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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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…]

The Rabbits Hiding in Troubled Blood: Spence Finds Oonaugh and the Athorns

Merry Christmas, Rowling Readers!

I’m not a big fan of Ian Spence, who writes Jungian interpretations of pop culture at medium.com; see, for example his borderline wing-nut character assassination pieces on ‘Rowling the Christian Fundamentalist Transphobe’ here and here. If you have trouble thinking of Rowling as the advocate of “her own patriarchal, superstitious Christian movement,” you can skip over those Spence pieces.

But even when he’s over-the-top with his disgust for all things Christian, he sometimes comes up with a treasure.

Case in point? The hidden rabbits in Troubled Blood. I don’t think his interpretation of these hares and bunnies holds water and he doesn’t talk about them all (he misses the stuffed rabbits dressed as hunters in the bar where Robin interviews SB’s PA); but did you connect the “buck teeth” of Oonaugh Kennedy — who loves “carrot cake,” right? — with the Athorns’ extraordinarily “long ears” and Anna Phipps’ “pajama case shaped like a rabbit” in which she kept photographs of her mother clandestinely? I sure didn’t.

Spence discusses these finds and his interpretation of them in ‘The Rabbit as Psychopomp: Darkness and light in J.K. Rowling’s Troubled Blood.’ Enjoy!