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)

[Read more…]

Beatrice Groves: John Donne, The Beast Within, and Who Killed Leda Strike

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written a HogwartsProfessor Guest Post to mark the publication of Rowling-Galbraith’s Troubled Blood as a paperback. In it she discusses what Nick Jeffery’s discovery of a possible future Strike novel title and ‘The Beast Within’ theme of Rowling’s recent work tells us about who is the most likely suspect in the “Who Killed Leda Strike?” sweepstakes. Enjoy!

When thou hast done, thou hast not done:’ Rowling and John Donne?

I first entered the Harry Potter on-line fan world in 2017 (invited here by the generous welcome of the Hogwarts Professor, John Granger, upon the publication of my Literary Allusion in Harry Potter). That meant that I was a decade late to the party of predicting how Harry Potter might end. So, for me, Strike and Fantastic Beasts have been the first time I’ve experienced the pleasure of sleuthing together. And it has been an absolute ball. By following Rowling’s tempting line of breadcrumbs, and building on the insights of many Potter fans and pundits, we’ve hit the odd bullseye – my favourites being guessing the murder location in Lethal White and the Spenserian epigraphs in Troubled Blood.

While following the clues Rowling leaves about future Strike novels may be a rather minority sport compared to following her Harry Potter breadcrumbs, in some ways these clues are likely to tell us more. For Rowling has taken a new turn in the Strike novels. In these novels the titles, and the epigraphs, have a much more complex relation to the plots of the novels than they did in Harry Potter (which did not, of course, have epigraphs at all until the final novel). This means that with Strike such guesswork might not just tell us what the title is but also something about the novel. When Rowling laid on a game of Twitter hangman to guess the title Lethal White, for example, the equine hint of the title (first pointed out by Louise Freeman) – just like the other clues that pointed towards the White Horse at Uffington – turned out to play a central role in the plot.

This blogpost is written to mark the paperback publication of Troubled Blood (coming out 22nd /24th June) – a novel which demonstrated Hogwarts Professor’s most successful title-sleuthing to date. When the title Troubled Blood was released on 20 February 2020, Nick Jeffery accurately guessed that Rowling had drawn the phrase from Edmund Spenser’s epic sixteenth-century poem The Faerie Queene.

 Now, to be honest, when Nick first suggested this, I was sceptical. Not because Rowling choosing an early modern text was inherently unlikely – it was of a piece with the epigraphs to Silkworm – but because The Faerie Queene is one of my favourite poems. So, it simply seemed too good to be true. But this does mean that now that Nick has once again suggested another early modern writer as the source for the title of Strike 6, and I am once again thinking this seems too good to be true, the déjà vu makes me feel hopeful….

The combined sleuthing of Patricio Tarantino of The Rowling Library and Nick Jeffery have turned up what sounds like a highly plausible title for Strike 6: The Last Cries of Men. John Granger has written up Nick’s suggestion that this title points us towards Donne’s Devotion Upon Emergent Occasions – the source of Donne’s most famous quotation, as well as the phrase ‘the last cries of men.’ 

There are lots of caveats here – The Last Cries of Men may be something else entirely, after all – but if it is a Rowling novel, it certainly sounds like a Strike novel. The phrase (found in Meditation VI from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions [1624]) is Donne’s evocation of the most heart-rending noise of the battlefield: ‘the sound of drums and trumpets and shot and those which they seek to drown, the last cries of men.’ Donne makes a bitter observation about the pragmatic reason that armies make such a clamour with the noisy pomp of drums and trumpets. It is in order obscure their real business: the business of killing.

There are a number of reasons that this sounds like a Strike title. [Read more…]

Troubled Blood: Poisoned Chocolates

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is the second of three Valentine’s Day posts at HogwartsProfessor. The day before yesterday I reviewed the five gifts Cormoran gives to Robin in Troubled Blood and how each is an echo of a previous gift and a metaphor for the status of their relationship. The last, a birthday trip to the Ritz Hotel for champagne, pretty much seals the deal that these two characters named for birds are now ‘love birds’ as well.

That first V-Day post had a relatively obvious romantic message, even though the only person who gives anyone a gift on the actual Valentine’s Day in Troubled Blood is the “smarmy” Saul Morris who brings flowers to Pat. Today’s post on chocolates in Strike5 and poisoned chocolates in particular is not romantic at all, except that two male characters do give Robin Ellacott salted caramel chocolates as tokens of their affection for her. I write this up, as, truth be told, I do the other two posts as well, because Valentine’s Day’s centrality and importance in Troubled Blood means that this is an apt time to highlight aspects of Rowling’s artistry and meaning in her most recent and I think best novel that almost certainly escape the casual reader.

Today, it’s chocolates, Rowling’s bon mots from the literary genre in which she works and her playful hat-tipping to the masters while turning a trope or cliche of detective fiction to her fresh ends. Join me after the jump for that Valentine’s Day discussion! [Read more…]

Beatrice Groves: Dwelling on Dreams in Strike & Harry Potter, Part 2, or, What is So Special about Charing Cross Road? 

Oxford University’s Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potterconcludes her reflections on the many dreams in Harry Potter and the Cormoran Strike mysteries with the revelation of a stunning link between Rowling’s Harry Potter and Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike mysteries — the centrality of Charing Cross Road and its bookstores to both series. Enjoy! 

From the very beginning, from the time Cuckoo’s Calling was published and especially since the publication of Lethal White, the literary detectives at HogwartsProfessor have picked up on the trail of breadcrumbs Rowling has left linking her two series and it is something which I have been following up since the publication of Troubled Blood (here and here). Yesterday’s ‘Dreams – Part One’ blogpost traced a new parallel in the importance of dreams (and Spenser’s dream-manipulating Archimago) to both. But there is one further connection between Harry Potter and Strike which, perhaps, gestures towards a dream of Rowling’s own: her aspiration to become a writer. 

The location at which readers first enter Strike’s world and the Wizarding World are uncannily close. Strike lives and works on Denmark St, and the narrative regularly observes how near this street is to Charing Cross Road. [They are so close and related that Google Maps presents Denmark Street as ‘A-40,’ the same name assigned Charing Cross Road.] In Cuckoo’s Calling Strike looks ‘out at Charing Cross Road, glittering with car lights and puddles, where Friday-night revellers were striding and lurching past the end of Denmark Street’ (201).

It is a regular feature of the books to mention that Charing Cross Road is audible from Strike’s offices – and, looking out for this idea on opening Troubled Blood, I was pleased to find it mentioned not once, but twice. This is a startlingly intimate link with Harry Potter  – for, when Harry stays in the Leaky Cauldron in Prisoner of Azkaban, the noise of Charing Cross road is likewise audible from Harry’s room, just as it is from the agency’s rooms in Denmark St. In an unexpected link – and despite living in such different worlds – Rowling’s heroes briefly share a soundscape.  

Rowling has not chosen a random busy London road here; it is crucially important that the Leaky Cauldron – the gateway between the mundane and magical worlds – should be located on Charing Cross Road. Rowling chose it, as she has said, because it is ‘famous for its bookshops, both modern and antiquarian… this is why I wanted it to be the place where those in the know go to enter a different world.’ Muggle book shops are mentioned only twice in Harry Potter, and both times are in reference to those on Charing Cross road. As Harry first searches for the Leaky Cauldron the book shops of Charing Cross Road are the first stores he passes, and when he reaches the magical pub itself, it is located with a ‘big book shop on one side’ (Philosopher’s Stone, Chap 5, p.53). These book shops, as Rowling notes, are a metaphor for the way in which reading can open up, for the reader as for the hero, an entrance into a magical world.  [Read more…]

Beatrice Groves: Dwelling on Dreams in Strike & Harry Potter (Part 1 )

Oxford University’s Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, offers her reflections on the many dreams in Harry Potter and the Cormoran Strike mysteries. Enjoy! Part 2, DV, will be up soon, even post-haste

In Troubled Blood one of the many signs that the investigating office Bill Talbot has become unwell is that he asks Janice to keep a dream diary. But it is also a moment which creates a link between the fifth book of the Strike and Harry Potter series. For in Order of the Phoenix oneiromancy (foretelling the future through dreams) is likewise touched upon when Harry and Ron – like Janice – are told to keep dream diaries. 

‘I never remember my dreams,’ said Ron ‘you say one.’ 

‘You must remember one of them,’ said Harry impatiently…. 

‘Well, I dreamed I was playing Quidditch the other night,’ said Ron ‘What d’you reckon that means?’ 

‘Probably that you’re going to be eaten by a giant marshmallow or something,’ said Harry, turning the pages of The Dream Oracle (Phoenix, Chap 12, pp.214-5) 

This joke, incidentally, is particularly pleasing in this context as I suspect it points to a subconscious source for J. K. Rowling herself. It a small, additional, piece of evidence that she had the Monty Python episode “You’re No Fun Anymore” (Season 1, Episode 7) at the back of her mind when writing Harry Potter. John Granger was the first to realise the relevance this episode’s final, long, sketch (and its character ‘Harold Potter’) in his How Harry Cast his Spell.  It seems likely that this ‘being eaten by a giant marshmallow’ joke is based on a subconscious memory of the same sketch – as it ends, bizarrely, with giant blancmanges eating people (and giant marshmallows are a natural modernisation of Python’s giant blancmanges – which bamboozled American viewers even at the time).

The joke works particularly well as Rowling has built on Python’s original inversion (food eating people rather than the other way around) with a further one of her own (a normal dream-event symbolising a surreal real-life event, rather than the other way around). It is a particularly satisfying moment to see a reveal of Rowling’s own mental furniture as Harry, of course, is trying to occlude the contents of his own mind in this class. Harry has no intention of revealing either his nightmares about graveyards, nor his recurring dream about long dark corridors and so his dream diary (like Janice’s?) is a complete fabrication  

Trelawney calls dreams ‘prophetic… night-time visions’ (Phoenix, Chap 15, p.280) and certainly many of the dreams in Harry Potter turn out to come true. The first dream Harry ever has in the novels (about a flying motorbike) the reader already knows to be true, immediately alerting us to take future dreams seriously. Harry’s first dream at Hogwarts is given in some detail and, as we discover when we finish the book, it contains numerous clues about the future:   [Read more…]