favorites despite its train wreck of a finish to this trilogy.

I hope that helps! If others have recommendations, please click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ button up by the post headline and share your favorites in the comment boxes below!

Tomorrow, the bracketing structure of Summary Justice…

Fantastic Beasts Thesis Presentation Today!

It is always a joy to encourage scholars in their journey! Today, at 2 pm EST, Kelly Orazi will be featured in the Signum University Thesis Theater, talking about her thesis  Fantastic Beasts and Why to Find Them: Animals and Thesis TheaterNature in Harry Potter.  It’s been my great delight to serve as Kelly’s thesis director, and I’m excited to help her share this fascinating project. If you are unfamiliar with Signum, it is a wonderful online university with opportunities for anyone interested in a deeper study of Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, and much more. Signum is also in the middle of its annual fund campaign. Check out signumuniversity.org/fund/ for more info about the campaign and other events.

I hope you’ll join us today to “meet” Kelly and hear about her project. You will also be able to watch the theater on the Signum Youtube page if you miss it live. I’ve had a great time working with her, and I know you’ll enjoy her amazing insights!

 

Guest Post – Bezoar: The Princely Stone

Pratibha Rai is an Oxford University graduate and she has been a Harry Potter partisan since 2001. Her research today mostly concerns the sociology of collecting in early modern Europe. She enjoys finding parallels between Harry Potter and history of art — and you will enjoy reading what she has discovered about that life-saving short-cut antidote, the Bezoar!

Bezoar: the Princely Stone

For today’s lesson, we descend to the shadowy dungeons of Hogwarts to “learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making”. As Philosopher’s Stone describes, it is “colder here than up in the main castle and would have been quite creepy”. Among its steaming cauldrons and apothecary jars, Harry Potter learnt of the power of potions under the watchful eye of Professor Snape. In the first ever Potions class in chapter 8 of Philosopher’s Stone, Snape teaches the class about the unusual Bezoar stone, which has the ability to cure the victim of almost any poison (except Basilisk venom). In order to chastise Harry for not paying attention in class, Snape quizzes Harry: “where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?” Only to answer the question himself: “A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons.” We know that bezoars were stocked in the Potions classroom cupboard and in the hospital wing of Hogwarts (both mentioned in chapter 18, Half-Blood Prince). The Potions textbook Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger also contains a recipe called ‘The Antidote to Common Poisons’, which uses ingredients such as Bezoars, mistletoe berries, and ground unicorn horn. Though Harry had not shrugged off the mysterious antidote in his first Potions class, his life at Hogwarts was to be particularly shaped by it. [Read more…]

Puns, Prophecy, and Pizza

On Puns, Considered in Shakespeare According to Hermetic Principles

“Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man,” a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is, in my opinion, the epitome of everything a good pun should be (and yes, there is such a thing as a good pun).  And in the spirit of good analysis and not-so-great humor, I will now explain precisely how this joke works and why.

The context is important here. The speaker, Mercutio, lies dying, having been mortally wounded by Tybalt. Mercutio is precisely the sort of character who takes very little seriously. Here, even as he is about to die, he makes a pun. Whatever he is, he is not “grave” in the sense of being serious. However, he is about to die and thus will find himself in a “grave”, namely the place where one buries dead bodies. That said, the only time he could ever be “grave” (sense 1) is if he is in a grave (sense 2). Thus the full sense of “you shall find me a grave man” is “you’ll take away my sense of humor over my dead body, which it presently will be”, which we may label “grave” (sense 3).

[Read more…]

Carnival Row: Literary Value Worth the Unsavory Package?

Image result for carnival row

This week, I had one of those wonderful moments that reminds me why I teach. In my ENG 112 class, we were having a great literary conversation, starting to unpack W.B. Yeats’s fantastic poem “The Stolen Child,” which describes the fae and their efforts to lure a human child away from the human world. The students had already asked great questions about the geographical references and some of the vocabulary, but I could see they were trying to really grasp the poem. I explained about the amorality of the fae, their differences from cutesy fairies and their connections in literature and Irish mythology, and then, one of my students exclaimed, “They’re kidnappers!” I wish I could have captured the look on his face, an a-ha expression that combined both his delight at making his connection and his discomfort with the unsavory undertones of the poem. His combined reaction is very similar to my own in response to the new Amazon Original series Carnival Row, starring Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevinge, and an impressible ensemble cast in a tale of good and evil, of fae and of men.

The steamnoir series is set in a world where the fae world is not a myth or fantasy, but a very real geographical location that has been torn asunder by warfare between competing armies of men. It is visually stunning as well as thought provoking, making some fascinating allusions to history, mythology, and literature, but it is definitely not family viewing, with language and scenes that would make Cormoron Strike blush. [Read more…]