The True Taxonomy of Leda-Killer Suspects: Why Sir Randolph Whittaker is a Likely Culprit.

A few posts back, I made a case for Dr. Nick Herbert as the Leda-Slayer. My goal was not so much to convince the world the Nick Did It and to point out that a very similar case can be made for Nick as for Dave Polworth. 

The flip side of that is, the same arguments against Dave also apply to Nick— with the possible exception of Nick being more likely to know how to give an injection. 

Truthfully, I don’t really think either Nick or Dave did it. I am not by nature a betting person, but if someone forced me to put down a fiver on someone, my top suspect would be a character who has so far gotten exactly one mention in the series: Sir Randolph Whittaker, also known around here as Grandpa Whittaker, or Old Man Whittaker.  Here is my reasoning.

Assuming Leda was, in fact murdered, the suspects for the dirty deed  fall into two broad categories.  

Bad People We Are Supposed to Suspect:  (AKA Black Hats) This include Jonny Rokeby, Jeff Whittaker, Charlotte Campell, Jago Ross, Shumba-the-Rastafarian-Who-Was-Nasty-Enough-to-Make-Uncle-Ted-Want-to-Punch-Him, Some-Yet-Unknown-Person-from-the-Worst-Place-Ever-Norfolk-Commune-That-Keeps-Getting-Mentioned, and all of the Whittaker Extended Family.

Good People We Are Not Supposed to Suspect (AKA White Hats): Uncle Ted, Aunt Joan, Sister Lucy, and good friends Nick Herbert, Ilsa (maiden name unknown at time of murder), Dave Polworth and Shanker. I will also include two Associate White Hats, not because Strike is particularly close to them, but because, if they were involved, it would have been for White Hat Lucy’s sake:  Her biological father Rick Fantoni and her now-husband Greg (whom she may or may not have known when she was nineteen). 

Following the jump, I’ll look closer at my classification system and explain my reasoning. 

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Leda Strike’s Death: Murder by Action… or Inaction?

Multiple Hogpro regulars have been speculating on the identity of Leda Strike’s killer recently, and cases have been made for pretty much every one of Strike’s family members, close friends and lovers (except Shanker–  I don’t think he’s been pegged yet…) The focus of this post will not be so much on the who, but on the how.

So far, Leda’s death as been speculated to be

  • suicide
  • murder
  • murder faked as suicide
  • suicide faked as murder, and even
  • suicide faked as murder faked as suicide.*

I am going to propose it is none of the above, but an accident. But, an accident that Leda could have survived, except that someone deliberately declined to summon help, and let her die.

Headmaster John and Beatrice Groves have already written, at length, about the influence of P.D. James on Rowling/Galbraith’s work. Robin’s origin story, for instance, was clearly inspired by James’ creation, Cordelia Gray, who comes to work for a private detective as a secretary, and winds up as a sleuth herself. In another one of James’ novels, Devices and Desires, a character is haunted by the death of her father. The father was working in a garden when he accidentally cuts himself badly in the thigh. His two teenage children witness the accident, but, after years of abuse, including the implied sexual abuse of the daughter, the son refuses to let his sister summon help, and allows Daddy Dearest to bleed out, even though some basic first aid and rapid medical attention could have saved him. The daughter lives in fear that her brother will one day be found out as a murderer, albeit a passive rather than active one.

Could something similar have happened to Leda? We know the squat was a communal living situation, with other residents besides Leda, Whittaker, baby Switch and occasionally Shanker. Yet, conveniently there were no witnesses to see who gave Leda the fatal dose of heroin, even though it sounds like a roomful of the “raggle-taggle,” most of which would eventually testify against Whittaker at his trial, arrived shortly thereafter.

While Shanker had been negotiating a good price on a kilo of premium Bolivian cocaine in Kentish Town, Leda Strike had been slowly stiffening on a filthy mattress. The finding of the port-mortem had been that she had ceased to breathe a full six hours before any of the squat-dwellers tried to rouse her from what they thought was a profound slumber.

But suppose there was someone who witnessed the injection and discerned that Leda’s life was in imminent danger, but chose to walk away and let the drug run its course?

More on this hypothesis after the jump.

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The Case for Nick Herbert as Leda Strike’s Killer.

This post is a follow-up to my earlier account of the vicious side of Nick Herbert we saw in Troubled Blood. While I am not necessarily married to the idea of Nick as the killer–if I were placing a bet, my money would still be on Grandpa Whittaker–I am going to argue that every argument our Headmaster makes for Dave Polworth, Leda-Slayer, applies as well or better to the good Dr. Nick.

Let’s look first at what we know about Nick and Strike’s friendship. Despite his nomadic childhood, there seems to have been a relative period of stability, at least in regard to the family’s physical home, from the time Strike was 16 to 18. Apart from a brief period at age 16 when he was again “dumped” in Cornwall, he seems to have lived in the same squat from roughly the time Leda took up with Whittaker, until he left for university. During this period, 14-year-old Lucy left to live in St. Mawes for good, Shanker became a regular presence in the flat, and Strike took up boxing and focused on his schoolwork, in preparation  for applying for university.

This is also the time his friendship with his comprehensive schoolmate Nick Herbert developed. Nick and Cormoran would seem to be natural allies, with both trying to escape their working-class (or, in Strike’s case, indigent) upbringings for something better. Nick was a cab driver’s son, but aspired to be a doctor, while Strike, despite his itinerant lifestyle, was smart enough to enter and excel at Oxford. Strike seemed to have a good relationship not just with Nick but with his dad, who taught him shortcuts around London. The boys were close enough by the time they were 18 to have a joint birthday party in a local pub, a fete that was apparently elaborate enough that family and friends from Cornwall attended. This was, of course, where Nick first met Ilsa, whom he dated for a year afterwards. 

Nick, therefore, would have been in a position to know what kind of hell Strike was living with in life with Whittaker. He would have presumably been as annoyed as Uncle Ted when Whittaker disrupted the party with his singing. He probably had at least some acquaintance with Shanker, who would have had no qualms about speaking, loudly, about every one of Whittaker’s excesses, even if Strike was more discreet regarding his mother’s lifestyle. But how could this have led to Nick bumping off his good mate’s mother, some two years later, when he and Strike are both university students?  Let’s look closer after the jump. 

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Troubled Blood: The Dark Sides to Two Old Mates

One of the most notable moments of Troubled Blood was when Strike acknowledged Robin as his “best mate.” Up until that moment, Robin had assumed that title belonged to Dave Polworth; other readers might have assumed it was Nick Herbert. By the end of Troubled Blood, however, both men have shown their darker sides. It is easy to see why Robin has been promoted to best bud as well as detective partner.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Dave’s service in this book. His assistance to Joan, Ted, Strike and Lucy was admirable, He provided physical help– everything from home repairs to taking them food in the flood to, most importantly, leading the team that escorted Lucy and Strike through the floodwaters so they could be at Joan’s deathbed. And, he gave Strike and Ted emotional support, through his pub invitations, serving as a pallbearer and his presence at the scattering of Joan’s ashes. He is a loyal friend, through and through. 

But, like Strike, he’s a bit of a jerk at times. His hyper-nationalism, to to point of wanting to restrict the purchase of property in Cornwall to those who can prove ancestry, is off-putting, even to Strike. He’ll win no awards as either Husband- or Father -of-the-Year. He’s an excessively permissive parent, allowing his girls to run wild, even at a funeral wake. He had no qualms about quitting his job and uprooting his family, without even the decency to consult his wife about the plan first. And, in his opening scene in the book, he laid his misogynistic streak bare for the world to see, acknowledging that he saw marriage, first and foremost, as a cheap and convenient path to regular sex. All in all, despite his service to the Nancarrows, I found myself liking this version of Dave Polworth less than I did the guy who made several icy dives in search of Liz Tassel’s typewriter. 

But, there’s another “old mate” of Strike’s who goes down several notches for me in Troubled Blood: his London schoolmate and man of the always-free-spare-room, Nick Herbert.  I’ll tell you why after the jump. 

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2020 Harry Potter Academic Conference Recorded Talks Are Now Available Online

Updated to include keynote address by Dr. Timothy Snyder!!

One of the advantages of the Harry Potter Academic Conference at Chestnut Hill College going online this year is that people from further away could attend, and that several presenters who pre-recorded their talks are sharing them through Youtube, personal websites or other venues.

I am including the link to my humor talk here (‘Beyond Zonko’s: Psychological Explanations of Humor in the Wizarding World’). In addition, I have listed several others below the jump and will continue to add more as I become aware of them.

All opinions expressed in the several talks described and linked to below are those of the individual presenters and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of the HogwartsProfessor faculty members.

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