The Ink Black Heart: Parallels to The Cuckoo’s Calling.

As John has pointed out, there are expected Book 1- Book 5 parallels in the Harry Potter series. As such, we went looking for connections between The Cuckoo’s Calling and Troubled Blood. But, with 5-6 flip, we ought to expect some connections between CC and The Ink Black Heart as well as between IBH and CoE,  Do we find them?

A few I can think of:

  1. The murder victim is a female former foster child who earned a large amount of money at a young age (Lula through her modeling career, Edie through the cartoon). Both were on the verge of signing a lucrative new contract when they died.
  2. Both murder victims had money-grubbing uncles who wanted little to do with their niece until the niece got rich.
  3. Both murder victims had druggie boyfriends with whom they had recently broken up (Evan Duffield, Josh Blay).
  4. The murderer had responsibilities for a seriously ill parent.
  5. A child-related conflict destroys Strike’s love for Charlotte (anger over the lies about her alleged pregnancy (or abortion or miscarriage?) in CC; unwillingness to protect the twins from Jago in IBH.)
  6. A victim’s missing cell phone is an important clue to the case.

What others can our readers come up with?

Queen City Mischief and Magic Returns Live to Staunton, VA, September 24-25

After two years of online festivals during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival is back in person this year. Instead of my usual academic programming, I will be running a Science and Magic booth in Do-Good Alley, with some help of some Mary Baldwin University Science Students, as a fundraiser for the CAMK2 Therapeutic Network.

If you are attending, please stop by to say hi, experience cool optical illusions and sensory demos and learn about real-life Fantastic Beasts.

Mention for a special prize!

The Ink Black Heart: Random Comments and What I Liked.

This post is going to be a bit of a dumping ground for a few comments too brief to be worthy of their own posts.  Just a few notes about some of my favorite bits of The Ink Black Heart.

  1. Pat!  I thought she was amazing in this book and I am so glad Strike is finally liking and appreciating the quality of her work. Her shining moment was, of course, her detection of the package bomb and having the presence of mind to get away from it and seek safety behind Strike’s door. The remark about her uncle dying in an IRA bombing helped to remind us that the Troubles weren’t that long ago. I wonder if people like Pat, who were school age at the worst of the violence, were taught how to recognize bombs and what to do if they suspected one— the 1970’s equivalent to today’s active shooter drills in schools. Can any of our UK readers share any insights? And, we’ll have to add fruitcake to the menu of items to serve at our next Strike themed party (Doom Bar, red wine, creosote-colored tea, beef casserole, take-out curry, coffee-walnut cake and lots of chocolates).   Note to self: seek out good British fruitcake recipe.
  2. Flavia! The best kid to come along since Jack—  I’d be open to some matchmaking. You both love her for her intellect and curiosity while at the same time feel terrible for her with that awful family she’s stuck with.  I can only hope that, with Daddy Dearest dead and her cynophobic brother off to jail, she’ll get that puppy. I think she’s earned it.
  3. Robin’s new flat!  Like her, I’ll miss Wolfgang and I wish we had had a few more good talking scenes with Max before she moved, but I am glad she’s got her own digs at last. And Strike’s willingness to sleep on her sofa-bed?  Oh. yeah!  I can’t help but wonder what he looked like in those pajamas.  I am visualizing blue stripes like Uncle Vernon’s.
  4. New staff (not Nutley)!  Midge seems both confident and competent. I had expressed hope that she would arrive with a sexual orientation or relationship status that precluded any attraction between her and Strike, and I got my wish. I also like Dev and his alter-ego, Mr. Massoumi.  I knew I’d like him once we saw he was too decent to work for Mitch Patterson, who, I strongly suspect , hired Morris to replace him. If so, Strike and Ellacott got the better half of that deal.
  5. The blessed event!  I am very happy for Nick and Ilsa, but it appears that their marriage did indeed get permanently damaged by Nick’s reprehensible reaction to the last miscarriage.
  6. The missed kiss!  I may be in the minority here, but I’m glad the kiss didn’t happen. Both were drunk, and Robin was a lot more impaired than Strike. It would have felt wrong for him to initiate something then, especially if it went further than kissing, and I think they would have regretted it.
  7. Henry!  Not so much the kid himself, but the fact that Strike, contrary to his own expectations, could talk to him, and actually seemed to get on pretty well, or at least as well as any teenager is likely to get on with Mummy’s boyfriend.
  8. The anti-Kairos moment!  I was so glad Strike realized, once and for all, that any residual affection for Milady Berzerko is gone; and, interestingly, it was her indifference to her children that finally seems to have snapped the last thread. Between this, Jack and Henry, we are getting indications that Strike could be a successful Daddy some day, after all. I am just really hoping it is not with Madeline.

That’s all for now. I hope to hear what other people especially liked.


Flips, Pentagrams and Expanded Playlists: Why did the tone we expected in Book 5 wind up in Book 6?

We have a lot of hypotheses about why we got such a nigredo-laden book in Strike 6.  They are:

  • 5-6 flip: which supposes that Troubled Blood was originally planned as Book 6, and The Ink Black Heart as Book 5.
  • The Pentagram model: which has the first five books completing the alchemical cycle and the start of a new one in Book 6.
  • The Extended Playlist model: Proposed recently by Kathleen, it suggests Galbraith is splitting the last 2, or possibly 3,  books of the 7-part series into two parts. Under this model, The Ink Black Heart would be either part 6a or 5b.

I’m going to outline some of the evidence I see for 5-6 Flip based on one audiobook listen of IBH. As a refresher, recall that this model predicts 1) Career of Evil parallels, instead of or alongside parallels to The Silkworm 2) Order of the Phoenix parallels, instead or alongside those to Half-Blood Prince and 3) nigredo elements, instead or alongside albedo. Interestingly, though, one of the strongest pieces of evidence is none of these, but rather timeline- and calendar-based.

One thing has always puzzled me.  Lethal White ended in mid-September 2012.  Troubled Blood began in August 2013, almost a full year later. This was the second year-long time jump in the series. There were two good reasons for the year-long jump in the middle of LW:  1) Book 4 absolutely had to be set in the 2012 Olympics and 2) no one wanted to read about a full year of Robin trying to make herself love the Flobberworm, develop panic attacks and feel emotionally distant from Strike.

But why jump a full year between LW and TB? It would have been awesome to see Robin’s early days with Max (and Wolfgang! Sniff!), the curry nights with Nick and Ilsa, Robin’s friendship with them developing (and the dirt they dished on Charlotte), the start of the match-making attempts and the series of incompetent temps that culminated in the the decision to hire Pat. OK, we’d have to see the Flobberworm be a jerk for a year, but the rest would be worth that. Instead, that is all explained after the fact. Obviously, the historical floods of 2014 were important to the story, but as has been stated multiple times, you expect lots of rain in albedo, not nigredo books. Why not tell the nigredo story in that missing year and save the floods for albedo?
That may well have been the original plan. The Ink Black Heart started in October (2014) and finished in June (2015).  Roll the dates back 2 years (Oct 2012-June 2013) and you have a story that fits quite neatly into that missing year.  This, I think, is good evidence that the IBH story was originally meant to be told in that time period.
Second, I can definitely see the Ink Black Heart cartoon as a “text-within-a-text” as stated in Beatrice Grove’s excellent prediction post. But, to me, it doesn’t fit as well as Talbot’s True Book as an analog to either Bombyx Mori, or the Prince’s doctored text. First, those were all actual books. Second, our heroes didn’t wind up actually reading scripts or viewing the cartoon in search of clues to the killer; they instead had to search Twitter and chat rooms for what the fans were saying about the show. That gave it a very different feel to me, and had them examining many different people’s words and the social interactions embedded within the conversations, not the solo narrative of the text. The only person to seriously watch the cartoon was Robin, when she was studying for her moderator’s test, and she didn’t even get to take that.
So, if The Ink Black Heart fits into that missing year, and the main mystery element is a less satisfactory match to the books of The Silkworm and the Half-Blood Prince, are there the decaying skeletons of Career, Order and nigredo buried in the text?  More after the jump! [Read more…]

Strike Speculation: What If Leda and Whittaker Never Had Custody of Switch?

Strike’s much-younger brother, Switch LeVey Bloom Whittaker, has been the subject of much speculation on this and other fan sites. The idea that he would be eventually important to the storyline was reinforced by his somewhat shoe-horned mention in the TV adaptation of Career of Evil, and the Grandpa Whittaker Did It hypothesis assumes that custody of Switch was the motive for Leda’s murder. But, having connected a number of factoids we have gleaned about Strike’s eighth and youngest half-sibling, the likelihood of him being in Leda’s custody at the time of her death seems to be diminishing. Obviously, his parents named him; who but Leda and Whittaker would choose LeVey and Bloom as middle names? But, it seems possible, even likely, that his parents lost custody before Leda died, perhaps even immediately after his birth.

Reader Karol Jay caught the fact that if Leda was 6 months pregnant at Strike’s 18th birthday, on 23 November 1992, and Switch was born in December, he was likely 6-8 weeks premature. Leda, who probably would have favored a hippy-ish natural childbirth, perhaps even a home-birth, would have been forced into hospitalization, and, if Switch was that early, he probably spent some time in the NICU. This, of course, would lead his birth to be scrutinized by the authorities in a way that Cormoran’s and Lucy’s were not. Medical tests could very well have confirmed prenatal exposure to alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs, all of which could have contributed to prematurity, especially in combination with Leda’s advanced maternal age. Little Switch’s frail condition would have likely gotten the attention of home health nurses or social workers, who, if they saw the squalor of the Whittaker-Strike abode, would have almost certainly declared it unfit for any infant, let alone a premature one. This would fit thematically with the other examples of characters who where either themselves removed from a parents care (Lula Landry, Rochelle Onifade, Steve Douthwaite, Jeff Whittaker) or ones whose children were taken (Dorothy Higson, Betty Fuller’s daughter).

If baby Switch was to be taken into care, who would get him?  Big brother Cormoran was of age, at just 18, but still in school and not likely to want or be able to assume responsibility for a baby–and he also lived in the squat. Ted and Joan, who had raised Cormoran and Lucy for half their lives and assumed full-time custody of the latter two years previously, would have been the natural choice. But, this has never been mentioned, and, if Joan had raised a third child of Leda’s, even for a short time, it seems likely that she would want to see that child again once she became terminally ill. Furthermore, if Switch had a stable, loving home with the Nancarrows from infancy, it certainly would not be in his best interests for that placement to be disrupted at age 2, after his mother’s death. This leaves the Whittaker great-grandparents, who were likely at least in their mid-50’s and apparently estranged from the child’s father and grandmother, as the ones who most likely to have been given initial custody. We know that they adopted the boy after Leda’s death, but is it possible that they had custody much earlier, perhaps even immediately after his birth?

Another reason to suspect that Switch was never in his parents’ custody:  If Switch had come home to the communal flat after birth, Cormoran would have lived with the child for nine full months, until he left for Oxford. It would be pretty heartless of Strike to have developed no affection at all for the little tyke. He may have already developed his unease with small children, but this was the period of Whittaker’s “growing tendency towards violence” and Strike was already relying on Shanker to keep that in check. Strike once rescued a cat that Whittaker attempted to bludgeon; it is unreasonable to expect that he would not be equally protective of a baby brother. Yet, so far, he has not shared any memories of Switch’s safety being a concern, only Leda’s (and the cat’s.)  There is also a quite wild but unlikely possibility:  Strike’s pulling a repressed-memory-a-la-Hawkeye-in-the-last-M*A*S*H and the cat he protected (and which Leda refused to believe Whittaker threatened) was not a cat at all, but Little Switch himself.

A final hint: Strike appears to have been in Cornwall, rather than at Oxford, when he learned of Leda’s death in December 1994, since he appears to recall the family, raw from shock, reacting to the news in the St. Mawes home.

Why she had done it, nobody could quite explain, not even Uncle Ted (silent and shattered, leaning against the kitchen sink) or Aunt Joan (red-eyed but angry at her little kitchen table, with her arms around nineteen-year-old Lucy, who was sobbing into Joan’s shoulder). (CC, Ch. 11).

If Strike had been at Oxford when he received the phone call about Leda’s death, he most likely would have immediately traveled the 90 or so minutes southeast to London, not detoured the five-odd hours southwest to Cornwall to be with Ted, Lucy and Joan. This is especially true if Leda’s two-year-old son was living at the flat at the time of her death. Strike was presumably in Cornwall for another reason, perhaps choosing to spend Christmas in St. Mawes rather than in the squat.

With his mother dead and his father arrested for murder (recall, the arrest happened quickly, before Shanker could take him out), someone would need to take charge of little Switch immediately, All of the Cornwall bunch should have hightailed it to London to get the child, unless Switch was already safe in the custody of someone else. Again, the Whittaker great-grandparents are the most logical candidates.

Whether the Whittakers took custody of Switch at birth or right after Leda’s death, the question remains, why them and not the Nancarrows? Surely authorities would favor keeping siblings together, even with the 16-18 year age gap between Switch and his older half-sister and -brother, and the Nancarrows were likely a good 15 years younger than Sir and Lady W., making them better choices to take on a baby. One possibility is that the Whittakers challenged the Nancarrows for custody, in hopes of securing a respectable heir, and, with their deeper pockets for attorneys, they won. Another possibility is that Jeff Whittaker favored his grandparents as caregivers, and somehow preemptively delivered Switch to them, either before or after Leda died. True, Whittaker hated them, but he might have thought his chances of eventually getting the boy back were better if Switch stayed with his side of the family, and, once accused of murder, he had reason to ingratiate himself, since he needed their money for a lawyer. If he had or planned to dispatch Leda, he might have assumed that Switch would inherit at least a third of Leda’s supposedly hidden wealth and, once acquitted, he would be able to access it as the boy’s father. We know he tried to kidnap his son a year or so after his release; perhaps that was an effort to get hold of the inheritance that he thought Leda had left behind.

The circumstances of Switch’s birth, when he went to his great-grandparents’ care and where he was when his mother died are certainly all questions that need to be answered as the mystery of Leda’s death is probed.