Lethal White: The Moving Finger

The author with which J. K. Rowling has most in common in terms of books sold, following, and preferred genre is Agatha Christie. Rowling, however, has said relatively little about the ‘World’s Best Selling Novelist‘ and the ‘Queen of Crime,’ a near silence that made her Christie reflections in her interview with Val McDermid that much more interesting:

Christie who was someone who interested me a great deal because she was writing much of her career to outrun the tax man. Hence her incredibly patchy output. But she could shuffle those cards and fool you, couldn’t she, again and again and again. Sometimes very plausibly, sometimes not so plausibly. But she had that almost mathematical ability to fool you. And that’s something not many could do as well as she did it. Although the quality of writing I know was patchy. My favorite Christie is Moving Finger which is a Miss Marple, but narrated by a man and she does it rather well.

I’d never read Moving Finger but finally bought a copy and read it last week. Here are my ‘Three Points of Interest between Rowling’s “favorite Christie” The Moving Finger and Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike Mysteries’ for your consideration, correction, and comment. After the jump!

(1) The Book, Author, Plot Point Correspondences: As she says, “narrated by a man and she does it rather well.” This is what Rowling set out to do as ‘Robert Galbraith,’ no? The Moving Finger narrator is a pilot who has been in a plane crash and has trouble walking without “two sticks” (crutches?); the novel was written in 1942 so I think it safe to say the reader would naturally think the man an RAF pilot. There is a wonderfully unlikely pair of romances and a Greek goddess femme fatale in the story as well. Which should sound familiar to Serious Strikers. And the conceit of the anonymous letters, though not a feature of any of the first four Strike novels, certainly is a feature of Casual Vacancy.

(2) The Suicide Mystery: The defining murder of the mystery novel is a death the police rule to be a suicide but turns out to be — well, not a suicide. As the players investigating the case say several times, the murderer is a master of “narrative misdirection” (I kid you not). There is a similarity with the seeming suicide set-up in Lethal White, too, both with respect to means and who commits the murder that I’ll let you discover. To the point, the murders of Cuckoo’s Calling and Lethal White are both faked suicides and the growing consensus at HogwartsProfessor is that Strike7 will feature the revelation that Leda Strike’s death was not a suicide, either, but a calculated murder. That Rowling’s “favorite Christie” has as its chief plot point that Galbraith uses for the first and central novels and probably its overarching story is no small thing.

(3) The Shadow of Real Life: Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days in 1926 after she learned that her husband was leaving her for another woman. When she was discovered staying at a spa (under the name of her husband’s lover), Christie claimed to have been suffering from amnesia. The bizarre event that captured national attention and a headlines catching woman-hunt is not mentioned in her autobiography. It may be reflected, however, not so obliquely in the plot of Moving Finger if the popular theory is true that her disappearance was a faked suicide meant to incriminate the cheating husband. It is, I’m sure, the model for Owen Quine’s “disappearance” in The Silkworm and how publishers and the like dismiss it as a publicity stunt until his corpse is found.

That’s a hurried and relatively spoiler free introduction to Moving Finger which I hope serves as a big push for you to pick it up and read it, especially if you are interested in Cormoran Strike.

I’m sure, too, that I’ve missed a lot. What, though, am I missing? Let me know by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by this post’s headline!

Lethal White: Ibsen’s ‘Rosmersholm’

There are at least five good reasons that serious readers of J. K. Rowling should read Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, read it closely, listen to it in performance, and take notes. By making it the source of every chapter epigraph in ‘Robert Galbraith’s’ Lethal White, the centerpiece of the Cormoran Strike mysteries, she is signalling us that this play is something of a key or cipher for the right understanding of her current series.

Odds are that you are not familiar with this play or with Ibsen. That was certainly true in my case until Lethal White was published. I downloaded via Gutenberg.com and then bought a copy of the translation Rowling used; more importantly, I found a recording of a performance of the play my wife was able to put on my son’s ipod (here is another one that is free to download). I have been able to listen to it five times and that has made all the difference to me.

I write this ‘Five Reasons to Read Rosmersholm’ post in order to encourage you to do any one of the above. What follows won’t make any sense to you, though, if you have no idea of what the play is about. The wikipedia Rosmersholm page will help with that, if it, perhaps inevitably, fails to convey any of the drama of the successive revelations that take place act to act in the major players.

If you want to really ‘get’ Lethal White, you need to know Rosmersholm. I explain why after the jump!

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Cormoran Strike: Cuckoo’s Calling

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Cormoran Strike: The Silkworm

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Cormoran Strike: Career of Evil

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