Creosote-Colored Tea Leaves: Louise’s First Musings for Cormoran Strike 5

As has been pointed out multiple times by John Granger and others, the Cormoran Strike series seems to be following a pattern of parallels to the Harry Potter series, with Book 2 centered on the havoc wreaked by a mysterious autobiographical book, Book 3 on a notorious escaped criminal stalking the protagonist and Book 4 on patricide of a government minister, set against the backdrop of a major sporting event. For this reason, we should expect echoes of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Cormoran Strike 5.

John has also pointed out the multiple ring structures in the Harry Potter series, with similar themes in books 1, 4, and 7; 2 and 6; and 3 and 5. The large number of parallels seen between Cuckoo’s Calling and Lethal White suggest the pattern is continuing with the Cormoran Strike series. Thus we should expect echoes from both Career of Evil and Order of the Phoenix in the next installment of Robin’s and Cormoran’s adventures.

With that in mind, I’m going to start a few preliminary muses about themes, ideas and storylines that might come up. Keep in mind this is pure, very early speculation. More after the jump.

Order of the Phoenix took a scathingly satirical look at a government more interested in making itself look good than in serving its citizens, and in collusion with a media more interested in selling papers than speaking the truth. It also roasted the government-controlled educational system, with Dolores Umbridge introduced as the most incompetent teacher and oppressive administrator ever seen.

So, one possibility is that Cormoran and Robin could find themselves in trouble with the law-– perhaps even charged with a crime, standing trial at the start of the book and having their butts saved by a savvy defense attorney (read: Ilsa). Arguing against this is the fact that the Dynamic Duo were actually on good terms with the police, for a change, with the Met having finally wised up and decided, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Geriant Winn would undoubtedly like to see Robin in court for bugging his office, but he will presumably not be in a position to do much about it, once his wife-the-minister divorces him, and Cormoran certainly has the dirt on him, between the charity fraud, the railroad station blowjobs and rumors of sexual improprieties in front of young girls.  Having solved the murder of a conservative minister, presumably there will not be many in Parliament eager to throw the book at the agency, nor many judges willing to lift the ban on Jimmy Knight and allow him to sue Strike for assault.

Could Cormoran and Robin be unfairly targeted or mercilessly hounded by the press? Almost certainly; this has been a recurrent theme in every book to date. So, while I think this will happen, I think it is unlikely to be the root of the central mystery in CS 5. Been there, done that.

So, I’m going for my third possibility as my official first prediction: the storyline will involve some sort of scandal, corruption or crime in an educational setting. According to Wikipedia, one major news story of February 2013–within the possible time for the next in the series–was the controversy over plans (ultimately abandoned) to replace the British General Certificate of Secondary Education with a more rigorous “English Baccalaureate.” The issues raised in this debate included questions of dumbing down the curriculum, to what extent the government should meddle in the school system and whether it was appropriate to eliminate students from certain career paths based on single exam scores at age 15. This sounds a lot like what Harry and friends faced in Year 5, with Professor Umbridge as the meddling government official, banning wands as too dangerous for use in DADA class. There is also the pressure of the OWLs, with Harry, the most skilled DADA student of his generation nearly having his career as an Auror derailed by scoring only “Exceeds Expectations” rather than “Outstanding” in Potions. It would indeed be exciting if the baccalaureate issue in some way formed a backdrop to the story. Or, perhaps I’m just a bit overconfident after my successful Olympics guess.

The major character echo in Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix was the Prisoner and Order member himself, Sirius Black. The most important event, and arguably one of the low points of the entire series—the depths of nigredo, as Alchemical Master Granger might say–was his death at the end of Order of the Phoenix, a death made more tragic because Harry, with some justification, blamed himself. Despite warnings, he let his “saving-people thing” trip him up, allowed Voldemort trick him into believing Sirius needed rescuing, and went off on a fool’s errand to the ministry.

If this theme repeats, it is bad news for at least one our heroes’ close allies, who is destined to bite the veil in the next volume. But who? Assuming it was someone who we first got to know well in Career of Evil, I have narrowed the field to two, depending on which of our protagonists makes the fatal error. If Strike, I believe the victim will be Shanker; if Robin, the victim will be officer Vanessa Ekwensi.

Shanker makes a pretty good Sirius-echo. He’s reckless, daring and has spent half his life in jail. He was mentioned in Book One as a source of information with which Strike can bargain, much as Sirius was mentioned as a mere motorbike-owner in Philosopher’s Stone. But he finally comes onstage in Career of Evil where Robin, like Harry, assumes at their first meeting he means her harm, but later comes to trust him fully. As for Strike, he is closer to Shanker than to most of his blood relatives, and depends on him for help and information. If Strike lets emotion override his common sense and takes off on an ill-fated rescue mission, Shanker is the natural choice to enlist to help. Sadly, I am visualizing tea leaves on the bottom Strike’s creosote-stained mug spelling out, “Die, Shanker, die!”

Of course, Robin could also be the one to put caution to the wind and drag Shanker off on a risky mission, just as she did in Career. Although, Shanker has promised Strike he wouldn’t let that happen again. The next logical choice to perish assisting the Titian-haired Temp would be her friend Vanessa Ekwensi. And if John is right about her name and race being a reference to the black Vanessa atalanta butterfly of Nabokov’s Pale Fire…  well, the “black” part certainly doesn’t bode well for her.

We should, over course, expect other characters introduced in Career of Evil to reappear in Book 5. Of the three main suspects, Laing and Brockbank are presumably in jail, leaving Whittaker as the likely candidate. Young Stephanie could well turn up dead, leading Strike and Robin on a personal mission to prove Whittaker killed her; Strike motivated by his hatred for ex-Stepdad Dearest and Robin by her guilt at not being able to help the young woman she befriended. Cormoran’s investigation could naturally lead him to learn more about Leda’s death and his own fragmented childhood, analogous to Harry’s search for the prophecy in Goblet of Fire. Perhaps we’ll get more hints about what Jonny Rokeby was doing behind the scenes and what really happened with the anachronistic DNA test, though I doubt the full story on that will be revealed until later in the series,

Onto some slightly less grisly topics:

Another possibility is that Whittaker’s son, Switch LaVey Bloom, will make an appearance–he would be 20, likely a university student and ready to meet his famous half-brother. Maybe it is his university where the education-related mystery unfolds? A final option would be Brittany Brockbank. I’ll admit that my speculation about these two is fueled partially by their mention (SLBW)  and appearance (BB) in the TV version of Career of Evil. 

Robin will likely have to worry more about her divorce from the Flobberworm than catching killers, as he is liable to fight her getting even a portion of their joint bank account, which contains the proceeds from their flat sale. Ilsa can probably recommend a good lawyer, and Strike presumably knows a little something about evidence that can be used against straying, spying and emotionally abusive spouses. She may need their encouragement to properly advocate for herself. Cormoran, for his part,  has the sale of his building to worry about. They may find themselves with more financial than legal problems, at least in the short-term.

Because of these complications, I think the budding attraction between Robin and Strike will cool off for now, as both will have reasons to make sure Matthew has no basis for his suspicions of Robin and Strike’s relationship. I noticed that there were few if any instances of Robin musing over her attraction to Strike after she left the Flobberworm, and had the breakdown on the verge. In fact, even as he is buying her champagne, they are speaking mostly as co-workers; he calls her, for the first time ever, “Ellacott” instead of Robin, and even their jokes–a sign they are re-gaining their own comfort levels– are in the context of their boss-employee relationship.  “Maybe you could put that on the next employee satisfaction review. ‘Not as bloody annoying as the woman who shagged my husband.’ I’ll have it framed.”

I actually think Robin might be the one to date someone new in the next book, once the divorce is settled, much as Order of the Phoenix began and ended Harry and Cho’s ill-fated romance. In the era of #metoo, I think JKR will be wary of having Cormoran and Robin become an official couple while he’s still her boss. Perhaps once they become agency co-owners, which could happen if Robin’s divorce settlement helps them avoid eviction from Denmark Street. But, in the meantime, I hope they can stabilize their genuine friendship and working relationship before the romance develops further. Cormoran also needs to work on becoming closer to Lucy and Jack: he’s been as emotionally distant from his sister’s family as he has from the women he’s slept with, but hopefully got a wake-up call on that front with Jack’s hospitalization. 

Besides, Cormoran will have enough on his hands with Charlotte, who will undoubtedly be making him miserable. Whether she will actively try to destroy him or attempt to lure him back into her clutches as a (genuine?) victim of domestic violence remains to be seen. Was she ever pregnant with Cormoran’s child? Was her quick marriage to Ross because she convinced him she was carrying the Potential Male Heir, and, when that didn’t pan out, was she pressured into fertility treatments to produce the Promised Son? The other wild card is Tom, who holds Matthew’s employment over his head, and who may have cottoned on to the affair before Robin let herself see it. He appears to be trying to warn her to be vigilant as early as the house-warming and his unexpected explosion at Matthew later suggests he was at least having strong suspicions. He could do enough damage to the Flobberworm to help Robin out.

Finally, if someone other than the Flobberworm sent the 50 roses whose card was never read, Book 5 is the logical time to find that out. 

Some other questions that need answers, though not necessarily in the next book:

  1. Who is Strike’s second godchild? We’ve been told he has two, yet only met little Timothy Cormoran. Who, besides someone whose life he had saved, would be foolish enough to name Strike, confirmed child-disliker and apparently not religious, godfather?
  2. What was Leda’s original surname and why was she so eager to change it and give a two-week husband’s to her son?  We’ve heard lots about Rokeby, the father whose name he doesn’t use; will we ever learn anything about the original Mr. Strike, whose name he uses? For that matter, are there any other maternal relatives besides Uncle Ted?
  3. Will we ever learn more of the other Rokeby-spawn beyond Al? I am particularly curious about the illegitimate daughter, the ironically-named Prudence.
  4. What’s the full story of Dave Polworth and why was he, along with the army and the agency, among the things Charlotte wanted Cormoran to give up to prove her love for her? 
  5. Is there more to the story of the IED explosion, especially given the hint from the TV show of the child who could have shot Strike, but didn’t?

So, to sum up for those keeping a score, I predict:

1. An education-related case to solve.

  • Possibly related to aborted English educational reforms of 2013.

2. Shanker dies; Strike blames himself.

  • Alternate prediction: Vanessa dies, Robin blames herself.

3. Whittaker versus Strike, Round Two. With baby brother in the mix. 

  • Alternate: Brittany Brockbank turns up; Strike gets a redo in helping her.

4. Cooling of Strike-Robin romance for now.

  • Possible new, short-term relationship for Robin.

5. Matthew and Charlotte as major sources of trouble.

  •  Conflict over joint bank account with flat proceeds as divorce settlement.
  • Charlotte uses real or fabricated abuse issue to recapture “Bluey.”
  • Rose mystery possibly solved.

6. Financial issues related to sale of building.

  • May connect to Robin’s divorce, if she is reluctant to fight for her legal share, but might do so if money needed to keep office. This could lead to her becoming the business co-owner.

Some final questions for our British readers to help us Yanks suss this out:

  1. Were the proposed education reforms of 2013 a big enough news story to be written into Book 5? How newsworthy, compared to say, the Royal Wedding or the Olympics?
  2. How long does a typical divorce take in the U.K.? Would documenting Matthew’s misbehavior: the infidelity, the cell phone tampering, the attempted assault–she’s got the ripped green dress as evidence–get Robin a higher financial settlement?
  3. Are British detective agencies licensed? I noticed Strike worries about trouble with the police and the press, but never about losing his professional license. A licensing board would seem to be the logical body to discipline P.I’s for illegal bugs. Most states in the US require licenses to work as a P.I. 


  1. Dr. Freeman,

    After being able to think of only two ways for book for to go (an either/or choice between the comic and the tragic) I have to say your theory is the one that hits the target dead on.

    I like the idea of Strike trying to solve a case involving the future of the British school because of the thematic potential it offers. Such a plot would, or could, involve Rowling making possible thematic link with some classic works of the detective genre.

    If Strike were to take on a case involving the English educational system, it could, potentially, mean we get to see the Sleuth of Denmark and his Gal Friday make their first visit to closest site England has to a Hogwarts, Oxford University.

    I just like the idea of the grim and ungainly Strike trying to find clues around the prim and proper settings of one the finest centers of learning/Inkling base of operations. Such a setting would also serve as a literary callback to another great crime yarn set in the OU. I’m thinking here of Dorothy Sayers “Gaudy Night”. Part of that novels thematic structure was the controversial for the time subject of women being given the opportunity to study for a University degree. There was a lot more going on in the Sayers book, though, and it’s just an interesting thought that Rowling might decide to tread a similar path.

    That said, the nature of the Robin’s backstory makes me wonder if her old school would make an ideal setting for the mystery. It would prove something of a challenge for Robin to revisit the scenes of trauma from her past, and how well she can cope with it in the present.

    My final reason for hoping an investigation of the UK school system is in the cards is because of the literary alchemical potential inherent in such a plot. By that I mean that it could be a chance for Rowling to at least hint at the metaphysical nature of the classical Trivium.

    After giving it some thought, the closest thing I can find to something like a Founding Document for the ideas of both “The School, or Center of Learning”, and it’s curriculum, is a treatise written by Martianus Capella. It’s title is “On the Marriage of Mercury and Philology”.

    It’s a lecture couched in an allegory. The allegorical myth tells of the betrothal of the two titular gods, one of them being none other than the Roman version of Hermes Trismegistus. The lecture within the fiction is Capella setting forth his case for the value of what has to amount to the first historical ordering of the modern educational curriculum. It seems to be the work which marks the first appearance of the Seven Liberal Arts. The difference is how Capella both presents and perceives to be the purpose of a school education.

    In contrast to modern schools, which seems to be focused on acquiring enough skills to make a successful entrance to the job market (if it exists), Capella saw the goal of training in the Liberal Arts as the shaping of character. This is important because for Capella, the character of a human being was that’s person’s essence. In other words, in the Middle Ages, the character was the Soul of a man. Here is where Capella’s use of literary alchemy is so important. He likens education to an alchemical experiment that shapes the soul of the student into the perfect soul. The school is the vessel, the Liberal Arts are the ingredients, and the character of the student is the material to be worked on.

    It would make an almost too perfect sense if Rowling were to utilize Book 5 as a partial vehicle to elucidate the hermetic-religious character of the Liberal Arts as part of that book’s satire or allegory. For this reason, I wish your theory the very best.

    A good recourse for Capella’s treatise can be found here:


    It just occurs to me that Charlotte would be the perfect Heir to the Umbrage legacy.

  2. Joanne Gray says

    Louise, you have come up with some wonderfully inclusive speculation for Strike Book 5. I confess that you have touched on some events that I think have a chance of being proven correct in future books. Ever since reading in Career of Evil that Shanker was “in charge” of looking after Leda while Cormoran went off to Oxford–and that she was killed during that time–I thought it was likely Shanker would be killed during the investigation that he and Cormoran would eventually undertake to solve her murder.

    I also like your idea about the educational setting for Strike Book 5. JK Rowling has admitted that both Cormoran’s admission to Oxford and his knowledge of Latin figure into important plot points of his life story of how he managed to gain admission to Oxford, especially given his extremely erratic educational history. Getting into Oxford definitely requires, not only the right academic credentials, but the money to do so.

    I have no doubt Cormoran’s intellectual abilities would qualify him for admission to Oxford but that is only one of the hurdles he would have to get past. How did he manage all the other barriers in his way? Then there is also the question of how (and why) did he learn Latin?

    Since there was a great deal about Leda scattered throughout the 3rd book, I hope we will finally see some solid dates (in Book 5) surrounding her story and Cormoran’s own birth and childhood: When did Cormoran have the DNA test? When and what were the circumstances behind the two times Cormoran met Jonny Rokeby; to name just a couple of the many questions.

    In my research it appears that it takes at least a year–for an uncontested divorce–to become final in England. I think that means that Robin will not be truly divorced until the end of Book 5–at the earliest. We probably won’t see any suitors for her until Book 6.

  3. This is just the site I have been looking for. An intelligent discussion about the books.
    I have no idea of what the mystery of book 5 would or could be, but the ideas in the article make sense. I have more ideas about the characters.
    Mathew will give Robin all kinds of difficulties about the divorce. Without Robin’s knowledge, Strike assigns the elusive Andy to follow him and gets the evidence that Mathew is continuing his affair with Sara. Strike confronts Mathew with the evidence and effectively blackmails him into dropping his objections to the divorce and giving Robin half of everything in the bank account.
    Robin uses the money to buy into the agency, for what ever reason, and it becomes Strike and Ellacott Investigations. Robin enrolls in Open University and starts to finish her degree.
    Charlotte does leave Jago. She leaves a letter stating she always loved Strike, she only married Jago to spite Strike and she is going to Strike to make him love her again. Jago storms into the office demanding Strike tell him where she is. Strike calms him down by taking him upstairs to his attic flat and asking if Charlotte would live in a place like this. Jago realizes she isn’t there and isn’t likely to come there. While they are upstairs, Strike clears up the so called dinner at the Franco’s and explains why he left her. He couldn’t take her chaos any longer and wouldn’t take her back even if she showed up on his doorstep wearing nothing but 6 inch heals and a mink coat. Jago asks to hire Strike to find her, but he refuses. This, he reasons, is just what Charlotte wants. She wants to entangle both of them in her chaos and lies and he won’t buy into it any more. He does ask Robin to give Jago some tips on finding missing persons so he can start a search himself. He might even recommend another investigator.
    I don’t think Robin will get involved with anyone else so soon after Mathew. After she left him she determined that investigation was her life and, I may be wrong, it had no room for relationships. She also told Strike she wanted to learn more, get better at the job and make the agency the best in London.
    Even with all their baggage, Robin and Strike begin to realize they are happier with each other than with anyone else. That’s a beginning.

  4. Louise Freeman says

    Welcome, Rita! I am glad you are joining the discussion! Please invite any other serious Strikers you know to join us!

    I could very well see the Jago/Charlotte thing happening and the scene of Viscount Ross in Strike’s flat would be priceless. I hope Cormoran will be able to resist Charlotte as well as he has been, but I have a feeling she will get her hooks into him at least once more before the series is over.

    On the other hand, I think Robin would be furious if Strike tangled with Matthew behind her back. She made it clear before she’s had enough of other people deciding what’s best for her.

  5. Thank’s for the welcome. I agree that Robin would be furious if she found out Strike tangled with Matthew but, I don’t think she would. Matthew sure wouldn’t tell her Strike found out about a continuing affair with Sara and Strike wouldn’t tell her he had Matthew followed. Well maybe on their 25th wedding anniversary he might.

  6. Lots of fun predictions! Is JKR breaking the rules of detective fiction if she kills off a core character? Doesn’t detective fiction inherently have enough deaths without adding more? Obviously, Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes but only to resurrect him later. And Christie’s “Curtain” that kills off Poirot was published when she was in her eighties as almost her last book. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just attached to Shanker and Vanessa. But I feel like we didn’t get the warning shot like we did in Goblet with Cedric’s death, where we know that anyone really can die. But I do I think we’ll get more sympathetic murder victim/s then Chiswell in book 5, though, such as we had with the innocents in Career of Evil. That will give it more emotional impact.

  7. Joanne Gray,
    Thank you for pointing out Strike’s brief time at Oxford. To tell the truth, I recalled Rowling saying that Strike had been to a university for a fleeting amount of time. The irony is I could never recall what exact place that was. I just seem to have plain forgotten it was Oxford.

    It seems we have two potential plot threads here. One is Robin’s past at her Masham secondary school (does anyone remember the name, again? Say sorry, it’s just been a while, and Strike 3 wasn’t my favorite). The other is Strike with Oxford. Do you suppose it would be possible to have the investigation at the heart of Book 5 drawing them back to both locales? Just a thought.

    Rita L,
    Those are all intriguing ideas. The interesting part is that, to me, Charlotte is sort of like a walking bad luck magnet. Anything she comes into contact with will soon meet with disaster, and most of those disasters may be deliberate. It’ll be interesting to see how much damage Charlotte will be able to unleash before everything else is through.

    I can see her cropping up, like Umbrage, when and where you least expect her to throw a monkey wrench into everything. My own basic experience as a fan of Gothic novels is, the more mayhem, the merrier.

  8. Joanne Gray says

    ChrisC–I confess I have my hopes up that Book5 will finally begin the process of giving us some (actual, confirmed and nailed down) dates and background to the many questions we have from the current incomplete bits and pieces of Cormoran’s back story. At this point, all we really know is how much we still need before we can even begin to assemble and solve the mystery of Cormoran’s backstory.

    I think if Book5 does reveal the background behind how Cormoran came to Oxford–as well as how he came to learn Latin–that we will finally have one of those necessary pieces to his real origin story. I confess that I think the story behind it will reveal Strike’s real biological father.

    Rita L, I like the idea of Charlotte Campbell Ross being Strike Book5’s Dolores Umbrage. Both characters very much want to inflict pain upon there book’s lead character (Harry/Cormoran)–it will be interesting to see what Strike Book5’s version of Umbrages “cursed quill,” that she employed against Harry, turns out to be in Strike’s case.

    Now that Spring is finally coming, after a very long and cold winter, I hope we will also see a bit of light (in the way of information) coming to us about the progress on Book5. Even if its only a few crumbs of information–it would be much appreciated.

  9. Rita Lovely says

    Joanne, I think you may be right about something going on at Masham. As far back as Cuckoos Calling, when Robin is escorting a drunken Strike from the pub, she thinks it is like leading her Uncles massive Clydesdale horse. Later, in Career of Evil (I think) she tells Strike that the only horse he could ride was that Clydesdale. This could be a foreshadowing of at least a trip to Masham .

    I think we have already met Delores Umbrage in the person of Bryan Mathers. He is the disgruntled client who is sending Strike threatening letters. The letters are on pink paper decorated with kittens. Umbrage always wore pink and loved cats. They are also unsigned therefore, they could be called Poisson Pen Letters. Strike thinks he is nothing to worry about but, he could show up as a threat in Book 5. I just finished listening to Cuckoos Calling again and I am going to start Silkworm to see what else I can think up.

  10. Rita Lovely says

    I forgot, I have some questions for British posters.

    What is the difference between a Lawyer, Soliciter, Barrister, and Queen’s Council?

    What is the difference between a Private School, Public School and Comprehensive School, and are there more schools in the British School System?

  11. Barbara Nikola says

    Please tell me how to join in these discussions. Helps between books. Love these coments!

  12. Louise Freeman says


    Welcome, and join right in. It may take a short while for a post to be approved (a necessary precaution if we don’t want a steady stream of ads for porn or Viagra) but thoughtful reader comments are always welcome!

  13. Barbara Nikola says

    I see the horrible Charlotte getting back into Cormoran s life. He still thinks of her and his inability to quit thinking about her. If she is back in his life in any way, that could put a stop.on any romantic relationship between Cormoran and Robin going further for a while. I think Robin would be hurt, that C cannot move on from his infatuation with Charlotte. Read chapter 52 (LW) when Cormoran lays down at night and his thoughts o Charlotte come out, does not bode well for robin.

  14. Joanne Gray says

    Barbara I have the same foreboding about Cormoran’s inability to move permanently out of Charlotte’s orbit–as his continuing thoughts about her attraction show. That and the fact that Cormoran is definitely not made for the celibate life and with Lorelei now out of his life and Robin not yet in it (romantically)–there is every chance we could see the perfect storm when in book 5 Charlotte once again comes back to try and entangle Cormoran into her psychodrama.

    I dread the thought of it happening and yet I have to admit it seems a definite possibility (unfortunately).

    (I keep checking JKR’s Twitter account–but still no word on the progress of Strike book 5.)

  15. Rita Lovely says

    In an interview, JKR said in every book there are hints to a future book. I listened to all four books for a second time with the purpose of finding those hints. I found some of them are so subtle as to be considered just throw away lines but they are not. In Cookcoos Calling, Bryan Mathers writes to Strike he is going to kill him and do nasty things to his insides. In Silkworm, Owen Quine is killed and nasty things are done to his insides. In Cookoos Calling Strike just mentions His brother Al was the only member of his father’s family to visit him in the hospital. In Silkworm, Al literally catches the killer. In Silkworm, Strike casually mentions to Robin he once had to knock out a suspect he was trying to arrest because the man came at him with a broken bottle. In Career of Evil, that man turns out to be Neal Brockbank. In Silkworm, it is observed Lenora Quine looks like British serial killer Rose West. The plot of Career of Evil is about finding a serial killer. In both Cookoos Calling and Career of Evil Strike and Robin talk about horses. In Cookoos Calling, Robin compares Strike to her Uncle’s Clydesdale. On their trip north, robin admits she had a pony and the only horse Strike could ride is that Clydesdale. There is also the impression that she knows something about horses. Horses are all through Lethal White.
    It so subtle that I can’t remember what book it is from but, there is a mention of Leda Strike’s first husband. Is Mr. Strike going to show up in future?
    There are some things I noticed in Career of Evil that may relate to a future book. Leda Strike’s second husband, Jeff Whitaker, was raised by his Grandparents in Yorkshire. After Leda’s death, her son with Whitaker was raised in Yorkshire by these Grandparents. The young singer Strike sees in the pub is so much like Whitaker he is most likely this boy, Strike’s youngest brother Switch. While Strike and Robin are interrogating Pippa Midglee, who tried to kill Strike, Robin compares her to her brother Martin. He has a lack of self-preservation, lack of foresight and love of danger and, at Robin’s wedding in Lethal White, he bloodies Mathew’s nose. He also lives in Yorkshire. This may foreshadow some problem with Robin’s family that takes her and Strike to Yorkshire and Switch Whitaker may be involved. If he isn’t, he will surely show up in a future book. Why did Iris Murdock, the prostitute, survive the attack by Donald Lang? This incident did nothing to propel the plot or give insight into the major characters. It did show a woman with a will to live and the luck to have witnesses near. She might show up later.
    Lethal White has some interesting incidences. What was the point of Strike’s Nephew, Jack, needing emergency surgery? This did nothing to further the plot. It was already shown at Jack’s birthday party that Strike, no matter what he says, cares for Lucy’s family and can get along with children if he wants to. If it was to show how much Robin cares for him, we already know that and, if it was to show that accidental kiss, that could be plotted at any time. Since Jack is so young, he may show up as a major character in a much later book. Then, there is Charlotte and her babies. At that manipulated meeting with Strike, she says she wished she could kill herself without harming them. She says she feels sorry for them with her and Jago for parents. At lunch with Izzy, she tells them that Charlotte has been hospitalized for leakage of ammonic fluid. She may go into premature labor and the babies may be in danger. It is a long shot but, Charlotte’s material instinct may kick in. She may give up on Strike, turn her life around, and devote all her time and energy to her children. I don’t think anything will happen to the buildings on Denmark street even though most of them were bought by a developer. The developer may just want to modernize the interiors and leave the facades the same. One small plot hole, fire regulations would not allow use of a building with only one exit. And even if the buildings are old, they would have been built with two exits. To prove my point, Denmark street is still there and looks the way JKR describes it. Last but not least are the swans. At Robin and Mathew’s wedding the two swans wouldn’t come together. Mathew and Robin couldn’t come together. When Robin leaves Mathew, she passes a pub with one swan. After their lunch with Izzy, Robin passes a house with a carving of two swans. She and Strike will get together soon. I just may listen to the books one more time and pick up more information. I just can’t seem to get out of Strike land.

  16. Thank you, Rita! Quite the review!

    Three quick thoughts:

    (1) Can you share the interview in which Rowling/Galbraith says “in every book there are hints to a future book”? As you know if you’ve been reading our Cormoran Strike posts here at HogwartsProfesor, it seems the author is following the same series ring cycle structure with its interior echoing that she did in her Hogwarts novels. That interview comment is an important find, if you read the books as a ring or, as you choose to, individual books pointing to the next book or a future book relatively chaotically.

    (2) Can you give a page reference or a chapter pointer for the pub scene in which Strike sees a singer that looks like Jeff Whittaker and you think is Switch? Louise Freeman has been writing about the potential importance of Switch since ‘Career of Evil’ was published but I don’t remember this scene.

    (3) For the importance of Jack, see the post about correspondences between ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ and ‘Lethal White’ (in brief, the appearances in Strike1 and Strike4 point to Jack being an important player in Strike7) and, about Charlotte and the reason she is leaking amniotic fluid, note Louise Freeman’s discussion of this as pointing to possible physical abuse by Jago Ross (fearing that the children are Strike’s, not his?) and it being a potential opening for Strike to intervene to save his ex, with expectable consequences for his relationship with Robin.

    Again, great review of the series thus far! Welcome back to the discussion at HogwartsProfessor; our speculations about Strike5 have just begun…

  17. Rita,

    I have to congratulate you on the perceptiveness of your readings, and being able to pick up certain clues. The one I keep latching onto the most is the swan symbolism. I think you can make a case that it is a hidden hint by the author that the two main leads will be the new Nick and Nora Charles. I’m just left wondering if what other deeper meaning to the symbolism may be.

    Also, I think your ideas about Robin’s brother are intriguing. If Dr. Freeman’s surmise is correct, and Book 5 is about Strike investigating a murder in the midst of a public scandal in the British School/College system, then having Robin’s more impulsive sib could be a good way to get things off the ground, and it would be a perfect tie-in to a satire of British education. Speaking of which…

    Mr. Granger,

    (2) I almost want to say, “Yeah, I think I recall what she’s talking about re: the singer who might be Switch Whitaker”. I want to say it’s in the scene where Strike first meets Jimmy and Flick at the White Horse, near the start of the book. The problem is I can’t find it there. Yet I’ll swear I have a recollection of what Rita is talking about, I just can’t recall where now, exactly.

  18. Louise Freeman says

    Found it! It’s in Career of Evil, at the music venue where Strike first meets the hapless Coco.

    However, when the Islington Boys’ Club took to the stage Strike found himself forcibly transported back to times and people he strove not to think about. Stale sweat in the air, the familiar sound of guitars being tweaked and tuned, the humming of the open mic: he could have borne them all, had the lead singer’s posture and his lithe androgyny not recalled Whittaker.

    Four bars in and Strike knew he was leaving. There was nothing wrong with their brand of guitar-heavy indie rock: they played well and, in spite of his unfortunate resemblance to Whittaker, the lead singer had a decent voice. However, Strike had been in this environment too often and unable to leave: tonight, he was free to seek peace and clean air, and he intended to exercise that prerogative.

    It certainly could be young Switch, though, if it is, I suspect the vibrations from the Whittaker great-grandparents banging their heads on the ground in frustration over losing their third generation heir to the world of sex, drugs and rock is triggering seismic alerts all over Europe.

    Anyone want to speculate on whether the young singer recognized his big brother in the audience and later decided to introduce himself by sending 50 roses to the office?

  19. Barbara Nikola says

    “Strike land”, Rita! I seem to be stuck there too! Interesting how many readers comment about Switch. Never would have thought of him, so many characters to choose from. Enjoying all the theories tho.?

  20. Louise Freeman says

    Oh, wow! Islington Boys Club is apparently a genuine band!

    Unfortunately, that probably rules out the lead singer as being SLBW, unless JKR has struck a special deal with Mr. Lovelee.

  21. All the links to Islington Boys Club social media and YouTube video sites at the VPME article bottom are down.

    I wonder when they broke up?

  22. Rita Lovely says

    John, sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. My computer died and I just got the new one. The Islington Boys Club is mentioned at the beginning of chapter 12 in Career of Evil. I can’t give you the page number because I listen to the audio CDs.
    I don’t know what interview JKR mentioned hints to other books. I would have to go through all of them on line again or, it might have been something I read in another media.

    I have to do a little more listening to get all the facts, but I have been thinking about Charlotte and what might happen to her.

    While I am on the subject of audio books, the readings by Robert Glenister are wonderful. One reviewer said JKR makes London a character in the books but, Glenister is able to make all of Great Britain the background. In one conversation, he is able to give us Cornish, Welsh and Yorkshire accents. This does so much to flesh out the characters and show the diversity of the country.

    I will be back with more thoughts on Charlotte

  23. Dr. Freeman,

    Predicting what will happen in a book I haven’t read yet is not one of my strong points. When it comes to hitting the target, both you and Mr. Granger seem to have that particular field all sown up. So it’s one of life’s many ironies that I nonetheless have begun to develop a sort of rough idea of what “could” happen (don’t go by me) in Book 5, based on you own article above, and on a few bits and pieces of character narrative trivia also on display in all the other comments above.

    It should be noted that the most ideal setup for a fifth book would be a plot that makes all the big reveals necessary as to (1) the death of Leda Strike, and (2) what if an connection Jonny Rokeby has to all of this. With that in mind, there is at least one possible scenario in which these plot points could unravel.

    My current thinking is that maybe Strike could be contacted by either a government representative/someone from the Met like Wardle or Anstiss/or else from a school official. Maybe this official could also be a friend from Strike’s past, like perhaps his old college professor, or someone like that. This individual could come to Strike for help with “some sort of scandal, corruption or crime in an educational setting”.

    The nature of this scandal could necessitate that Strike and Robin once more split their investigation into parts, with both sleuths tackling a multi-part case in two different academic settings. The most ironic twist here would be for both detectives to discover that their old, abandoned alma-maters are involved in the crime/scandal. This has both pluses and minuses. On the plus side, they have an easy avenue of investigation, as there are sure to be old contacts that would permit them easy access to the places either of them would need to go in order conduct a proper investigation. The trick is doing so would also involve the potential for disturbing a lot of old ghosts that both of them have been either avoiding (Robin), or tip-toeing around (Strike).

    Robin could find herself back on the school grounds of the worst moment of her life (see “COE” for further details). At first she seems fine, until the panic attacks start to become bad. Maybe she even has panic blackouts which start out with her in one place, only to end up in another with no real memory of having gotten there due to a panic fugue. A setting with scenes like this would give the author the perfect opportunity to both delve into Robin’s character and motivation, as well as a creative chance to see just how far she can push the envelope with such a setup. In particular, it would allow her to find out just what happen dramatically if Robin’s anxiety pushes her beyond the breaking point. What would happen, for instance, if she has the ultimate attack? Would she go from flight to fight, and become a potential danger to herself and those around her?

    If this sounds cruel, and inhuman, please remember these questions hinge around the demands of the thriller genre, and the best potential for creating narrative suspense. As an off-shoot of the Gothic, modern crime thrillers are often centered on the tormented inner world of the characters. Usually with this setup, the general rule I’ve discovered is that the more the danger levels are ramped up, even to the point of an explosion of violence, the better the chance of telling an interesting story.

    In Strike’s case, this would involve him going back to Oxford, and finding himself walking into the middle of a different kind of war zone. It could be revealed that the University is experiencing a modern “Battle of the Books”, with one camp (possibly involving some of Strike’s old tutors?) taking the side of a more traditional oriented education, featuring the best that the Liberal Humanities has to offer. The other side could be all about a looser set of standards, and generally being more lax in what they decide to put into the students heads, for good or ill.

    Strike could try and maintain a neutral stance to all this. The trouble here of course is that the more he learns about the new, non-Canon oriented side, the more he secretly sympathizes with his old teachers. This gets more apparent when he catches one of the new professors in the act of a drug deal. While Strike might have this shady character placed under custody, when the police arrive to arrest him, this same faux teacher is discovered dead, with enough evidence to rule it as a murder. From there, Strike could go on to discover a drug cartel operation using schools like Oxford, and that Rokeby is tied up in it all somehow. In saying this, I am going back to Mr. Granger’s theories about Al as being connected to the drug black market. I don’t know that I can go with the idea of him being a kingpin, yet he is an important sort of player. This can be what Strike discovers as he goes about his investigation. He can also discover in the course of all this just how his Mum died, and what part Rokeby played in it.

    The one fly in the ointment is something I remember from an older post, in which a screenshot from Rowling’s twitter feed was shown. It featured detailed schematics of some sort of business or company, complete with office space, and a list of suspects who worked there. I also think I remember Mr. Granger theorizing that this might play a part in Book 5. On the other hand, he also said it could all just be a “non-starter”.

    On the whole, I’m willing to be proven wrong. Though it would be nice if some of the ideas above figured somewhere into the proceedings.

  24. Joanne Gray says

    I’m also not hitting any runs in the Strike series prediction game. Even so, I also hope we see some real rock solid facts revealed in Strike Book 5 to allow us to begin to see some plausible solutions to the core Strike mysteries.

    I also agree with those who say that book 5 will deal with aspects of government and academia. It seems even more likely since corruption in politics and academia play such a big part in the parallel fifth book of HP: Order of the Phoenix. I actually think that a possible academia link in Strike 5 would provide a very good way for the series to begin to reveal facts behind who and why Leda Strike was murdered.

    I think the academia setting could trigger Cormoran to finally face those painful memories he has so far been successful in burying. I’m sure that even though Cormoran was able to finally break away from guarding his mother, he still felt immense guilt when she was killed while he was gone. So if he finds himself back at Oxford—even almost 20 years later—he will definitely find himself battered by all those memories he has fought so hard to keep buried.

    Robin also had continuing nightmares/panic attacks about being attacked and raped while at university, however, she has also been portrayed as more pro-active in confronting her demons.

    Cormoran has been shown, after his panic attack in Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm, to be experiencing less visible trauma but there has been (especially in Career of Evil) evidence that the trauma is very much there but he has been “better” at driving the traumatic memories deep, deep down into his subconscious. This is another one of those things that I will be very surprised if it doesn’t show up in Strike Book 5—Strike forced to finally confront those long buried memories. (A safe prediction since these memories will have to make their unwelcome appearance at some point—if not 5, then at some point.)

    Back to plot points in HP 5 and what they might portend for parallels to Strike 5—I admit a lot of readers of HP 5 probably wouldn’t mind if the murder victim in Strike 5 echoes the universally hated Dolores Umbridge. Although, I think any echoes to Dolores’ detention torture of Harry in HP 5 would be given to Charlotte since she is the one who knows Cormoran so well and would know just how to push his buttons to cause him the most pain. (This side of Charlotte, which was foreshadowed in Cuckoo’s Calling, has yet to make an appearance in the on going series.)

    There are many more points that could echo from HP 5 to Strike 5—but I admit my biggest hope is that we will see an echo of the huge reveal at the heart of the HP series that is revealed in HP 5: The real connection between Harry and Voldemort.

    It won’t be apples to apples—nothing on such a supernatural level—but I truly hope that there will be a big reveal in Book 5, something game changing at the heart of the mystery of Strike’s origins. Something that provides a key to unlocking the other mysteries we are still waiting to unravel about him and Leda and anyone else who is hiding deep in their background.

  25. Dr. Freeman, Mr. Granger, Joanne,

    I’ve had a sort of interesting idea, and it has to do with whatever reveal Rowling has in store for the character of Rokeby. All this time we’ve been thinking in terms of what happens in the next book. Now it just occurs to me whether we should be think in more long-term perspectives.

    Here’s what I mean. This idea popped into my head. “What if it makes more sense for Rowling to unveil Leda’s killer near the end of the final, seventh book”? I think what set me on this track is just basic floating awareness of the genre Ms. R. is writing in, and the basic sort of rules that come attached with it. It’s always been the basic setup since “Murders in the Rue Morgue” that the culprit/guilty party is always revealed at the end. It may be possible to add a bit of further business here and there, such as a chase sequence, whether on foot, car, or other means, it doesn’t seem to matter or change thing all that much. The point is the solution to the crime is always presented at the end of things, usually along with the criminal being caught red-handed.

    If it’s a safe enough bet that Rowling will abide by these rules throughout at least the first seven of however many books, then while it doesn’t rule out the possibility of Rokeby making na appearance in Book 5, or of revealing that Leda’s death was a murder, it still leaves open the possibility that the author still won’t reveal everything until Book 7.
    What this changes in terms of what I wrote like a day or two ago is as follows:

    Yes, a possible academic setting.
    Yes: the potential introduction of Papa Rock.
    Yes: the reveal of Leda’s death as a murder.

    However, it is possible that while Strike and the audience finally get to meet Rokeby, the question of his relation to Leda’s death could still be left a mystery by the time the fifth book reaches its final pages. This has the potential to be somewhat frustrating, yet I don’t think it can be labeled as unfair when you take the rules of the Detective genre into account. If the series is to have seven entries, and the case of the demise of Leda Strike is the over-arching case to be solved, then it makes sense to leave the major reveal for the very end, in accordance with how a fair game is played with this sort of story.

    The only question it leaves is what is there for Rokeby to do in Book 5? Well, I had one
    final idea about that, and feel free to call foul wherever here. If I had to sum itup in an easy to remember phrase, then it would be to think of it as a “Treasure Island Scenario”.

    What I mean is that Rowling could play things out where a character dynamic is established between Strike and Rokeby that both echoes and riffs the one between Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver. Stevenson’s novel centers around the relation that Jim and Silver have, and how each of them must deal with the knowledge of who and what kind of man Silver is. It would be interesting to see if Rowling could work this same sort of dilemma into Strike’s interactions with Rokeby.

    This is why I maintain it would be interesting to discover not just what Strike would do if he found out his Dad killed his mother, but also what Rokeby might or might not try to do if he knows that Strike has found out his secrets. The interesting thing about Silver as a character is just how he surprises even himself with the lengths he’ll go to protect Jim from harm. I’m not sure one way or another if it makes sense to view Rokeby in a similar light. It would however make for a nice dramatic setup of sorts. Either way, that’s just the idea that occurred to me, is all.

  26. Joanne Gray says


    You are right that the underlying main mystery of the series detective is traditionally solved in the final book (or TV series like “Monk” that ran from 2002 to 2009 and the last episode solved the murder of Adrian Monk’s wife–the mystery mentioned in the first episode). Book series are a bit different in they can have bigger gaps between books–TV mysteries usually have new episodes on a regular yearly basis. Especially in the case of the current Cormoran Strike book series–which started in 2013 and which, as of May 27, 2019 has 4 novels in 7 years. (Comparison HP was 10 years, 7 books).

    We don’t know for sure if there will only be seven books–although, the books so far do give credence to the idea that the CS series is echoing the seven books of the Harry Potter series. So with no definite end book for the series and a solution to the Leda Strike murder, it may very well still be a long way off–especially if there is to be over 10 books–as was once mentioned!

    But the thing that has me a bit frustrated is there really should be more forward movement in giving some answers to the many questions that have been piling up since book one. A feel that we are at least moving towards some answers. I have to admit that the lack of any interaction with Jonny Rokeby in the series so far is at the very heart of that frustration.

    It feels like there is a wall past which nothing has been able to move–so far. I actually very much like your idea about having a dynamic between Strike and Rokeby reminiscent of Silver and Hawkins–as in Treasure Island. I would love to see that. Especially since there can be no big pay out at the story’s end if there is no real ground work by first establishing that relationship. Going into book 5, we really need to see something of it–if it is to figure in the main resolution.

    Heading into book 5 and there has been essentially nothing in that area so far. Why??

    While we will need to wait for a final solution, we do need to start to really set the stage and build the relationship (and tension) between Strike and Rokeby–if this will figure in resolving the underlying main character’s mystery. I confess that if book 5 comes out and Rokeby still hasn’t entered the on going story–I’m going to say, that for me, he is definitely a red herring and not a part of the solution to Cormoran’s origin mystery. At that point I will see his purpose in the story as supplying misdirection–to sow confusion about Cormoran’s birth date (Rokeby’s claim that his divorce was caused by Cormoran’s birth, but the dates do not match) and no date ever given for the DNA test so no way to know if the test reached the level of proof of paternity.

    I really feel that with the bigger gaps of time between the books that it’s necessary for any future books to begin to give the readers more in the way of past facts about the characters in order to allow fans to engage in plausible speculation. This engagement is necessary to any thriving fan base to provide a on going reader engagement.

    Leda’s murder happened almost 20 years previous (1994)–I think finally solving it will turn out to be more important to healing Cormoran than even he now knows. I think dramatically having Rokeby (if he is Cormoran’s father/of someone else if someone else is his father) as the killer of Leda would indeed make for intense Greek tragedy level of angst–but once again, if this is to be the case–then the character needs to come on stage–the sooner the better. Some mysteries have to be revealed in order to ramp up other more intense story lines going forward. Actually writing and thinking this out helped lift my current pessimism about the lack of any word about progress on book 5. Thanks Chris for your post–I do like you sharing your ideas–hope you’re right.

  27. Joanne,

    I note what you’ve said above, and it sort of raises another idea I had about the series. Namely, what if Rowling does choose to go with a “Monk” style approach to writing this whole series?

    In other words, what if it’s possible that she’s writing a seven book series, of a sort, it’s just that it could wind up being spread out like archipelagos in a sea of Mystery-of-the Week style books. In other words, yes, the mystery of the Death of Leda Strike might all depend on a series of seven books, yet what if she decides to take her time getting there, while engaging in some diversionary writing about whatever mystery plot happens to get her inspired at the moment?

    Bare in the mind this sort of approach has happened before. Stephen King has written a series eight and a half books (including one short story) called “The Dark Tower” series. However, he wrote each installment years apart from each other. When he wasn’t penning those novels, he was busy with other works. The kicker is that some of these non-DT books would often contain references to the bigger story he was composing during all that time. My point is if one author can do it, what’s prevent another from following suit?
    The answer is:…(shrugs) search me.

    I have no idea one way or the other that this is what Ms. Rowling will, in fact, do. It just occurred to me that this is something she “could” do, and still be well within her rights as an author. Still, this is all just pure guesswork.

  28. Barbara Nikola says

    I know this is off topic, but in listening to Robert Glenister’s wonderful reading of the audio books, I hear his reading of Cormorans voice as low and somewhat raspy. Tom Burkes lovely, smooth tones are very nice. What do you think is the correct sound of Cormoran’s voice. The book Strike is much crude than the TV version. While I love Burke as Strike, it is a pet peeve of mine when screenwriters always change a wonderful novel to be unrecognized when transferred to TV or movie! Thanks for letting me vent!

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