Will The Ink Black Heart Reveal the Circumstances of Strike’s Medal?

Troubled Blood cleared up one oft-mentioned part of Strike’s history: the two times he had met his biological father. We can hope that, as the series progresses with the eagerly anticipated The Ink Black Heart, to hear more about Strike’s history.  One possibility, mentioned by Joanne Gray way back in April, before we even knew the title, was that we might finally learn the circumstances under which Strike was decorated for bravery.

The medal was mentioned in all three of the first Strike books, but relatively little is known about it, including its current location. We have never seen or heard of the medal being in Strike’s attic flat or the boxes of items Strike brought from Charlotte’s, which makes me think it is on display in either Lucy’s or Ted’s home. I know I won’t have trusted Charlotte not to destroy it, given her hatred of his Army career. And we know that it is a source of tremendous pride for his family. Jack drew a picture of Uncle Cormoran getting his medal on his homemade birthday card for Strike in The Silkworm.

Many people, Robin among them, who met Cormoran Strike after his Army career assume the medal was awarded for his heroism in the IED explosion that cost Strike his leg. That certainly seems to be Carver’s impression in The Cuckoo’s Calling.

“He’s ex-SIB,” threw in Wardle, from beside the filing cabinet.

“I know that,” barked Carver, raising wiry eyebrows flecked with scurf. “I’ve heard from Anstis all about the fucking leg and the life-saving medal. Quite the colorful CV.”

Strike doesn’t bother correcting him. It is not until Career of Evil that we learn the medal was awarded for something entirely different, during his conversation with Robin about the significance of his missing leg.

“There’s nothing heroic about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“You’re a decorated veteran.”

“I wasn’t decorated for being blown up. That happened before.”

“You’ve never told me that.” She turned to face him, but he refused to be sidetracked.

So, we know the medal was for bravery, and, if Carver is to be believed, (not a given), for saving someone’s life, and well before he dragged Anstis to the back of the vehicle in the IED explosion. However,  Strike seems to actively avoid talking about the circumstances under which he earned it. So, what could the circumstances be?

We’ve heard mentions of Strike traveling all over the world during his Army career: Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Bosnia, Nairobi, Cyprus, Germany. One of the more interesting mentions is from Bosnia, where a faulty cell phone data dump triggered a series of mishaps that almost got a good friend killed in Mostar.  Could the heroics of this mission have been the reason for the medal, as well as leaving Strike with an ongoing mistrust of electronic mapping devices?

We also know that Strike has a particularly hair-trigger temper regarding any mention of child sexual abuse: hence the punching of Brockbank and the drunken dinner party argument. Not that this is an unreasonable response to such a crime, but it is at odds with his “you can’t save everyone— there are kids being abused all over” attitude of Career of Evil. Could the event have involved busting a child porn or sex trafficking ring? We know he worked on a case like that in Kosovo– which is not far from Bosnia.

Finally, we know he has another godson out there besides Timothy Cormoran Anstis. Could this child be the son of a different colleague that he saved, or worse, failed to save? Or a child trafficking victim he rescued?

Finally , when was the medal awarded?  Strike was in the army about 15 years, from shortly after Leda’s death in late 1994 until the IED explosion in May-September 2007, and then for about 18 months more, while he was hospitalized and recovering. I have speculated that it was awarded in his mid-20’s, that Nick and Ilsa were invited to the ceremony, and reunited there, each dumping their current partners and marrying a year later.

Surely, even if they did not attend the ceremony, Nick and Ilsa know the circumstances of the medal. It is curious that they have not yet told Robin, and that she has not asked. I guess she’s still too fixated on Charlotte. Dave Polworth presumably knows, and likely Hardacre and Anstis, along with Strike’s blood relatives. Will one of them spill the beans to Robin?

Here’s hoping for answers in The Ink Black Heart.

Evanna Lynch Denies “Rift” Between JK Rowling and Harry Potter Cast

Evanna Lynch, the actress J.K. Rowling said “was Luna Lovegood” spoke about the Harry Potter Reunion special, and rejected the idea that there was any major “rift” between the author and the actors that became stars in her work. She does, however, speak of “difficult conversations” between the cast and the author and expresses hope for “healing.”  I encourage readers to view her full statement. 

As someone who considers many of JKR’s tweets to be both misguided and hurtful to the transgender community, but who nonetheless appreciates the brilliance of her writing and intends to keep reading it, I find Ms. Lynch’s approach refreshing and comforting. It is not clear who the “us” is that she doesn’t want to “keep fighting”– her fellow cast members and JKR or JKR and the wider Twitter community, but she is clearly, as the anchor puts it, a peacemaker, who states that she, and her castmates have “great love and respect” for Ms. Rowling, despite disagreement with her views. 

Ms. Lynch is a woman of strong opinions herself, as a vegan and an animal activist. She has been open about how both correspondence with her favorite author and the Harry Potter books helped her recover from a serious eating disorder. I am happy to hear that she, at least, does not believe Ms. Rowling’s limited involvement with the reunion special is the result of any type of “cold shoulder.” If, as Ms. Lynch suggests, JKR is “busy writing books,” maybe we’ll have The Ink Black Heart in hand that much sooner. 

 

Mia Thompson: The Mysterious Aussie Gaffe-fixer of Cuckoo’s Calling

Last October, I started a Twitter-based read-along of all the Cormoran Strike books, sponsored by our fellow Serious Strikers from Strikefans.com.  Some of the group who had read the books in print earlier had chosen to listen to Robert Glennister’s outstanding audiobooks this time around. Imagine my surprise when, during the Cuckoo’s Calling review,  someone asked “What happened to the Australian saleswoman at Vashti’s?”

“What Australian saleswoman at Vashti’s?” asked I, and several others. 

There are many continuity errors in the Harry Potter series, and some of the more egregious (such as James emerging first from Voldemort’s wand in the climax of Goblet of Fire) were corrected in later editions. But this was the first I had heard of a change in a later edition of a Cormoran Strike novel. 

Who is this mysterious Australian lady, about whom those of us who read the earliest edition of Cuckoo’s Calling had never heard?  Find out after the jump.

[Read more…]

JKR Tweets Strike News: “Ink Black Heart” as Title for Strike 6 Confirmed.

JKR dropped a fascinating tweet today regarding the sixth Strike book. The graphic makes it almost certain that The Ink Black Heart, as Strike Sleuths here had already guessed in April, is the title.

Update:  Another tweet confirmed that The Ink Black Heart is it!

Let the eager anticipation and predictions begin!

 

Some Thoughts on my First Listen Through the Harry Potter audiobooks.

After all my years of Harry Potter fandom and academic work, I had never listened to the English language audiobook productions, though I had listened to Philosopher’s Stone a few times in Spanish.  I decided to rectify that this year, listening to them all on my daily commute.

Some random thoughts, and things I noticed this time through.  An incomplete list, to be sure, since I am not in the place to take down notes in the car.

Sorcerer’s Stone:  In the Forbidden Forest detention, Neville “panics” and sends up red sparks when Malfoy grabs him from behind.  Panics?  It looks to me like Neville actually kept his head and did exactly what Hagrid had told him to do at the first sign of trouble. For him to have the presence of mind to use the right spell under those circumstances is quite an accomplishment for the kid who has trouble with magic. Malfoy, on the other hand, when confronted with the horror of Voldemort feasting on the unicorn blood, screams, turns tail and runs, followed by Fang, the dog Hagrid describes as a coward. A nice early example of Neville showing Gryffindor-style courage, and a fair bit of magical talent (when he needs it), in contrast to Malfoy’s cowardice.

It also reminded me a bit of Robin Ellacott successfully defending herself when Morris grabs her from behind.

Chamber of Secrets:  I had forgotten that the name Mundungus Fletcher came up this early in the series.

Prisoner of Azkaban: During the Dementor patrol on the Hogwarts Express, Ginny had almost as severe a reaction to the dementor as Harry. Of course, she is the only one besides Harry who has also had a close encounter with Voldemort.

Order of the Phoenix: As he is walking Cho down to Hogsmeade for their disastrous Valentine’s date, Harry looks up at the Quidditch pitch, and feels a “horrible pang that he was not up there with them.”  The two people he specifically mentions seeing are Ron and Ginny. Could this be a preview of his attraction to her?

Half-Blood Prince: Snape told us back in Philosopher’s Stone that the Draught of Living Death was made with powdered root of asphodel and an infusion of wormwood.  Here, the potion students seem to be doing something quite different, chopping up valerian root and sopophourous beans.

Slughorn drops the Dirk Cresswell name as another example of a Muggleborn who made the Slug Club. The poor guy meets a tragic end in Deathly Hallows.

Deathly Hallows: Voldy thinks he is the only one who ever discovered the Hall of Lost Things?  Then who does he think put all that stuff in there?

The closing line of Elphias Doge’s tribute to Dumbledore describes him as: “to his last hour, as willing to stretch out a hand to a small boy with dragon pox as he was on the day that I met him.” Elphias has no way of knowing that, in his literal last hour, Dumbledore did try to extend a helping hand to a boy named “Dragon” who certainly had a figurative “pox” on his house, with his family in disgrace and his desperate efforts to redeem it through murder.

Some nice Easter Eggs in this brief view of the Battle of Hogwarts:

Harry saw Yaxley slammed to the floor by George and Lee Jordan, saw Dolohov fall with a scream at Flitwick’s hands, saw Walden Macnair thrown across the room by Hagrid, hit the stone wall opposite, and slide unconscious to the ground. He saw Ron and Neville bringing down Fenrir Greyback, Aberforth stunning Rookwood, Arthur and Percy flooring Thicknesse…

  • The twin’s friend Lee is at George’s side now, after the loss of Fred. “River Jordan” has become the friend who sticks closer than a brother.
  • I love seeing “tiny” Professor Flitwick take down one of the most powerful Death Eaters, the guy who, among his many crimes, killed Molly Weasley’s brothers in the first Wizarding War.
  • Hagrid gets to defeat Buckbeak’s would-be executioner!
  • Neville is fighting by Ron’s side, taking Harry’s place in the Trio, just as Harry had wanted. And, together, they are taking down the one who earlier had grievously injured (or killed?) Ron’s ex, Lavender Brown, on top of his having bitten Remus Lupin. thereby avenging both a fellow Gryffindor and a teacher, who was especially kind to Neville.
  • After two year’s estrangement over Percy siding with the ministry over his family, father and son team up to defeat Pius Thicknesse, the current Minister of Magic.

Please join in and add any details that jump out at you upon re-reading or re-listening.