Harry, Krystal, and Kara Did It: Rowling’s Clues to Why Leda Strike Killed Herself

Much of our energies in interpreting Rowling-Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike mysteries this past month has been spent speculating about the enigma of Leda Strike’s death. It was ruled a suicide by heroin overdose by the police who were unable to gather sufficient evidence at the time to convict Jeff Whittaker of having staged the death of his wife as a suicide. For posts about the various suspects besides Whittaker, see Heroin Dark Lord 2.0, Uncle Ted Did It, Dave Polworth, Lucy and Joan Did It, Sir Randolph Whittaker, Nick Herbert, Peter Gillespie, and Charlotte Campbell-Ross. There’s a post, too, about why we can be confident all these best-guesses are wrong.

The only one of these posts in which Leda’s suicide is seriously considered as a suicide is in the argument that Dave Polworth did the dirty deed. My conclusion there is that, unless Leda learned that her husband had sexually molested her daughter, it was hard to imagine her actually committing suicide, at least not in sacrificial love for her older children. I’ve since wondered, because of Louise Freeman’s intriguing post about Old Man Whittaker as possible killer, if she might have killed herself in despair because Whittaker had convinced her that she had killed or forever removed her from baby Switch LaVey Bloom Whittaker.

Then it occurred to me: Rowling has restricted her catalog of work, her oeuvre, to fourteen books, that is, the seven Harry Potter novels, Casual Vacancy, the five Cormoran Strike mysteries, and The Ickabog. Suicide or at least deliberate and sacrificial deaths are almost a rule in all these books except for the Strike novels.

  • The inciting incident of the Hogwarts Saga is the voluntary death of Lily to save her baby son from the Dark Lord; Harry Potter commits suicide in a way, too, by letting Lord Voldemort kill him without making any resistance; Dumbledore in similar fashion dies at Severus Snape’s hand, a death of his own volition and planning.
  • Krystal Weedon, the long-suffering and pathetic heroine of Casual Vacancy, commits suicide by heroin overdose in despair over her part in the accidental death of Robbie, her little brother.
  • There is Rhiannon Winn, whose death by suicide is the Rosmerholm Beata Rosmer equivalent inciting incident of  Lethal White. Not to mention Ellie Fancourt’s ‘topping herself’ in The Silkworm, again, the first death in the deep back-story that drives the subsequent action as the plot’s genesis point…
  • The Ickabog bornding process is a willing self-death to birth Ickaboggles their children — and the Ickabog of the fairy tale Rowling writes has the most deliberate and consequential bornding-death-to-self imaginable.

You’d think that Rowling has a thing about death-to-self being almost a spiritual process, a means of transformation and ego transcendence, something akin to the alchemical solve et coagula maxim tattooed on her writing wrist.

If Leda committed suicide, though, it almost certainly wasn’t the sacrificial death that births a new and better person, here or hereafter, that we see in Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows, and The Ickabog. The obvious parallel is with Krystal Weedon in Casual Vacancy, whose suicide is by heroin overdose exactly as Leda’s supposedly was. Krystal’s despair and self-slaughter is understandable, born as it was in remorse for her neglect of her brother, albeit in pursuit of a mean for him to escape with her their shared nightmare existence.

Is Krystal’s suicide suggestive that Leda killed herself for much the same reason? Rowling said that the moral of Harry Potter and the deaths in Deathly Hallows specifically “all came down to conscience” and remorse, guilt, is the most self-effacing form conscience takes (hence Harry’s asking the Dark Lord to “feel some remorse” as his only hope of recovering from his Horcrux madness). I think we have more reason to wonder what happened to Switch before Leda’s death that might have caused her to despair in remorse for his death or her inability to protect him.

If there is a pointer to Leda’s suicide being murder in the most recent Strike novel, Troubled Blood, the gang-rape and murder of Kara Wolfson by the Ricci mob may be it. Betty Fuller tells Strike that Kara, a prostitute, had been raped by Ricci or one of his gang members and she attempted to have what revenge she could by working for the police to gather evidence against her ’employers.’ She is brutally raped and knifed to death, a murder Nicco Ricci films as a warning to ’employees’ who in the future might be thinking of turning state’s evidence. Betty Fuller’s account and Brian Tucker’s description of Kara allow Robin and Cormoran to solve the mystery of who killed her but her body is never recovered and her murderers will remain unpunished.

If Rowling-Galbraith is as self-referencing in her work as we have demonstrated she is in the Strike novels’ many parallels with her Harry Potter books corresponding numbers, I think we have to consider seriously the possibilities that Leda’s suicide will be revealed in the end to be:

  • heroic and self-sacrificing in some respect, as were Harry’s and Dumbledore’s willingness to die;
  • a function of despair and remorse, perhaps even a consequence of rape, as was Krystal Weedon’s death by heroin overdose;
  • something akin to the Ickabog’s bornding and its Ickaboggles, one born murderous because of its fear and one who is kind because of Daisy’s love; and, perhaps,
  • a death traceable to rape or a desire for revenge and justice gone horribly wrong as was Kara Wolfson’s. 

Do you think it credible that Rowling is re-writing the much-neglected and maligned Casual Vacancy so readers will once again experience the death from despair and remorse of a woman without options in the world? Just as Krystal tried to become pregnant by having sex with Fats to escape the prison of life in The Fields, did Leda succeed tragically in that same effort with Jonny Rokeby and as Sarah Shadlock has with Matt Cunliffe? Did Leda lie to Jeff Whittaker about Rokeby’s child support payments because she realized her young and lazy husband had married her with the same hope?

What clues do you think Rowling-Galbraith has given in her previous work to the mystery of Leda Strike’s seeming suicide? Am I way off-base in thinking suicide, be it sacrificial death or dissolution in remorse, is a theme running through the fourteen works she claims as her own?

Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!

Who Killed Leda Strike? Peter Gillespie

Two premises of HogwartsProfessor writing about Rowling-Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike mysteries are that (1) their over-arching story, equivalent in some ways to the Lord Voldemort backdrop to Harry Potter that climaxed in the last books of that septology, is the enigma of Leda Strike’s supposed suicide and (2) that this will be resolved by Strike7. Feel free to comment about the validity or absurdity of those guidelines for our speculation; please do review the many posts on the site about parallels that exist between the Strike and Potter series, though, before you dismiss the ideas out of hand. 

We have discussed seven suspects to date for persons who may have had a hand in Leda’s death. If you are in a hurry to review them, here are quick links to the cases made against Jonny Rokeby and the Harringay Crime Syndicate (Heroin Dark Lord 2.0), Ted Nancarrow (Uncle Ted Did It), Dave Polworth, Lucy Fantoni (Lucy and Joan Did It and here), Sir Randolph Whittaker, Nick Herbert, and Charlotte Campbell-Ross. There’s a post, too, about why we can be confident all these best-guesses are wrong. Louise Freeman has set the ‘3M Standard’ for suspect speculation here as ‘Means, Motive, and Meta-literary Reasons;’ anyone that killed Leda must have credible opportunity and skills to have done the job, he or she must have a good reason for having killed her, and the revelation that this person did it must come as a shock to Cormoran Strike and the reader (see the Polworth post for my discussion of that).

Last week ‘Karol’ offered on a comment thread to a post about Old Man Whittaker as a suspect that Peter Gillespie, Jonny Rokeby’s right hand for many years, was responsible for Leda’s death. ‘Jeff’ had mentioned this theory in his prediction that Charlotte will be revealed in the end to have killed Strike’s mother and I’ve heard that Gillespie is a favorite in discussions of this subject at the Strike Fans forum. I’ve deleted ‘Karol’s comment from its original place both because we really try to discourage ‘hijacking’ of conversations about a post’s subject with barely related ideas and because the theory deserves its own post and discussion thread. Here, then, is ‘Karol’s explanation of why Peter Gillespie must be considered a prime suspect in the staged suicide of Leda Strike: [Read more…]

Guest Post: Agatha Christie’s The Clocks – TV Adaptation a Source for Strike?

In 2019 I wrote about Agatha Christie’s 1963 Poirot novel, The Clocks, a send up of the James Bond spy-thriller then in vogue: Agatha Christie’s ‘The Clocks’ or ‘Arabella Figg Meets Hercule Poirot.’ Chris Calderon thinks that the 2009 teevee adaptation of this novel for BBC1’s series ‘Poirot’ has a lot to tell us about the Cormoran Strike series that Rowling may have been plotting and planning at the time.

Make the jump to read the connections he has found between the show and the series! [Read more…]

Guest Post: Lucy and Joan Killed Leda!

Last month I wrote a review of the five most likely candidates for the murderer of Leda Strike which included the criteria that makes a suspect more or less likely. ‘Who Killed Leda Strike, Suicide Victim? Leda, Rokeby, Whittaker, Ted, or Dave?’ In addition to the genre requirements of a credible means or opportunity as well as motive, I suggested the guilty party would have to be a devastating revelation to Strike, one that would turn his idea of himself and the world upside-down, which is to say “right-side up,” because this is a signature of Rowling-Galbraith big-twist, cathartic finishes. Of the Big Five — Leda herself, Jeff Whittaker, Rokeby, Ted Nancarrow, and Dave Polworth — I thought Dave Polworth the most likely murderer for genre and meta-literary reasons. I followed up that longish post with a disclaimer that the value of this speculation was not in getting it right but in the explication of what makes the author’s writing work, the keys, if you will: The Value Of Interpretive Speculation or “Why We Know Dave Didn’t Kill Leda.”

Those posts inspired comments in support of and against the Polworth possibility, mostly against, as you’d expect. The best of them, I think, was Bestiary’s argument that Joan or Lucy did it (I responded at no little length). One comment I elevated into a post of its own because it made a credible argument that Charlotte killed her lover’s mother (like the Polworth theory, its fan fiction turned on issues of incest). Yesterday, Louise Freeman introduced the idea that Nick Herbert, gastroenterologist, killed Leda when still a medical student or intern: ‘Troubled Blood — The Dark Side to Two Old Mates.’ In response to that suggestion, a Serious Striker writing as ‘Jeff’ commented that we all have totally missed the boat — Joan and Lucy topped Leda, their sister-in-law and biological mother respectively.

I have deleted that comment from Professor Freeman’s thread and post it below as an independent post for your consideration. I do this not so much because I take the theory seriously — it fails, I think, most obviously on the grounds of how the two women learned to inject heroin into someone else’s veins and how they subdued Leda or convinced her it was a good idea (there were no signs of struggle in the flat) — but because I want each of these ‘So and So Did It!’ theories to have their own home rather than hijack discussion on other posts’ threads. This makes for future ease in finding the specific theory, referencing it, and updating it in light of new information.

I post ‘Jeff’s theory of Half-Sister Lucy and dear Aunt Joan as killers after the jump with his relatively brief explanation and defense (I corrected the typos, changed the paragraphing, and liberally expanded the original for clarity and cogency; apologies in advance to ‘Jeff’ if this editorial heavy-hand was unwelcome). Let me know, Serious Strikers, if you think ‘Lucy and Joan Killed Leda’ has merit and if I have too casually dismissed ‘Jeff’s argument! [Read more…]

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 gambit. 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 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 of “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.) [Read more…]