The “Poisoned Skeleton” in ‘Silkworm:’ Is There an Echo in Ink Black Heart?

The most mysterious passage in The Silkworm is a flash from Strike’s subconscious about a “poisoned skeleton,” an image that the Amazing Memory Man is unable to recall:

Maybe Quine was born four hundred years too late,’ said Strike, still eating shortbread. ‘Elizabeth Tassel told me there’s a Jacobean revenge play featuring a poisoned skeleton disguised as a woman. Presumably someone shags it and dies. Not a million miles away from Phallus Impudicus getting ready to—’

‘Don’t,’ said Robin, with a half laugh and a shudder.

But Strike had not broken off because of her protest, or because of any sense of repugnance. Something had flickered deep in his subconscious as he spoke. Somebody had told him… someone had said… but the memory was gone in a flash of tantalising silver, like a minnow vanishing in pondweed.

‘A poisoned skeleton,’ Strike muttered, trying to capture the elusive memory, but it was gone.

I wrote on the Moderator Channel back in 2016 that this passage seemed to be the equivalent of Dumbledore’s “gleam of triumph” in the Goblet of Fire denouement, the scene where the Headmaster learned that Voldemort has reconstituted his body using Harry’s blood. Ink Black Heart, which echoes The Silkworm in many ways (which Rowling recently confirmed), would be the natural place to look for an echo of this elusive insight, even for an answer to the question it raises.

After the jump, then, a look at the probable Jacobean Revenge Drama from which Rowling-Galbraith drew the “poisoned skeleton” image, a review of its possible place as just a marker for The Silkworm‘s murderer, and a quick list of possible correspondences in Ink Black Heart across the series-ring’s turtle-back line. [Read more…]

Cormoran Strike Studies for a Degree? BA, BSc, MLitt, and PhD Programs, if I say so myself, is the cutting edge of Serious Strike Studies. Our posts here explore the psychological, mythological, alchemical, structural, intertextual, and archetypal elements in Rowling-Galbraith’s murder mystery series. There are, however, at least three failings in our approach.

Though the posts are as a rule much longer and more in depth than other websites devoted to the subject and our writers more expert in the field, these articles do not constitute a course of study, are a work in progress (i.e., largely speculative), and they are not interactive beyond exchanges in comment box threads. In brief, they’re not systematic or anything like a degree program at a college or university.

If the uber Rowling Reader wanted to pursue a degree in Cormoran Theory or Strike Studies, then, where could he or she go and what would the degree involve? After the jump, I list three pathways to an undergraduate or graduate degree via programs currently on offer at major universities in the US and UK in which a Serious Striker can major in Rowling’s detective fiction. [Read more…]

MuggleNet Reviews ‘Ink Black Heart:’ Harry Potter Fandom Reversing Course?

Irvin Khaytman, author of Dumbledore: The Life and Lies of Hogwarts’s Renowned Headmaster: An Unofficial Exploration and longtime columnist at (where he writes under the pseudonym hpfanboy13), has written a review of Ink Black Heart. [The original article was taken down after I posted this piece; it can still be read at The Wayback Macine archive.] I recommend it with enthusiasm for three reasons.

First, Khaytman is worth reading about anything Rowling writes because of his profound grasp of Potter canon, his wit, and his capacity to turn a phrase to delight and cuff the chin of his reader. An ‘hpfanboy13’ piece on Potter, Fantastic Beasts, or the Strike series is sure to challenge the reader, maybe even make her or him raise either a fist or a toast, and to re-think whatever subject Khaytman explores, to contradict or support his argument.

Second, he knows his Cormoran Strike, though not as well as he does Harry Potter, alas, and is familiar with some of the ideas we discuss here, most importantly, the Parallel Series Theory and the Seven Book Ring. His takes on the echoes of Half-Blood Prince in Strike6 alone are worth the time invested, as you’d expect from this caliber Potter Pundit, and make his decision to write the review for MNet before reading work others have written here and elsewhere seem well-founded.

His ignorance of how ring composition works, of the 5-6 Flip idea, of literary alchemy, of mythology, and of Strike Extended Play, however, will leave those who have been part of the Ink Black Heart conversation here scratching their heads when reading his confessed confusion about some topics and his certainty about others (he’s sure about how 100 pages could be cut from Troubled Blood without affecting the narrative, for example; only someone clueless about the clockwork structure and inner relationship of the Strike5 story parts could say this without blushing). Rowling’s intertextuality or literary allusion, too, outside of references to the apposite Potter book, seems to have totally escaped his consideration.

Despite those failings and blind-spots, I loved Khaytman’s review and his subsequent conversation in the post’s comment thread with Beatrice Groves. I laughed, I groaned, I rubbed my chin and re-read parts that were especially thought-provoking. He is sui generis and a boon to Serious Strikers, a breath of fresh air, really, and a welcome voice. [Read more…]

JKR Live Barmy Army Q&A: A Review

Yesterday’s ‘Barmy Book Army’ live Q&A with Rowling-Galbraith about The Ink Black Heart was a landmark event in the history of the author’s interviews and engagement with fans. Her previous live events were either recorded in advance with questions of her choosing or with children interviewers back in the days of Potter Mania. This really was live, unrehearsed, and, though The Presence got to pick and choose from the avalanche of tweets, Serious Strikers were on hand to ask challenging questions.

Understandably in light of her being hounded by Gender Theory Extremists wherever she appears online, this open door to her twitter feed was restricted to just the 8,600 followers of ‘JKR’s Barmy Book Army.’ The format was simple: 

Barmy Book Army then asked her seven questions to get things rolling, if you will, and the conversation really took off. Rowling began with a long thread of tweets about ‘Sickness in Ink Black Heart,’ which string I have to suspect she had prepared in advance, and then went into ‘reply’ mode. The moderator, true to her word, re-tweeted or flagged comments for her guest’s special attention. The first three and the fifth questions were actually for Barmy Book Army readers rather than Rowling specifically while the fourth, sixth, and the ‘Bonus’ question were for her alone.

After the jump, a review of the questions, Rowling’s most involved statement, the hits and misses among reader questions and Rowling responses, and an explanation of our debt to Nick Jeffery for deploying his skills and savvy to get Barmy Army’s attention and Rowling’s responses to HogwartsProfessor questions. [Read more…]

JKR Live Q&A on Twitter Tomorrow

Rowling-Galbraith’s previous ‘Live Ink Black Heart Q&A‘ tease turned out to be pre-recorded discussion; it was invaluable and a delight, don’t get me wrong, but the twenty-seven questions were chosen or approved by the author months in advance and there was nothing ‘live’ about her interaction with Ink Black Heart readers.

Tomorrow, though, it seems The Presence will be doing an honest-to-God open forum with Strike6 readers on Twitter in support of ‘JKR’s Barmy Book Army‘s discussion of Ink Black Heart. The posted time is 4-5 PM, British Summer Time (BST), which is five hours ahead of American Eastern Time, six of Central, and eight of Pacific. If you’re free tomorrow morning or afternoon, this Twitter feed will be your best shot at getting the questions you want Rowling-Galbraith to answer presented to her.

What will you be asking about Ink Black Heart? After the jump, I share my Top Three questions and one other structural surprise ‘Shot in the Dark’ which I hope someone will ask her (or all the HogPro All-Pros will ask her to flood the line?). What burning Strike6 question do you want her to answer? [Read more…]