The Faerie Queene and The Christmas Pig

One of the most wonderful features of Troubled Blood, at least for those of us who are devoted to Edmund Spenser, is the Faerie Queene subtext woven throughout Robin Ellacott and Cormoran Strike’s year-and-a-bit-long investigation into the cold case of Margot Bamborough. With the publication of The Christmas Pig, it’s clear that J.K. Rowling’s Faerie Queene theme was not a one-shot effort, but evidence of Spenser’s prominence in her compost pile of influences. In addition to the wonderful connections to Scripture, Dante, and my longtime favorite, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Christmas Pig uses the Spenser template beautifully to weave an accessible, yet remarkably effective, allegory that is completely different from the latest Strike adventure while still drawing from the deep and powerful well of Spenser.

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Stranger than Fiction? Recent Case with Similarities to Troubled Blood

Last week, as I was perusing my local news, I was shocked by a recent case, not just because it is a horrible crime in my very peaceful rural community, but also by the eerie similarity to the events of Troubled Blood. I’ll save specifics until after the jump to avoid spoilers forAvery County, NC anyone who has not yet finished the novel (probably none of our crowd here, but just in case).

To set the scene, I must stress that Avery County, North Carolina, is not London, England, or even Charlotte, North Carolina. If Cormoran Strike were looking for work in my neck of the (literal) woods, he’d have trouble making a living. Certainly, we have our fair share of the usual rural storiesAmazon.com: Troubled Blood (A Cormoran Strike Novel, 5): 9780316498951:  Galbraith, Robert: Books, the sort of sad situations created by tragic choices, like drug and alcohol abuse or domestic violence. I must confess that I own a police scanner, and I am friends with many members of our small troop of law enforcement heroes (the K9 officer who patrols the high school when I teach embedded college courses there is one of my favorite officers, and his human is ok, too!), but our “big crimes” are often more comic than tragic. Two years ago, we made national news when pranksters stole the huge carved wooden Sasquatch who stands out in front of my favorite garden center. He was later found in the woods, of course.

But last week, when we first heard of the terrible story out of the Linville Falls community, it was a different situation from the start, a situation unfamiliar to us, but very familiar to Strike and Robin.

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Guest Post by Beatrice Groves Part 2: The Beast Within: Shakespearean Clues in Strike

As promised, here is part two of Bea Groves’s brilliant look at the clues hidden in the very walls of the watering holes visited by our favorite Denmark Street detective! Enjoy, and please join the conversation in the comments!

In yesterday’s post I discussed @zsenyasq’s find of a Leda mural at the Rivoli Bar in the Ritz, and noted that if Strike does comment on this image, it will not be the first time he has been paying attention to symbolic images in drinking establishments.

Strike visits The Tottenham early in the opening novel of the series and ‘examined the painted panels on the ceiling; bacchanalian revels that became, as he looked, a feast of fairies: Midsummer Night’s Dream, a man with a donkey’s head’ (Cuckoo’s Calling, 49-50). The painted roundel is indeed a little difficult to decipher and it seems highly likely that we see in this description of Strike’s dawning comprehension, Rowling’s own realisation of their Shakespearean source as she looked at these scenes – either as she scouted London in preparation for writing Cuckoo’s Calling, or perhaps earlier, drinking in this pub when she was herself a temp in Denmark St. [Read more…]

Guest Post by Bea Groves: Leda and the Swan Mural at the Ritz: A Clue to the Opening of Strike 6? Part 1

Fasten your seatbelts for a fabulous two-part adventure from our brilliant guest contributor Bea Groves! Here is the first installment of a wonderful analysis of the murals that adorn Strike settings and may provide complex and captivating clues for what is to come! Enjoy part one, and stay tuned for part two tomorrow!

In Shakespeare and Jane Austen (two of J.K. Rowling’s greatest literary loves) there is a failsafe clue about whether two characters are in love without knowing it themselves. Which is that they pay attention when the other person speaks. And Strike has been listening to Robin. When Strike takes Robin to the Ritz for champagne at the end of Troubled Blood, he is not just giving a true present (something that appeals to the recipient not the giver), he is also remembering something she had once said:

            ‘I want you to give me something to eat and a strong drink.’

‘You’ve got it,’ said Strike, glad to have a chance to make repa­rations. ‘Will a takeaway do?’

‘No,’ said Robin sarcastically, pointing at her rapidly blackening eyes, ‘I’d like to go to the Ritz, please.’

Strike started to laugh but cut himself off, appalled at the state of her face.

(Chap 58, p.719)

At the end of the novel Strike turns Robin’s joke into reality:

‘So where—?’ asked Robin.

‘I’m taking you to the Ritz for champagne,’ said Strike…

‘Thanks, Strike. This really means a lot.’

And that, thought her partner, as the two of them headed away toward the Ritz in the golden glow of the early evening, really was well worth sixty quid and a bit of an effort…                                                                                     (Chap 73, p.926-27)

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The Inklings and Culture: A Feast of Brilliant Scholarship

The Inklings and Culture: Monika B. Hilder, Sara L. Pearson, Laura N. Van Dyke, Monika B. Hilder, Sara L. Pearson, Laura N. Van Dyke: 9781527560147: Amazon.com: BooksOne of the great joys of my work with authors like Rowling, Lewis, and others is the opportunity to interact with remarkable scholars from all over the world, and one scholar whose work never fails to impress me is Dr. Monika B. Hilder, Professor of English at Canada’s Trinity Western University. Among other accomplishments, she is the co-founder and co-director of the Inklings Institute of Canada, a remarkable group of scholars that has just produced an incredible collection of essays that is well worth the attention of any reader of the Inklings.

The Inklings and Culture: A Harvest of Scholarship from the Inklings Institute of Canada, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, and edited by Hilder as well as Sara L. Pearson and Laura N. VanDyke has something for everyone who enjoys the work of the most well-known Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as that of less famous (to the general reader) members,  “de facto” Inklings members, and honorary or “proto-Inklings” like Charles Williams, Owen Barfield,  Dorothy Sayers, George MacDonald, and G.K. Chesterton. [Read more…]