Ink Black Heart Arrives in Three Months

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. See Memorial Day: Cormoran’s Memories for my 2021 reflections on Strike’s experiences and take-aways from his time in the Army. Thank you to the veterans in our reading audience. Semper Fi!

On to the subject of today’s post —

Ink Black Heart, the sixth installment in Rowling-Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series, will be published on 30 August 2022, exactly three months from today, just over 91 days at this writing.

In the run-up to publication of new Strike titles, our habit since Lethal White has been to make predictions about the book we are about to receive. There are various methods to this, from “what we’d like to see happen” in the Strike-Ellacott relationship and guesses about the epigraph focus of the novel based on its title to informed guesswork using literary alchemy, septology-series ring composition, and the Parallel Series Idea. It’s a lot of fun, frankly, and our crew has had some notable direct hits (and a lot of failures we don’t celebrate, though we scorecard our predictions openly).

The thing is, it doesn’t happen until the frenetic days, maybe weeks just before the publication date (Louise Freeman’s first predictions post being an outlier in being posted even before we had the Ink Black Heart title). I’m thinking we could try something systematic and regular over the next three months.

Here’s one idea as an example: we could divide the five books into the ~90 days we have left by assigning June to a review of Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm, July to Career of Evil and Lethal White, and all of August to the massive Troubled Blood, with a week just before publication devoted to predictions, sure and certain or off-the-wall. Maybe a vote on events or revelations that seem more likely than not to happen in Strike6, as in the StrikeFans ‘Ink Black Heart Checklist’ posted last December.

Let me know your ideas and your thoughts about focusing posts in the next three months on a review of the five books already in hand. I’m getting more excited about the new book now that we’re within a trimester of its birthing!

Strike-Potter PSI: Career and Prisoner

The Parallel Series Idea or PSI is the theory that Rowling-Galbraith is writing her Cormoran Strike novels as intentional echoes of her Harry Potter septology, with each new murder mystery having plot points, characters, setting, and dialogue reflecting the ones in their apposite number in the Hogwarts Saga. I have written up posts on the parallels between each of the series entries thus far except for one pair and Louise Freeman has discussed at length what we might expect in Ink Black Heart as an image of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, PSI detective work you can read via these links:

I haven’t collected and edited the reader notes for Blood-Phoenix but the real hole in the collection is the absence of a post about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’s echoes in Strike3, Career of Evil. After the jump, then, notes from Patricia Baker, a ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast, and my own thoughts in a Parallel Series Idea review of the third books in Rowling’s two series. See you there!

[Read more…]

Twas Shanker That Killed Leda Strike; Why? Because She Asked Him To Do It

The backdrop story to the Cormoran Strike series, its inciting incident if you will, what sets everything in the protagonist’s narrative arc of transformation in motion, is the death of Leda Strike. Cormoran, her first son and her only child with rockstar Jonny Rokeby, leaves Oxford and joins the Army to become a Red Cap investigator like his surrogate father Ted Nancarrow in the wake of his mother’s death. The death is considered a suicide but only because the chief murder suspect, Jeff Whittaker, Leda’s husband at the time, was found not guilty when he was tried for her murder. Strike still believes that his step-father killed his mother.

It has been taken as a working premise here at that the detective is correct in his assumption that Leda did not take her own life. The three grounds for that premise are, in brief:

(1) Rowling’s modus operandi is that the story will have a defamiliarizing ‘big twist’ a la Austen’s Emma so the accepted narrative of Leda’s death, the public notion as well as Cormoran’s private belief, must be wrong;

(2) the first and fourth books of the Strike series, which is being written as a seven story ring, involved murders staged as suicides so the big reveal of the seventh should be one as well and the seeming suicide of Leda Strike, because it is the series back story, should be the suicide revealed as a murder in the finale; and

(3) the Strike series is written in parallel with the Potter novels and, just as Lily Potter’s sacrificial death in love for her son precipitated the Dark Lord’s near demise and the overarching story of the Hogwarts Saga, so the murder-suicide of Leda Strike serves as the catalyst to all the action in the Strike series. The first seven story ring of Strike novels requires a revelation of how and why Leda Strike actually died just as Deathly Hallows featured a blow by blow revisiting of Lily Potter’s death and her son’s revenge on her murderer.

Why Series Strikers and the Royal Society of Rowling Readers spend so much time on this subject, speculation about who killed Leda Strike, is, of course, largely the fun of guessing where the Presence is taking us before we get there (and the hope of winning the No Prize of figuring it out first). It reflects, beyond that in-house competition, the knowledge we have about Rowling as a writer, which is to say her ends and means. Read about all that at ‘The Value of Interpretative Speculation or Why We Know that Dave Didn’t Kill Leda.’ There are two things about Rowling as writer that we have only figured out recently, namely the Divine Mother/Bad Dad signatures and her Peter/John distinction, that we have not incorporated into this speculation. Join me after the jump for why I think those characteristic Rowling ideas, ones found in almost everything she writes, suggests that Shanker, the Strike series character ‘Who Has Not Been Named,’ killed Leda Strike — because she told him to kill her. [Read more…]

An Even-Odd Strike Pattern Addendum: The Waitress on Break Tells Backstory

Last week I shared a pattern that may exist in the Cormoran Strike mysteries by Rowling-Galbraith. In Strike Pattern: Bars in London and Out of Town Business-Conversations in Alternating Books  I explained that odd numbered books featured Cormoran and Robin in a bar, some mention of Strike’s boxing, heavy drinking, and remarkable revelations about their pasts that pushes their relationship and understanding of each other significantly. Even number books, though they include meals and drinks in pubs, have no unveilings of this kind. They do have a meal on the road in which they discuss their business partnership and Robin’s ability to do the job given her personal circumstances and mental condition.

I speculated in last week’s post that, if this is a true pattern, we should have another of these even numbered book scenes in Strike6, Ink Black Heart. It occurred to me today that Silkworm and Lethal White, our two previous even-numbered books have something else in common. In both books Strike goes to some lengths to interview a waitress, who, on a break from the hectic labors of waiting tables, reveals the backstory elements the Peg-Legged PI suspects is out there but needs to nail down. Join me after the jump for the relevant scenes in Strike 2 and Strike 4 — and what we should look for in Strike6! [Read more…]

Strike Pattern: Bars in London and Out of Town Business-Conversations in Alternating Books; Strike6 Prediction

I have noticed a curious pattern in the five Cormoran Strike mysteries.

In brief, in odd numbered books, the pair have occasion to meet in a pub or bar and things get so out of hand, one has to escort the other home. This meeting advances the intimacy of their relationship significantly, if not immediately or obviously.

In even numbered books, the two share a meal and talk business, especially as it involves their personal lives. Their partnership in the Agency, which is to say ‘Robin’s role in it,’ is augmented after each of these discussions.

I think it fair to expect, if this is a true pattern rather than just a coincidence, that we will see another such business meeting over an informal meal in Ink Black Heart, perhaps as early as the Ritz Champagne Buffet birthday treat.

Details after the jump. [Read more…]