Louise’s First Look at Troubled Blood Cover and Synopsis.

It’s been a banner week. Not only does The Ickabog wrap up in characteristic JKR style, but Robert Galbraith releases the cover and summary blurb for the next in the Cormoran Strike series, Troubled Blood. We can already see the predicted echoes to Career of Evil. I think we can count on a more gruesome story. I’ll also take a look back at my earlier predictions and see how this new information requires adjusting them.

First the cover:  dark, befitting the book pegged as the nigredo of the series, with the title in blood-red letters.  The dial (which does not seem to have the Roman numeral XX on it, unlike the teaser video on Twitter) presumably refers to the astrological/tarot element promised in the book.  Some have theorized that this represents the Hampton Court Clock Tower.  I love the lamppost, but am a bit disappointed to see figures that look more like the TV Robin and Cormoran than the book.  Where’s Strike’s pube hair? 

Onto the blurb:  

Already we can see some echoes to the third book of the series, which featured a psychopathic serial killer giving lots of unwanted attention, to put it mildly, to the Titian-haired Temp.  Career of Evil was also a look back at the past, with Strike forced to confront two past cases–one successful, one not– as well as his loser stepfather.  Here we, go back even further, to an unsolved disappearance, which, as astute Twitterers have already pointed out, occurred the very year of Cormoran’s birth.  Coincidence?  Will his digging into events in his hometown that occurred the year of his birth lead him to address a few of the questions of his own past?  Including the fact that neither Cormoran’s birth nor a DNA test broke up Jonny Rokeby’s marriage.  This could lead to connections to Order of the Phoenix, where Harry has to confront the meaning of a prophecy referring to his own birth. 

Other intriguing elements.  I am tickled pink that the mystery starts in Cornwall when Cormoran is visiting family– I have wanted to meet Uncle Ted and Aunt Joan for some time now. The missing woman, on the other hand, has a surname that suggests she is from the north–  specifically, Bamburgh, a tiny village on the coast of Northumberland (about 2 hours north of Robin’s home town of Masham) and home to a famous castle and mysterious sword.  Is this site destined to join the White Horse of Uffington as a stop on the Strike fan pilgrimage tour? 

Cornwall, in addition to being home to Ted and Joan, was also the home and burial place of Pamela “Pixie” Coleman Smith, illustrator of the world’s best known tarot deck, and the subject of a recent biography. It is also the site of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, which apparently includes a tarot reading machine, pictured above. Expect Cormoran to visit there—  I hope he brings Robin with him!

It’s hard to believe Cormoran and Robin will spend too much time on the road, though, with all they have goingon in London. It looks like the agency is thriving but The Flobberworm is being his difficult self regarding the divorce. I am still pulling for Robs to get her half of their flat proceeds sale. And who, pray tell, is the “unwanted male” paying her attention? The only one who has expressed interest in her so far is Spanner, and he seems nice enough to take a hint.  Could the belligerent and hard-drinking Tom Turvey be trying to avenge himself on Matthew by pursuing Robin? 

I don’t see how some of my other predictions:  the return of Whittaker, the emergence of Strike’s baby brother Switch (unless he is part of the family reunion in Cornwall–could he be seeking out his mother’s relatives after all these years, with Strike persuaded to go meet him?), an educational setting, and the death of either Shanker or Vanessa are going to work their way in, yet.  But, at 944 pages, a third longer than Lethal White and twice as long as the first three books in the series, there is plenty of room for sub-plots. 

One final note:  the missing woman is named Margot, a variation of Margaret.  So is Daisy, heroine of The Ickabog.  Any particular reason JKR would be particularly fond of that name? 

Counting down to September 15th. 

Welcome to Spencer’s Faerie Queen

It’s more than a little breathless, but, if you’re looking for an introduction to the poem, Spencer’s Faerie Queen, some Serious Strikers think may be key to Strike5, Troubled Blood. Enjoy!

Hat-tip to ChrisC!

Rowling Writes Trans Views Tell All Post; Fandom Divides ‘Team Jo,’ ‘Team Trans’

On 6 June, J. K. Rowling tweeted nine separate times on the issue of transgender people and their rights. I think the most important thread is this one:

Though only a reiteration of her #IStandWithMaya Tweet Heard Round the World from last December, one with special emphasis in each part of the thread that the accusation that she hates transgender people is untrue and unfair, the world that believes with former Vice President Joe Biden that transgender rights “are the civil rights issue of our time” have doxxed her thoroughly. Celebrities as closely tied with her as Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Eddie Redmayne, and Evanna Lynch have all gone public to affirm that “transgender women are women.” [To my knowledge, Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger have not yet checked in on this issue.]

On 10 June Rowling responded with an essay which was posted on her website, ‘J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues,’ and she has pinned a link to this post to the top of her twitter page (she has been silent on twitter since 6 June). In this essay she reviews the history of her involvement with the transgender issue, the story of her several fat-finger mistakes at the keyboard that led to her being identified as “transphobic” by trans activists online, and of her decision to return to twitter in December after a long hiatus to support Maya Foraster. She details, too, the fallout thereafter, not only the verbal abuse and threats she endured and expected, but also the unanticipated “avalanche of emails and letters” “the overwhelming majority of which were positive, grateful and supportive.” These notes, she writes, [Read more…]

How to Get Ready for ‘Troubled Blood’

What is the best way to get ready for the publication of Strike5, Troubled Blood?

I think, based on my experience with previous Rowling releases, at least three efforts will yield the best results.

First and most obvious: re-read the books that precede the new entry. Rowling is a maestro of narrative slow release, one who plants clues and foreshadowings of coming attractions in the first books of a series. I enjoy listening to the Robert Glenister audio-books of the Strike novels for a fun review (and I keep a notepad with me while I listen if something catches my attention).

Second: review the HogwartsProfessor posts and MuggleNet podcasts on the books in question. You won’t find discussion of subjects from mythology and alchemy to the links with parallel numbers in the Harry Potter series and the ring composition of each book and the series as whole anywhere else. Get yourself up to speed with the conversation that has been happening here at Serious Reader Central about Cormoran, Robin, and Company.

Third: Join that conversation! There are the comment threads here, of course, and now the #StrikeReadAlong for you to jump in and share your questions, insights, and critique. The more the merrier — and it’s never too late!

How are you preparing for Troubled Blood? Has anyone tackled Faerie Queen or a prolonged listen to Marilyn Manson albums?

Rowling Retweets Swan Reunion

For Serious Strikers out there, this is a point of interest because… well, The Swan Symbolism in Lethal White. See also Elizabeth Baird-Hardy on the subject and Joanne Gray.

Swans separated and re-united may be the single most important image or metaphor for the Cormoran Strike-Robin Ellacott relationship.

Discuss.