Guest Post: ‘Twas Charlotte Killed Leda

In my post reviewing the likeliest suspects for ‘Murderer of Leda Strike,’ I dismissed the idea that Charlotte Campbell did the deed as a looney-tune idea. A Serious Striker writing as ‘Fiona’ posted a fun response that defended this fan theory. Lest it take over the discussion on that post’s thread (and be forever lost to future Rowling-Galbraith students wanting to identify who first figured out the over-arching mystery of the first seven Strike books), I have bumped the comment up to ‘Guest Post’ status to draw your attention to ‘Fiona’s argument and to invite your response.

I confess to loving the fan-fiction motive — and all such speculation have to come with a heavy helping of fan-fiction, more or less credible — if I’m missing why Charlotte would be moved by the revelation to kill Leda rather than the person who gives her the bad news. I look forward to reading what you think, especially if you believe Charlotte a better bet in the ‘Who Killed Leda?’ sweepstakes than Dave Polworth or Ted Nancarrow! Enjoy ‘Twas Charlotte Killed Leda‘ by first time post-er ‘Fiona’…

Hey, I have also thought about the idea of Charlotte as Leda’s killer! I know it sounds nuts, but it would certainly provide the required twist at the end of the series.

Firstly I’m basing this on other theories that have been posted on this site. I apologise for not remembering the names given to the theories and whether it was John or other contributors who introduced them. By these theories I mean the ones concerning Leda mirroring her mythological namesake concerning Zeus, the the double father idea, and twins. Also the idea that the “aristocrat” in the photograph that Strike says is the only known picture of his parents together is the father of both Charlotte and Strike.

Now consider: Strike has gone to Oxford, and therefore already met Charlotte when Leda dies. (We know he meets her almost immediately). At some point while at Oxford our chaos-loving Charlotte says, ‘Next weekend, come home and meet the family,’ mainly for the sake of shocking her upper class parents with her rough-around-the-edges boyfriend. They arrive chez Charlotte and she triumphantly says something to the effect off “Hi, Mummy, Daddy, meet my new boyfriend! His father is a crazy rocker and his mother is an even crazier drug addict!”

Mummy Charlotte is suitably unimpressed but Daddy Charlotte practically loses it. He takes Charlotte aside and says, “You need to break up with that boy, NOW.” Charlotte laughs and says “I knew you wouldn’t like him.” But her father insists he has good reasons for what he says and if she only knew what he knew she would end it. Charlotte, however, insists she loves loves him and nothing in the world could make her end it (assuming this is all just snobbery on her father’s part.)

So her father realises he will have to tell her the truth. And he does, but first makes her swear not to share a word of what he tells her to anyone. He tells her about his (presumably brief) affair with Leda, and the resulting pregnancy which threatened to ruin his reputation, relationship, and possibly derail a political career. How he (as theorised by others here) convinced Jonny Rokeby to take the responsibility for the baby, in return for arranging that Jonny faces no consequences for actions/crimes of his own. (This presumably all took time to arrange, hence the delay in Jonny accepting paternity, with the paternity test in turn being offered as an excuse for this delay).

Charlotte is at first, of course, very shocked by this revelation, and it probably doesn’t do any favours for her ever fragile state of mind.

But the often mentioned obsessive connection between Strike and Charlotte begins to win out in her mind. (A similar sort of connection or strong interest has been noted on occasion in real life between siblings who meet without realising they are siblings.) Charlotte realises that she really does love him, and, while knowing they were siblings shocked her at first, the idea of doing something that is so taboo begins to appeal to her (remember this is Charlotte we are talking about).

She decides to stay with Strike and conceal her discovery from him (because he would obviously end it if he knew). She tells her father this, and also tells him that she will spill his secret if he attempts to interfere with her relationship with Strike. Thus threatened her father can do no more, and steps out of the picture.

But there is one other person who knows the secret and could derail her relationship: Strike’s mother. As soon as Leda realises who her son’s new girlfriend’s father is, she will surely share the secret with her son, which will cause Strike to both end the relationship and be further furious and disgusted if he works out that Charlotte knew of their blood relationship, yet allowed their sexual relationship to continue. Therefore Leda must be silenced before she has the chance to speak.

As to means and opportunity, well, Charlotte is a wealthy student, given sometimes to erratic behaviour. I doubt anyone would think twice about her popping up to London whenever the impulse takes her. Strike would have no reason to connect his girlfriend being in London with his mother dying the same day. He would see no motive (and I believe he had already joined the army at this point, so would have no idea where Charlotte was on any given day or time). As to opportunity, I believe that Charlotte, with her wealth, connections and character could have obtained the heroin with minimal difficulty. Having casually obtained Leda’s address from Strike (a suitably lengthy time beforehand) either in conversation or from his possessions with addresses on them, she proceeds to Leda’s flat, and after waiting for a time when she is sure Leda is home alone, enters, and administers the fatal dose.

After all she can’t be crazy Charlotte for nothing!

Three quick notes:

(1) Yes, there is a mistake about the Army enlistment which happens after Leda’s death rather than before it. That’s not a set-back to the idea that Charlotte did it.

(2) The idea is actually very Nabokovian. Check out the brother-sister incest relationship that is the heart of Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, his last and longest book and perhaps his most neglected. Here is the plot from the novel’s Wikipedia page:

Ada tells the life story of a man named Van Veen, and his lifelong love affair with his sister Ada. They meet when she is eleven (soon to be twelve) and he is fourteen, believing that they are cousins (more precisely: that their fathers are cousins and that their mothers are sisters), and begin a sexual affair. They later discover that Van’s father is also Ada’s and her mother is also his. The story follows the various interruptions and resumptions of their affair. Both are wealthy, educated, and intelligent. The book itself takes the form of his memoir, written when he is in his nineties, punctuated with his own and Ada’s marginalia, and in parts with notes by an unnamed editor, suggesting the manuscript is not complete.

Just sayin.’ And of course this links up with the brother-sister relationship of Cuckoo’s Calling, the son and step-mom sexual affair in Lethal White, and the daddy-daughter incest that is the backdrop of Ibsen’s Rosmersholm. If we’re looking for Strike7 to have heavy shading from Strikes1 and 4 (and we are), this works. Perhaps the baby they conceived died because of the increased likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities in incestuous couplings? “Calling Dr. Freeman!”

(3) I need someone to explain to me, though, why the daddy wouldn’t need to be silenced as well or just as much as Leda — or why Daddy didn’t snuff Leda (if he’s as well connected as he seems, ordering Rokeby to take the fall for him, how hard could that have been?). I don’t see a Campbell father who is scandalized by the possibility that his daughter will be mating with his son fades from the scene. In fact, I find it hard to believe he would not like the idea of keeping it all in the family, if you will.

Again, your thoughts, please! And thank you, Fiona, for sharing your theory!

 

Hogwarts Legacy RPG Delayed to 2022

I’m skeptical that there are many (any?) HogwartsProfessor readers that are ‘really into’ role playing games on their computers, but in that supposition I am probably only revealing how naive and misinformed I am. Lev Grossman and his twin brother Austin, after all, not only play and review these games, but, in Austin’s case, design them. There is a literature nerd/RPG geek overlap out there.

So, for all you neglected RPG playing Serious Readers in the audience, here’s a News Flash from GamesRadar.com: ‘The Harry Potter themed role playing video game scheduled for release this year, Hogwarts Legacy, has been postponed until 2022.’

I was fascinated to see in the ‘sneak preview’ video above that ‘Legacy’ is set in the late 19th Century Hogwarts. The announcer notes that this is a century before Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s time at the magical castle cum wizarding school and decades before Newt Scamander and Company walk the hallowed halls. In case you’re wondering, as I was, if Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore might make cameo walk-ons, they could only do so as children too young to be students (older brother DDore is born in 1881). Set in the past as it may be, 1800s Hogwarts seems to have the same freedom from racial and sexist bias as the one we experienced imaginatively in Rowling’s late 20th Century Septology.

If anyone out there is a ‘gamer,’ please share in the comment boxes what we should know and why we should care about Hogwarts Legacy as well as its delay until 2022!

Requiescat in Pace, Christopher Little

Christopher Little, the literary agent to whom in 1985 the unknown Jo Rowling submitted three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in hopes of gaining representation to publishers for the book, died on 7 January “after a long illness,” a euphemism for cancer or AIDS. Little succeeded in finding a home for the oversized novel — Stone being twice as long as the accepted length for stories aimed at the ‘Age 9-12’ bracket for whom Rowling claimed to be writing  — at Bloomsbury’s small children’s book division. It had been turned down by all the major publishers in the United Kingdom, but Little persisted. The rest is history.

The folk tale of Christopher Little as Rowling’s representative did not have a happy ending: Rowling and Neil Blair, a lawyer at the Little Agency, broke legal contracts with him in 2011 to set up The Blair Partnership (a bit of foul play rectified by a large payout to Little the following year). That departure was the birth of Rowling, Inc., in which the global financial interests of the Author Become Juggernaut are aggressively represented by barristers and bean counters so that Rowling, as she once put it, unlike Agatha Christie, does not wind up “fleeing the tax man”  every year until her next book comes out. The fairy tale of the princess discovered and well-served by Sir Cadogan ended with her dismissing him with enough money to buy a new horse and castle. 

Little took the break hard but weathered on gamely with millions of pounds in the bank; the year after his break with Blair and Rowling, he merged his agency with that of Curtis Brown.  He died on 7 January at home with his family.

The Presence has not broken her Twitter silence of more than a month to acknowledge her first representative’s demise five days ago. One hopes she reconciled with the man before his death and has privately expressed her condolences to the Little family and to the Agency that had the courage and good judgment to believe in her when she was a nobody. 

Regardless, rest in peace, Christopher Little — and thank you for all you did to advance J. K. Rowling’s career as a writer and to steward the Harry Potter phenomenon from its birth, growth into a mania, to its adult life as the Shared Text of the 21st Century.

The Rabbits Hiding in Troubled Blood: Spence Finds Oonaugh and the Athorns

Merry Christmas, Rowling Readers!

I’m not a big fan of Ian Spence, who writes Jungian interpretations of pop culture at medium.com; see, for example his borderline wing-nut character assassination pieces on ‘Rowling the Christian Fundamentalist Transphobe’ here and here. If you have trouble thinking of Rowling as the advocate of “her own patriarchal, superstitious Christian movement,” you can skip over those Spence pieces.

But even when he’s over-the-top with his disgust for all things Christian, he sometimes comes up with a treasure.

Case in point? The hidden rabbits in Troubled Blood. I don’t think his interpretation of these hares and bunnies holds water and he doesn’t talk about them all (he misses the stuffed rabbits dressed as hunters in the bar where Robin interviews SB’s PA); but did you connect the “buck teeth” of Oonaugh Kennedy — who loves “carrot cake,” right? — with the Athorns’ extraordinarily “long ears” and Anna Phipps’ “pajama case shaped like a rabbit” in which she kept photographs of her mother clandestinely? I sure didn’t.

Spence discusses these finds and his interpretation of them in ‘The Rabbit as Psychopomp: Darkness and light in J.K. Rowling’s Troubled Blood.’ Enjoy!

Return to the Scene of Silkworm’s Crime – Joe North’s Home as Strike’s New HQ

One of Cormoran and Robin’s ‘to do’ items at the beginning of Troubled Blood is to re-negotiate an extension to the Agency’s lease with the new owners of the Denmark Street property.

In addition to the five open cases still on the agency’s books, he and Robin were juggling increased management demands made by the expanded workforce, and negotiating a year’s extension on the office lease with the developer who’d bought their building.

That task is never checked off their list. In fact, it is never mentioned again. Which means, I’m willing to bet, that this “no extension on the lease” item will come to a crisis early on in Strike6 and the C. B. Strike Detective Agency will need new quarters, fast.

The good news? There is a beautiful property in London available, even standing by, waiting for Strike to move in, Strike has the money to buy or to put up a down payment on it, heck, the owners might just give it to him.

Louise Freeman suggested it first: the Joe North Artists Studio house that was the scene of the Owen-Quine-North literary life back in the day and of Owen Quine’s murder in The Silworm.

North’s will had the provision that both Michael Fancourt and Owen Quine had to agree on the new owner and that the property had to be sold to an artist of some kind. Quine and Fancourt were feuding with such intensity that they never could agree on a sale (meaning “Fancourt refused to approve any sale or rental, money which would have really helped the down on their luck Quines, in retaliation for the suicide of his first wife which he mistakenly believes Quine inspired”). After Owen Quine’s death — in the house — I assume Leanora Quine inherited the family half-interest and veto power. I’d bet, too, that, though she and Orlando could use the money, she has turned down every one of Fancourt’s suggested buyers both to spite him and to preserve the place where her husband was murdered as kind of a shrine.

I wrote Nick Jeffery about the idea and, of course, learned a lot. The North house turns out to be a good and very real possibility.

We know Rowling has been fascinated by these studios for a while.
The layout would be perfect. Cormoran’s living accommodation in the basement, reception and interview rooms to ground floor, large open plan office and briefing area above.
The £2 million asking price has probably been inflated by the Strike/Rowling link.

Be sure to follow those links in Nick’s notes to see all the great pictures. Beautiful spaces, at least in the totally re-modelled and refurbished one on offer.

The only downside? It’s on a major thoroughfare, the A-4, which I’m told is the major out-going and incoming route from the West into London.

Compensation? There’s a tube station right behind it.

How can Strike afford it? Easy. Just do what Aunt Joan told him to do — contact Daddy Deep Pockets.

Strike can simply call Rokeby and ask for the child support money that has been compounding interest for decades in the bank. Nick Jeffery, being very conservative and sober in his estimates, put the money owed in the ballpark of $500,000.  Judging, though, from Strike’s memories of businesses Leda tried to start — a jewelry retail space? an art magazine? — it could be much, much more than that low-ball guess which is based on the legal minimums Rokeby had to pay out. Strike may have millions of pounds in the family Gringott’s vault miles beneath London.

He doesn’t need millions. Even half a million dollars would be a great down payment — but I bet Rokeby, whom son Al has told us is friends with Fancourt (Michael suggested he sign up with Roper-Chard as his publisher), could buy the thing out-right and Leanora would approve the sale in a heart beat. You know, as a “peace offering.”

Tomorrow is Orthodox ‘Christmas Eve’ and Thursday is Nativity so I will not be posting the correction to the Spiritual allegory of Troubled Blood, Part One or The Guilty Ghost of Margot Bamborough, the second Part of that idea, until this weekend. Thank you for your patience!

And a Merry Christmas! Let me know what you think of Louise’s idea that the Joe North House will be the new Strike Agency Headquarters — and thank you, Nick, as always for the links and information that make the post substantial!