The Three Things about J. K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike Novels Every Harry Potter Fan Should Know

Rowling as Robert Galbraith is writing a playful, intertextual re-visiting of Harry’s adventures in the Hogwarts Saga inside the Cormoran Strike mysteries.

Why is Harry Potter fandom, a global population numbering in the hundreds of millions, so indifferent to the current series of detective novels written by J. K. Rowling?

It’s a mystery more puzzling than any of the murders solved by Holmes, Poirot, or Cormoran Strike. I’ve written about this before — see ‘Five Reasons Harry Potter fans are not Interested in Cormoran Strike — Yet’ — and many of the reasons offered in that post are still valid; the whole continued Galbraith pseudonym, for example, is not helping, right?

I haven’t written about this since the publication of Lethal White, however, and I think some facts about the series that the fourth book largely nailed down may interest the uber Potter-phile. Here, then, is my list of three things about the Cormoran Strike novels that might encourage the most hesitant Rowling-reader and Wizarding World fan to give them a try.

(1) The Cormoran Strike Series is a Seven Book Series, y’know, like Harry Potter:

In the news article run in the London Times that broke the story of Rowling writing under a pseudonym, a source at her publishers told the reporter that it was going to be a seven book series. Rowling and the publishers were as eager to deny this as they were to express their disappointment that her cover had been blown. Rowling went on to say in interviews that there would be a whole bunch of Strike novels, as many as fourteen (“twelve more” after the second one), that they weren’t really a series, and it was open-ended rather than a closed set like Harry’s adventures.

Rowling has since allowed in an interview about her BBC adaptations of the mysteries that the books are obviously a series. There may turn out to be more than seven. The four books we have, though, in their structure and relationship one to another, are almost certainly a seven book set that may or may not run on from there.

The evidence we have for that is based on Rowling’s structural near-fetish, namely, ring composition. A seven book series written in this fashion as we know from her Potter series and the story axis connecting Stone-Goblet-and Hallows, will have its story turn in book four with a bevy of parallel story points linking it with the first book. Lethal White has an overload of pointers to and echoes of Cuckoo’s Calling in it; see ‘Cuckoo’s Calling: 25+ Lethal White Finds’ andLethal White: Add Seven Cuckoo’s Echoes.’

If that weren’t sufficient evidence, Rowling/Galbraith inserts a page at the half-way point of Lethal White that reads ‘Part Two.’ That book, however, does not have a page in either its hard cover or paperback editions that says ‘Part One.’ As if to confirm that this is the second part of the series rather than just this novel, i.e., “we are half way through the seven books,” the story line in Letal White that begins in Part Two is a repetition of the opening chapters of Cuckoo’s Calling, i.e., Cormoran accepting a case from a berieved relation of the deceased who does not believe that the death was a suicide. See  Lethal White: The Missing Page Mystery‘ and ‘Lethal White: Missing Page Mystery 2’ for more on that.

Why should a Potter fan care if there are seven, nine, or a hundred Strike novels? Beyond the bizarre curiosity of the author of their favorite seven book series writing another seven book series?

(2) The Seven Books Run in Parallel with the Hogwarts Seven and Act as Commentary on Them:

One of the funnier lines Cormoran Strike utters comes in the confrontation with the murderer in Cuckoo’s Calling when the Peg-Legged Poirot says, No, you’re not crazy — you’re “bat-shit insane.” I expect the assertion that Rowling is writing a seven book series when the author has said point-blank in answer to this exact question that this is not true must seem crazy — and to assert that the seven book series she is not writing is being written as literary allusion in reference to, even annotation on her own work moves the needle to “bat shit insane.”

There are two reasons to take this suggestion seriously, however. Beyond Rowling having lied point-blank previously about writing detective novels, about writing under a pseudonym, and about the novels being a series.

First is that all Rowling’s books are laden to the point of collapse with references to books she knows well. See my Harry Potter’s Bookshelf and Beatrice Groves’ Literary Allusion in Harry Potter for that. As often as not Rowling’s works are simultaneously re-tellings of mythological standards — Orestes in Potter, Castor and Pollux in Strike — as well as embedded versions of other stories. See Literary Allusion for Rowling’s take on ‘Gawain and the Green Knight’ and the Gospel’s ‘Beguiling the Beguiler’ in Harry Potter and my Deathly Hallows Lectures for the alchemical narrative included around the Christian holidays of Christmas, Theophany, and Easter.

Writing stories around and about other stories is what Rowling does. That she would choose to do so about her own best-selling books as a lark — I mean, has anyone else ever done that? Maybe Nabokov about his translation and commentary on Eugene Onegin in Pale Fire? — and under a pseudonym is, frankly, perfectly in character.

Second and more to the point as evidence, there are the books themselves. Cuckoo’s Calling a la Philosopher’s Stone was about Cormoran Strike’s coming into his own, his “becoming a name,” and his escape from a relationship and living situation that was more a prison than a home. To quote Louise Freeman’s summary of the rest

Book 2 centered on the havoc wreaked by a mysterious autobiographical book, Book 3 on a notorious escaped criminal stalking the protagonist and Book 4 on patricide of a government minister, set against the backdrop of a major sporting event.

Let’s focus on that last one, Book 4 of each series. Lethal White, her fourth Cormoran Strike mystery, if written in parallel with and as commentary on the Hogwarts Saga equivalent numbers, should be overflowing with echoes and parallels to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And it is. See ‘Does Lethal White Echo Goblet of Fire?’ for the list we put up here after a first reading (I say ‘we’ because Louise Freeman and Evan Willis significantly expanded my first seven parallels in the comment boxes beneath that post) and Lethal White: Every Goblet of Fire Link?’ for the exhaustive cataloging. There are more than forty echoes of greater and lesser resonance.

This is a hilariously literary game that Rowling is playing with her own work, both the Potter novels and her new detective series, one that I think she hopes that serious readers will pick up on and enjoy.

Maybe joining this game of ‘Spot the Potter Echo!’ (which really is a lot of fun) will be the incentive Potter-philes need to read the Doom Bar Detective’s stories. You’d think?

(3) We Are About to Learn in Strike5 (title not yet known) the Equivalent of the Potter-Riddle Prophecy:

What all this means is that the fifth book in the Strike series should be jam-packed with parallels to as many as four Rowling and Rowling-as Galbraith previous efforts.

Most obviously, if the series are running in deliberate alignment, Strike5 should mirror in important ways Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the way Lethal White did Goblet of Fire.

And, just as we saw above that Lethal White was packed with Cuckoo’s Calling notes because the series is being written as a seven book ring whose turn, ‘Part Two,’ was at White’s center, so Strike5 should parallel Strike3, Career of Evil. [See Harry Potter as Ring Cycle and Ring Composition for the myriad ways Order of the Phoenix parallels Prisoner of Azkaban.]

And there’s more. ‘The Red Hen,’ Joyce Odell, soon after the publication of Phoenix in 2005 noted the more than fifty parallels between the fifth book in that series and the first, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. If Rowling strictly follows her Hogwarts Saga model for the structuring of the Strike septology, then we could see echoes in Strike5 of both Cuckoo’s Calling, which is to say, Strike1, and Philosopher’s Stone.

Leaving those last two possibilities alone for a moment lest we suffer information-and-detail-overwhelm, the Strike5 parallel possibilities with Order of the Phoenix and with Career of Evil are deliciously fascinating. I started that ball rolling in ‘Lethal White: The Big Change at the Turn — The End of the Strike Agency in Book 5?’ and Louise Freeman has really moved that conversation forward with ‘Creosote Colored Tea Leaves: Louise’s First Musings on Cormoran Strike 5,’ a post which takes the structural points as its guide and which magisterial overview will be the foundation reference work for this speculative conversation hence forth.

That post has received a flood of comments from Serious Strikers — all of whom are Potter-philes, even Potter Pundits — and why not? I told the New York Times in the run-up to the publication of Deathly Hallows that speculation about what the next Harry Potter adventure would include was “as much fun as you could have with your clothes on.” Hyperbolic perhaps but true, I think, for readers who enjoy a good puzzle as set by a master writer and cryptologist who plays fair.

My hope is that Harry Potter fandom will wake up to the fun going on in Rowling’s new series vis a vis the beloved old series that the millions of Wizarding World adepts will join in the close reading of the Cormoran Strike mysteries in the months (years?) before we get Strike5 as they did back in the day in the ‘three year summer’ that separated Goblet and Phoenix.

Take this, for example — What will be the story equivalent in the fifth Strike novel to the revelation of the Prophecy in Dumbledore’s office at the end of Order of the Phoenix? My guess is that it has to be a pointer to the confrontation between Strike and the murderer of his mother, Leda, that we have to expect in Strike7. Was the killer Whittaker, as Shanker believes? Jonny Rokeby via a hit man to cover his history with heroin that Leda knew? Was it Whittaker’s grandparents, determined to keep their only hope of an heir from his mother’s ‘debauchery’? I think the clues are hidden in the first four Strike novels and that Strike5 will give us in its climax the identity of the murderer that Strike will be hunting in books 6 and 7.

Let me know what you think about this pair of questions:

Will the things we have learned from Lethal White, most importantly the confirmation that the Strike books are a seven book series running in parallel with the Hogwarts Saga, be enough to interest Harry Potter fandom in Rowling’s latest work?

Or have Rowling’s pseudonym and her persistent denials of a seven book series been sufficient to disguise the Master Class she’s been giving in literary allusion and intertextuality on the world stage?

Or just tell me what you think of my thesis — Crazy? Bat-Shit Insane? or Spot On?

Rowling as Robert Galbraith is writing a playful, intertextual re-visiting of Harry’s adventures in the Hogwarts Saga inside the Cormoran Strike mysteries.

 

Comments

  1. Tinuvielas says

    As always your analysis is admirable – however, I’m not really surprised the Strike novels don’t seem to have the same kind of impact HP had. I read them all as soon as they appeared, and they’re okay as far as detective fiction goes I guess – but while I enjoyed digging into Harrys adventures and returning to Hogwarts as often as possible, because the books created a kind of “yearning” (for lack of a better word), so far I’m simply not as thrilled by the Strike-stories. I don’t really care for the characters. I don’t relate to the places they go to or the mundane things they do. I don’t feel with them, somehow. And I can’t remember much of the plots, either. I find I don’t feel like re-reading the previous books when a new one comes out, or going to the trouble to analyse or talk about the story.

    Now why is that, I wonder…?

    Perhaps one of the reasons is that in realistic literature, as in modern life, it isn’t possible any longer to seriously talk about and address moral issues, to create characters that are “good” or “evil”, or to seriously talk about things that are larger than life. However, it is moral issues that we (or at least some of us) want to hear about. Remember Eliades mythic or religious function of literature? Cosmos and Chaos waging war… or struggling, at least. Fantasy can offer that: at its best it can seriously depict evil incarnate and angelic good as agents within a story, and in a realistic setting. It stirs something deep inside, it moves the reader to tears. Can you imagine crying over a Strike adventure? Not really, I think. They leave me cold, there’s simply no mythic quality here. And if this is a series, where’s the antagonist? I don’t see one. So even if the Strike novels are intricately plotted, they seem sterile compared to the Harry Potter universe.

    Second point: I know I’m probably making a fool of myself here, but can Strike finally stop smoking, please? Or loose some weight…? Can he start dealing with some of his own issues? Clean up his flat, or something…? How did Strike change at all in the books we have so far? We can be thankful to have seen him drunk, once or twice. I mean, who really cares about his mystery cases…? Dead models, wannabe writers, revengeful murderers, yawn. They don’t impinge on him, they have nothing to do with his character as – I hesitate to say the word – “hero”. What’s the biggest character development we’ve had in those stories? The girl – I even forget her name, something with E? – finally leaving her obnoxious husband? All the rest, all the interesting things, are only in their past, only hinted at. Their daily life, as told in the novels, is downright boring… an endless repetition of ordinariness, punctuated by slightly (well, actually rather very) disgusting crimes. Okay, I’m exaggerating – but there’s no magic in those books (double meaning intended). In the end, they leave you, or me, at least, unsatisfied.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Candidly, from some of the few posts here I’ve read about them, they sound nasty, and – in contrast with, say, some Dostoevskian ‘nastiness’, or Bram-Stokerian ‘creepiness’ – devoid of appeal.

    I expect they would put me off the HP books even more than so many of JKR’s extravaganzas of gaucherie (to put it mildly) as Public Personality – more, and further – if that is not a completely atypical response, perhaps that is part of the explanation.

  3. Joanne Gray says

    I understand TinuvieIas. Like Bonnie Rait sings, “You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t” in her 1991 song “I Can’t Make You Love Me”). Not every type of book genre finds a home with everyone.

    In my case, I confess that I missed out on the pull of fantasy when I first ventured into my local library as a child. I wasn’t aware at that time that my tastes were a bit unusual for a child but luckily I was left to find my own muse. Maybe it was the covers or their silhouette illustrations inside that first caught my eye of the “Young Reader’s Biography” series. I eventually ended up checking almost the entire series out and I’ve been drawn to this particular type of non-fiction reading ever since.

    I have read the Harry Potter books (some belatedly) and I thought them very good but it’s non-fiction that I am still drawn to—the messy lives of real people.

    When I became older and school required me to read certain books—I found some fiction here and there that I liked (the first grown up book I read) was Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22”. A satiric tour de force (fantasy of sorts), inspired by the author’s own very real WWII experiences. Later I moved on to reading Shakespeare because I was drawn to his exploration of characters in life’s gray areas—neither all good nor all bad. Exploring the moral questions that people encounter as they navigate their own life’s course. Shakespeare leaves the questions flowing throughout and leaves the readers to ponder (like the characters) their own answers. Sometimes the bad go free and sometimes the good are punished—just like in real life.

    Many of Shakespeare’s heroes are far from morally good characters—but it is just that real connection with these struggling, imperfect characters that has kept people engaged and fascinated by his work for over 400 years.

    I actually find myself more drawn to the Strike books because of that closer realism in the character’s lives to the world we currently live in. It’s true that I and everyone else feel frustration with many of the things that the characters in the Strike books do—but I don’t know anyone (myself included) who doesn’t also feel real frustration with the things that people do as we go about our daily lives; although, it is the people who are closest to us (family, friends and lovers) who really know how to bring on the frustration that hits us the hardest.

    John,

    I really like your ideas for the fifth book and I’m very interested in seeing how Galbraith/Rowling will play out the story lines set down in the first four books.

    I have even more admiration for what JKR has accomplished with the Strike series since I’ve been trying to write something of my own. I do know that I actually like the Strike series characters because I find myself experiencing a level of real anxiety while wondering what her rounded cast of “morally gray” characters might get wrong as they continue to navigate their way through the series while dealing with the current amalgamation of 21st century moral dilemmas.

    All the readers of the series, no doubt, want the characters to choose what will allow them to experience a satisfying outcome to their individual stories, but at the same time until JKR writes those books—their future, like ours, is unknown.

    Right now they are “living” in the same unknowable world that we inhabit—the day before tomorrow. Both readers and characters at this point don’t know what tomorrow will bring (only JKR knows that). The hope is that we all will make the right choice when faced with the next decision—but everything is still unfolding and right now the final outcome is still unknown. Like life, it is a situation that is both exciting and frustrating—but in a good way.

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Possibly quite off-the-wall (or merely very uninformed) question: do ‘we’ know if the choice of authorial pseudonym has anything to do with Dr. Robert Galbreath, the scholar of, among other things, ‘modern occultism’?

  5. Rowling has certainly never made this connection. As with ‘Harry Potter,’ she claims she has always “just liked the name.”

    She denies the connection made by many between her ‘Robert Galbraith’ and the most famous Galbraith, John Kenneth, namely the initials ‘J. K.’

    I confess to being confused (and disappointed!) that no one has commented, either in support of or to challenge, my assertion that Rowling is writing an embedded critique and commentary on her own work.

    Is this not, as I think, a ‘Stop the Presses’ type possibility, right or wrong?

  6. Brian Basore says

    Okay, a statement in support of your assertion…

    John,

    Thank you for this. I feel its importance. I keep going to the blog to read it again.

    I hesitate to respond. If I respond as clearly and honestly in the same spirit as your message I feel I’ll disappoint you. But I’ll give it a go. Here goes:

    I agree with the statement that “Rowling […] mysteries”, and have agreed for as long that has been observed on the blog. Author’s commentary is usually rare but engaging. Bulwer-Lytton’s novel How I Wrote My Novel was cheeky and fun, and on TV DVDs one season of Super Sentai Rangers in Japan (Power Rangers, in the US) was a deliberate parody of its own long-running series — it has been running for over twenty years, a new set of Rangers every year. Way back when, Lewis Carroll made comments about his own writing in his own writing. Here’s my problem: the best jokes are delivered by a straight man; this is not always true, however. The Straight Man comedian on the TV series Curb Your Enthusiasm, to me, is not funny, and kills the jokes on delivery. What I’m leading to here is it seems to me that JKR had a sense of humor in the Hogwarts books that is lacking, or at least flat and bitter, in the Strike books, so far.

    In my own defense please allow me to state that I know I have a sense of humor at present: I am enjoying my read of Highways and Byways of Lincolnshire, by William Franklin Rawnsley, with illustrations by Frederick L. Griggs (London: Macmillan, 1914). Mr. Rawnsley is (was) a very fine straight man in this nonfiction work.

    There. I was going to say nothing, but you asked. Lately my emotional understanding of writing is at Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.

  7. I think I can blame the responses to this piece mostly focusing on ‘Why Potter Fans Haven’t Warmed to Cormoran Strike’ rather than the ‘Embedded Hogwarts Saga’ theory on the way I framed the piece, i.e., the title and first paragraphs discuss the mystery of why there is no Strike mania in fandom to introduce this theory as a reason Harry readers might want to pick them up — and that introduction moves readers to explain why they don’t like Strike.

    Having said that, what about the theory? I’m startled, as big as anything Rowling does is for media mavens (she is solid gold as click bait) or even what she isn’t doing (as in her absence from Twitter), that this story has ‘no legs.’ It explains the Galbraith pseudonym much more convincingly than Rowling’s desire to see if she could sell books without her name on the cover and it highlights Rowling as a writer-writing-about-writing, not to mention her intertextual and literary allusion artistry.

    So far, though? Crickets. No one, not even the few Strike fan sites, have picked up on this.

    Is it too wonky? Too much an egghead fascination than something regular readers would enjoy?

  8. Joanne Gray says

    John,

    I have to apologize for not going into details about what I loved about this post in my previous comment. I do love that you have given those who love the Harry Potter books a real reason to give the Strike books a read (if they wish to see) another level of connection to JKR’s other series–Harry Potter. Not to mention the fact that this mystery of the interwoven connection between the two series is only available to those who have read her Harry Potter books.

    I do agree with your theory that JKR is weaving an incredibly complicated set of echoes from her past HP books as well as previous CS book’s story lines into her current on-going Cormoran Strike series. I wasn’t a believer at first but you and others have now gathered so many parallels from previous books that, at this point, anyone willing to look should clearly see them. Those who ignore all these connections will have to be prepared to find themselves on the wrong side of things when Strike Book 7 finally makes its appearance in 2025? (Hopefully no later than that!)

    I confess it is a fascinating game that is at work in the very fabric of the Cormoran Strike mystery series. There are enough challenges in this interwoven mystery to satisfy any mystery buff. Cormoran Strike Book 5 (title unknown) will no doubt mirror HP 5: Order of the Phoenix, while also revisiting its own third book, Career of Evil. Just to add further echoes into CS 5 from both HP 1: Philosopher’s Stone and CS 1: Cuckoo’s Calling. All in all it looks to be on the level of competing in a Grand Master chess tournament!

    I really hope that your own speculation about CS Book 5 will be proven correct, that Leda Strike’s killer will be revealed. This does seem to fit very well with your subsequent speculation that in CS Book 6 and CS Book 7 we will see Strike hunting down his mother’s killer and finally, finding and bringing her murderer to justice. That scenario very much works as parallels to the last two Harry Potter books–Bk 6: Half-Blood Prince and Bk 7: Deathly Hallows. Harry’s hunt for the horcruxes and his final confrontation with Voldemort would echo Strike’s own hunt and confrontation.

    Excellent deductions. I can’t wait to read and see how JKR works her magic on this possible (impossible) chessboard. Even knowing all these bits and pieces it’s mindbending to think how it could all possibly fit together. Really hoping the wait is close to being over to finally find out.

  9. Louise Freeman says

    John,

    I can only assume you have not detected any alchemical elements or traditional Christian symbolism in the Cormoran Strike series as of yet. If you had, I assume you would have mentioned it by now.

    So, given the Cormoran-Harry parallels, why haven’t either of those turned up?

  10. John, sorry for going onto a serious “comment binge”. But thanks to a summer flue I have some time at my hands atm, and I decided to catch up with your many truly fascinating articles and all the astute and high-quality comments of your readers. And since I’m a lover of well plotted mystery novels, I recently started to look more closely into the CS series. But while they aren’t exactly bad and definitely have their merits, I can’t nearly enjoy them as much as the HP novels. But as you requested I will try to say something more or less intelligent about your theories concerning a potential structural and spiritual connection between the CS and the HP series.

    As to your theory that JKR uses the CS series for supplying embedded comments on the HP series, and that the intimate structural knowledge of the Hogwarts saga may be helpful for predicting how the CS novels will eventually develop: I don’t know the CS novels well enough, yet, for being a competent judge if your theory has merit or not. One strike against that theory may be that JKR said, that she originally intended to keep her pseudonym Robert Galbraith a secret. But if no one would’ve known who the author of the CS novels really is, not even the most intellent and knowledgeable reader would’ve made the connection with the HP universe, and no reader would’ve had a chance to discover possibly underlying structures. It’s more than likely that most readers of Robert Galbraith’s novels would have never even read the HP novels. The huge overlap within the readership wouldn’t have been there. But is it really plausible that JKR would’ve woven such an intricate and artful overarching pattern into a series of novels just for her own amusement/satisfaction and as l’art pour l’art – without giving her readers the chance to discover it? I do not think that is very likely. We do not know of course if she really intended never to reveal the real identity of Robert Galbraith 😗 If your theories are correct, it would be vital for the full appreciation of the CS novels that the readers are able to make the connection between JKR, the Potter-verse and the CS series. I cannot imagine that an author would forever deliberately withold the necessary tools for fully savoring her or his artfully constructed work. Therefore it’s possible that JKR originally planned to establish the CS series low-key under a pseudonym, and if it developed some traction and a following, she might’ve intended to make her authorship known.

    BUT – if your theories are indeed correct, it would be a perfect explanation why so many readers – including myself – cannot warm to the mystery novels written by Robert Galbraith. The two questions raised by your article (why aren’t the CS novels more popular, and are John Granger’s theories correct ?) may actually be connected. While JKR’s plot construction may be artful and intricate, I would not be overly interested to read mystery novels whose plots have been developed along those lines, since it would seriously jeopardize realistic and psychologically credible character developments and plots which stand on their own feet. It could make the characters the slaves of overarching plot construction necessities. It could give the novels a very cold and artificial, or clinical flavor – as indeed they have – at least for my taste. They have nothing of the warmth and enjoyable quirkiness of the HP novels. If JKR is really constructing the CS novels along the lines you have theorized about, it would IMO be a unique but somewhat misguided endeavor. JKR wouldn’t really have left the fantasy world of Hogwarts behind in favor of a more realistic setting for adult mystery novels. And shaping character developments along overarching plot lines is much easier in a fantasy setting because the author can get away with off-beat characters who wouldn’t be considered credible in real life. In a fantasy world we can easily suspend our disbelieve, and we expect to meet incredible characters and encounter outrageous plot twists. A tightly constructed plot may be restrictive. But a fantasy setting also supplies much more creative freedom than a realistic setting. Therefore this approach may work much better in a fantastic world than in realistic mystery novels for adults.
    I can understand your thrill and joy while discovering these possibly hidden patterns in the CS world. But the resulting novels are for me far less satisfying than the HP novels, or the emerging storyline of the Fantastic-Beasts franchise for that matter. JKR’s writing is much more effective and enjoyable in the fantasy genre. Maybe, she should start to write a mysterious fantasy or a fantastic-mysteries series. I would very much enjoy to read a tightly plotted plotted mystery series in a fantastic setting. In many ways the HP series fits this description already. JKR is very much a mystery writer at heart. But a fantastic setting is far more favorable for showcasing her unique set of talents and playful inventiveness. The CS novels however suffer from the so-called uncanny-valley effect: the characters are very nearly realistic – but not completely so. They remind me a bit of computer-generated movie characters: even – or especially when they are very realistic, something about them always feels a little off. In a fantasy setting this is ok, but it disturbes us in a real-life setting. A good example would be the characters of two impossibly beautiful women: I can accept and enjoy a character like Fleur Delacour in a fantasy setting – especially when she eventually marries an almost-werewolf😁. But the super model and murder victim Lula Landry from “The Cuckoo’s Calling”, who is described as equally perfect, never emerged as a plausible real person for me. I thought she was a totally artificial construct. That’s just one example why it’s hard for me to embrace or connect with the characters of the CS world.

    Another question: let’s say you are right and you have discovered legit underlying patterns in the CS plots – why would JKR have chosen to develop her mystery plots along those lines? To me this seems to be a potentially serious self-imposed restriction of artistic freedom. Why would JKR feel the necessity to embed comments on her earlier works in her current writings? The way you describe it, her embedded comments go far beyond the usual tongue-in-cheek hints at earlier works which are employed by many authors, or subconscious patterns and style reflections from earlier works, but are a conscious artistic choice.
    Maybe, you have answered the question of “why would JKR do this” somewhere already and I missed it.

  11. “Why would JKR feel the necessity to embed comments on her earlier works in her current writings?”

    (1) She’s been told she needs to write another seven book series, ‘y’know, like Harry Potter,’ and, voila, she has delivered! “Here’s what you said you wanted! But not really!”

    (2) Because it’s really funny? And fun? A puzzle-within-the-puzzle for serious readers to tease out and discuss?

    (3) Everything about novel writing is about telling an involved story within the restrictions of genre, publisher’s preferred page count, and the author’s ambitious goals. Think of the genre-mix, intertextuality, and narrative slow release of the Hogwarts Saga, a story told as seven independent stories with imbedded stories, all retold, from the Bible, King Arthur, Dante, Goodge, Kipling, Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Lewis, Tolkien, and Christie (and others…).

    Adding the difficulty of re-telling the Potter stories within her seven part series of detective novels just raises the challenge of Rowling-esque story telling one notch. Not a very big deal. And it is the artistry of meeting genre or literary form demands while teasing or transcending them that is a great part of what makes literature great. Shakespeare without the restrictive (ho!) format of the sonnet is not half the poet he is, right?

    About why Rowling would choose to write under the Galbraith pseudonym if she was writing caricatures and commentaries under her own work, the question answers itself, I think. She understood that eventually she would be outed, but, as with the denials about it being a series and then a seven-book series, it wouldn’t do for her to be signalling that she was writing about her own work. So she has another writer, Robert Galbraith, do it.

    Again, it’s fun and funny, no?

  12. Brian Basore says

    Fun and funny, yes.

    Although Roald Dahl was not one of JKR’s favorite writers, Dahl agrees with what you’ve just written here in his kid’s book The BFG (1982), most directly in the last chapter, “The Writer”.

  13. Joanne Gray says

    A good summation and explanation, John, of what does appear to be unfolding with JK Rowling’s newest book series.

    I think JKR was also being truthful about one of the reasons she used a pseudonym for writing her new series. As writers long ago discovered, and as anyone on the internet today knows, writing under an assumed name is very liberating. With her overpowering success in her initial Harry Potter series she knew she was never going to be allowed to go off and write another series without it being forever compared to her HP series. So the use of a pseudonym was a necessity (and a god-send) when writing the new series.

    The most interesting thing to me is that she then turns around and deliberately uses her previous triumphant seven-book HP series as a deliberate parallel for her newest CS series!!! That definitely takes her Strike series to a whole other level of literary sweetness. Can’t wait to discover what is waiting up ahead for us to discover when she releases the next three books of the CS series.

    I’m hoping that when the press starts up in August (hopefully) in anticipation of the BBC mid-September filming of book 4 “Lethal White,” that JK Rowling will finally give the press an interview about the series and let slip a bit of information on the still untitled Book 5 of the series.

  14. Can you give us a hint?

  15. Joanne Gray says

    John,

    Afraid I don’t know anything specific–but I’m just hoping she is far enough along with book 5 (she did say over a year ago that she had the plot worked out for 5 and some of book 6 as well) and that she will then (mid-September) be at the point in Book 5 to let us guess, like she did with the title of Lethal White, to guess Book 5’s title.

    There’s the possibility that her game to have us guess the previous book’s title was just a one off–since the game itself, Hangman, was also a great clue. After all, what’s the odds that another guessing game would fit the next book’s title so perfectly?

    The one upside of JKR’s long absence from Twitter is that I think she has been very much working on Book 5 and at the very least we will hear by year’s end that the fifth book will arrive in 2020. I have no inside information–just currently feeling a bit more hopeful that we will see it sooner rather than later.

  16. I think I’ve just remembered something Ms. Rowling spoke about in a tweet. The trouble is I don’t remember where exactly I saw this tweet. It’s possible I caught it somewhere on the Leaky Cauldron, yet I can’t tell for sure if that’s the correct memory (“And so it goes”).

    What I can remember is Rowling saying something along the lines that a future plot development. She said words to the effect that Strike would experience some kind of a windfall that would allow him to move his business to a new office in some higher, upscale manner. The clearest memory I have is the author commenting on Strike, saying “he will be glad to get it”, or something like that.

    The point is that if Rowling does plan to move Strike’s agency to a new headquarters, that doesn’t seemed to have happened yet. It’s true the start of Book 4 has the character coming into some badly needed revenue as a result of solving the murders in “COE”. However, if I recall, all that does is help pay off his debts to just an extent, once all the accounts have been settled, Strike still finds himself living in the same space he always has. The single bright spot is that business is flowing along rather nicely.

    Assuming there’s any truth that Strike will be “moving on up” in the world, then I doubt that Book 5 will be the one where it happens. However, solving the fifth case might be the one that facilitates the new office space. The reason for believing this is because if the author is still following the logic of writing a sort of mirror of the Potter series, then having Strike placed in a brand new, upscale detective agency would be the perfect mirror of Harry’s being promoted to Quidditch captain in “HPB”.

    It is just possible that having a lowly detective break up part of an international drug operation hiding in a place as world famous as Oxford University would be just enough to put him over the financial hump. That would create as near a perfect setup as possible to have the Sixth Strike Case be the series Albedo Text.

    At least there’s one possibility, anyway.

  17. Joanne Gray says

    Chris,
    I wish I could help with finding the quote you mentioned but I don’t remember that particular JKR quote about a windfall for Cormoran to allow him to move up in the world. Although, I have to say I think it would be great to see it happen for him. I do, however, think that since the fifth book of Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix is expected to provide echoes for the (still unnamed) Strike book 5, that we should then see Cormoran and the Strike/Ellacott Agency finally moving to a new location.

    I say this because one of the pivotal aspects of HP book 5 was how the various locations in the book: the “House” of Black, the “Room” of Requirement and the “Various Rooms” inside the Ministry of Magic all informed the major plot points.

    There was also in Strike book 4: Lethal White, the information that the owner of both Cormoran’s Denmark Street office and flat, had finally sold out to developers and that it was only a matter of a short time before Strike would need a new office and home.

    Since real life London presents Strike with yet another money headache since it is one of the most expensive cities to live and work in, he will no doubt find it an added (and maybe harder) mystery to resolve during the fifth installment of the Strike series.

    I do see there also being a good chance that the speculation that the crime location of the 5th book could be located at a university–once again because the fifth HP book is very centered on the disruption of the traditional workings of Hogwarts. If the fifth book is set at a university, I think it would be most likely to be Oxford. That’s because Cormoran briefly attended Oxford from 18 to 20, leaving in 1994 after Leda was killed. It was where he also first met Charlotte Campbell.

    There is also reason to think there will be a revisit to Oxford because of something that JKR said during an interview she did with author Val McDermid at the 2014 Harrogate International Festival (on Youtube. Quote starting at the 51min. 10 sec. mark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbvJbbgFhrQ ). JKR was answering a question from the audience about her having Cormoran Strike being proficient in Latin and quoting Latin poets. What was the significance of that? JKR answered:
    “I did classics at University and in the Strike books it is a clue as to what he was studying before he left University. So it wouldn’t be very typical that a private detective could quote Catullus off the top of his head. So that will become clear as we go on. I have back story there, I have back story there…”

    This leads me to think that she will be revisiting that time when Cormoran attended Oxford and we will be given the story behind how and why he learned Latin. This will also hopefully tell us how this is significant to his story. I’m really expecting it to shine some necessary light on the mystery at the heart of his and Leda’s story.

  18. Joanne,

    Thanks for remembering the author’s quote about her main character’s grounding in Latin. I have to agree that does sound like a strong support for Oxford as the major setting of Book 5.

    The only thing I wonder about is the plot elements from “OOTP”. Things like the Room or Requirement sound like they could have an analogue in a case with an Oxonian setting. However for things like the House of Black and the Ministry, I have to admit I’m less certain.

    It is true enough, I think, that Rowling has made each of her books mirror the Potter series in some way. “LW”, for instance, takes place around a giant international sporting events similar to the Tri-Wizard Tournament. However I can’t help noting way in which she diverges from the earlier books as well. It’s true we have equivalences of the Crouch family, and the murderer in the Fourth Case can be described as the muggle version of Barty Jr. However there are also moments where she appears to jettison certain elements. There’s no diabolic resurrection showdown. Strike doesn’t participate directly in, say, the Special Olympics. All that’s just a background element, rather than being absolutely integral to the plot. The biggest difference is just this. Strike and Robin do not have the ground kicked out from under them like Harry does at the end of “GOF”. If anything, they’re close to being better off than where they started. This presents an interesting creative challenge if the author wants her next book to be the Big Black Book of the series. To be fair, there are way to surmount this setup (and some approach could be more gruesome than others). So I guess it’s just a question of how you transition for White to Black, or something like that anyway.

    I suppose the best way I can some up the one caveat I have with your take it’s best expressed in the form of a question. It’s true Mr. Rowling wants up to view the Strike Mysteries as a commentary and mirror of Harry Potter. The question is, which elements does she regard as essential for the shared themes of both series, and which can be regarded as ephemeral?

    A perfect example is Owen Quine and his book in “TS”. I can’t help thinking Quine is the Strike version of Lockhart from “COS”, while his novel performs a similar functions to Riddle’s diary. Note the differences in the similarities however. Quine’s text is misleading, yet in a very different way than the diary.

    My guess is we can expect to see more elements from Potter reshaped to fit into the more mundane reality of Strikes stories (am I the only one who thought, “Oh, hi Hagrid, long-time, no see”, when the figure of Barclay showed up in Book 4), however it also makes sense that they would be slightly re-fitted and play out in opposite ways than they did in her first seven part story.

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