The Case for Nick Herbert as Leda Strike’s Killer.

This post is a follow-up to my earlier account of the vicious side of Nick Herbert we saw in Troubled Blood. While I am not necessarily married to the idea of Nick as the killer–if I were placing a bet, my money would still be on Grandpa Whittaker–I am going to argue that every argument our Headmaster makes for Dave Polworth, Leda-Slayer, applies as well or better to the good Dr. Nick.

Let’s look first at what we know about Nick and Strike’s friendship. Despite his nomadic childhood, there seems to have been a relative period of stability, at least in regard to the family’s physical home, from the time Strike was 16 to 18. Apart from a brief period at age 16 when he was again “dumped” in Cornwall, he seems to have lived in the same squat from roughly the time Leda took up with Whittaker, until he left for university. During this period, 14-year-old Lucy left to live in St. Mawes for good, Shanker became a regular presence in the flat, and Strike took up boxing and focused on his schoolwork, in preparation  for applying for university.

This is also the time his friendship with his comprehensive schoolmate Nick Herbert developed. Nick and Cormoran would seem to be natural allies, with both trying to escape their working-class (or, in Strike’s case, indigent) upbringings for something better. Nick was a cab driver’s son, but aspired to be a doctor, while Strike, despite his itinerant lifestyle, was smart enough to enter and excel at Oxford. Strike seemed to have a good relationship not just with Nick but with his dad, who taught him shortcuts around London. The boys were close enough by the time they were 18 to have a joint birthday party in a local pub, a fete that was apparently elaborate enough that family and friends from Cornwall attended. This was, of course, where Nick first met Ilsa, whom he dated for a year afterwards. 

Nick, therefore, would have been in a position to know what kind of hell Strike was living with in life with Whittaker. He would have presumably been as annoyed as Uncle Ted when Whittaker disrupted the party with his singing. He probably had at least some acquaintance with Shanker, who would have had no qualms about speaking, loudly, about every one of Whittaker’s excesses, even if Strike was more discreet regarding his mother’s lifestyle. But how could this have led to Nick bumping off his good mate’s mother, some two years later, when he and Strike are both university students?  Let’s look closer after the jump. 

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Troubled Blood: The Dark Sides to Two Old Mates

One of the most notable moments of Troubled Blood was when Strike acknowledged Robin as his “best mate.” Up until that moment, Robin had assumed that title belonged to Dave Polworth; other readers might have assumed it was Nick Herbert. By the end of Troubled Blood, however, both men have shown their darker sides. It is easy to see why Robin has been promoted to best bud as well as detective partner.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Dave’s service in this book. His assistance to Joan, Ted, Strike and Lucy was admirable, He provided physical help– everything from home repairs to taking them food in the flood to, most importantly, leading the team that escorted Lucy and Strike through the floodwaters so they could be at Joan’s deathbed. And, he gave Strike and Ted emotional support, through his pub invitations, serving as a pallbearer and his presence at the scattering of Joan’s ashes. He is a loyal friend, through and through. 

But, like Strike, he’s a bit of a jerk at times. His hyper-nationalism, to to point of wanting to restrict the purchase of property in Cornwall to those who can prove ancestry, is off-putting, even to Strike. He’ll win no awards as either Husband- or Father -of-the-Year. He’s an excessively permissive parent, allowing his girls to run wild, even at a funeral wake. He had no qualms about quitting his job and uprooting his family, without even the decency to consult his wife about the plan first. And, in his opening scene in the book, he laid his misogynistic streak bare for the world to see, acknowledging that he saw marriage, first and foremost, as a cheap and convenient path to regular sex. All in all, despite his service to the Nancarrows, I found myself liking this version of Dave Polworth less than I did the guy who made several icy dives in search of Liz Tassel’s typewriter. 

But, there’s another “old mate” of Strike’s who goes down several notches for me in Troubled Blood: his London schoolmate and man of the always-free-spare-room, Nick Herbert.  I’ll tell you why after the jump. 

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2020 Harry Potter Academic Conference Recorded Talks Are Now Available Online

Updated to include keynote address by Dr. Timothy Snyder!!

One of the advantages of the Harry Potter Academic Conference at Chestnut Hill College going online this year is that people from further away could attend, and that several presenters who pre-recorded their talks are sharing them through Youtube, personal websites or other venues.

I am including the link to my humor talk here (‘Beyond Zonko’s: Psychological Explanations of Humor in the Wizarding World’). In addition, I have listed several others below the jump and will continue to add more as I become aware of them.

All opinions expressed in the several talks described and linked to below are those of the individual presenters and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of the HogwartsProfessor faculty members.

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Lethal White TV Production: Louise’s Review of the Bronte Strike 4 Adaptation

We interrupt the fascinating discussion of Troubled Blood for a brief review of another recent Cormoran Strike release:  the Bronte Film and Television production of Lethal White for the BBC. It premiered on August 30 in the UK, and, at four episodes, was the longest Strike season to date. The most notable bit of casting was Robert Glenister, brilliant narrator of all five Strike audiobooks, as Jasper Chiswell. We Yanks haven’t had official access to the production yet, though it, like the other Strike series, will presumably turn up on Cinemax.

But, a YouTuber calling himself Nikolas Ravenclaw has posted all four episodes (with Greek subtitles) as well as the two Career of Evil episodes. US Strike fans might be well-advised to seek it out before the copyright police step in.

I have watched the series a couple of times and have written out my impressions here after the jump.  Many spoilers ahead!

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Tune into Queen City Mischief and Magic for the Hogwarts Professor’s first public talk, post-Troubled Blood

I was fortunate enough to be able to recruit our Headmaster for a Zoom-recorded conversation on the Cormoran Strike Series for the online Queen City Mischief and Magic festival, in this, the Year that Shall Not Be Named. This is, to my knowledge, the first public speech he has given that mentions Troubled Blood, its place in the Strike series and its connections, as predicted, to both Order of the Phoenix and Career of Evil.   

The talk was aimed at convincing adult Harry Potter fans who have not yet checked out the series to do so, and, as such, we avoid major spoilers.  There is no mention of the the killers in each book and the major developments in romantic relationships of the protagonists.

Nonetheless, Serious Strikers are invited to tune in to Facebook see the presentation.  Please leave your comments on the festival page (and hashtag your favorite Hogwarts House to earn festival points!) but please no spoilers.

Thank you, John!