Guest Post: ‘Lethal White’ Deadly Heroin

A Hogwarts Professor Guest Post by Joanne Gray

Lethal White and the Death of Leda Strike: Heroin Hydrochloride

With the announcement that the long delayed and eagerly awaited fourth book of the Cormoran Strike book series would be called “Lethal White”, those who heard the news immediately began to Google the two word title and devour the information on something called, “Lethal White Syndrome.” [See the HogwartsProfessor discussion here.]

As people absorbed the definition of “Lethal White Syndrome” and discovered it was a fatal genetic condition of…American paint horses their initial excitement about a ‘great catch’ about what the next mystery would be about faded a little, even with Rowling’s theme of eugenics. Though this ‘Lethal White’ referred to a fatal condition, it was for a different species than human beings and death-by-genetics not foul play. If this was the heart of Strike’s next murder mystery, how would one go about arresting Mother Nature?

Sometimes finding a good firm wall blocking the easy path you’ve taken, in order to research something, is actually a good thing. In my case it caused me to step back and take a broader view of things. Could ‘Lethal White’ be a reference to a major background element in Career of Evil, the mysterious death of Leda Strike?

In fact, there had actually been another earlier revelation about book four that I had previously taken only in its narrowest sense. Rowing had been asked at a Q&A if we could expect book four to start where book three ended, since it ended in a “cliffhanger” at Robin’s wedding.  You can listen to the full interview and see a few excerpts here. She answered:

I’m not sure when the next book will be out but I can say I know what the first chapter of the next book will be. And the first chapter will follow immediately from the last chapter of this book [interviewer gasps] so you will see exactly what happens next. Which I think, having done that cliff hanger, I really owed it to the audience not to just leave (them) hanging for a flashback that might happen in chapter 15. I think you’ve really just got to keep going there.

My mistake when I got the answer was that I failed to take it a step further and see what the “cliffhanger” bridging the two books might actually mean. Lethal White would be a continuation of Career of Evil, starting just where the other leaves off.

Going back to think about the other threads woven throughout the very intense story line in Career of Evil, I was struck by how much of Cormoran’s own relationships with the people, whether genetically related or not, who had impacted his life were referenced in the course of the plot. If Lethal White is to pick up where Career of Evil leaves off, it seems fair to assume that evidence will be revealed during the case Robin and Cormoran investigate in Lethal White that will give new insight into the biggest unsolved case of Cormoran’s life and the over-arching story of this series: the death of his mother, Leda Strike, by heroin overdose.

The Leda Strike case already is the very definition of ‘lethal white’ —the coldest of cold (white sub zero cold) cases—with seventeen years and counting separating the commission and the real investigation. Lethal as in cold blooded murder in a case that’s white ice cold.

But Lethal White, the title, almost certainly has a more obvious and relevant reference than a deadly congenital condition of American Paint horses and the quality of the investigation into Leda Strike’s death. ‘Lethal white’ is the street name for a deadly type of heroin, heroin hydrochloride, that had re-appeared in the United Kingdom at the time of Strike’s return from Afghanistan — but had been popular in the UK at the time of Leda Strike’s death.

From The Independent, February 2009:

Warning of resurgence of ‘lethal’ white heroin  Ellen Branagh

A form of high-grade white heroin is making a comeback on Britain’s streets, the Serious Organised Crime Agency {Soca) warned today. Heroin hydrochloride was widespread during the 1970s but was replaced by more well-known “brown” heroin. Easy to snort and inject because it is water-soluble, white heroin’s dangers were made clear in Quentin Tarantino’s cult film Pulp Fiction, in which Urea Thurman’s character snorts the powder, thinking it is cocaine, and then collapses.

Today Soca warned of a resurgence in the drug in the UK, manufactured and shipped in from Afghanistan. Deputy director Steve Coates said there had been a few seizures of small amounts of white heroin in the past year but the return of the drug was noticeable. He said: “We’re not panicking but we have noticed the re-emergence of this white heroin which virtually disappeared in the ’80s and ’90s.”

He said there had been seizures overseas in Afghanistan and Turkey, as well as a huge haul last year of £5.5 million worth of heroin, including white heroin, in straws sewn into the weave of Afghan rugs.

Read the whole thing. Note that there is also another ‘Lethal White’ drug, cocaine-like, called U4 that is currently plaguing the UK. Career of Evil gave us the gift of Jeff Whittaker, Shanker, and much of the back story of Leda Strike’s mysterious demise by a heroin overdose. Expect Lethal White, as the promised continuation of Career of Evil, to be an exploration of the heroin trade from Afghanistan to the United Kingdom and the possibility that Strike’s mother’s death in the 90’s was consequent, less to an overdose, than her being given heroin hydrochloride, a borderline poisonous version of the drug.

Tomorrow: Joanne Gray’s Thoughts on Mythological Leda and Triumph of Death



  1. Joanne,

    This sounds like a very plausible theory. The question is whether there could be any connecting thread between heroine and the horse disease?

    I don’t pretend to know. However I don’t see why one theory should cancel the other out in this case.

    As a bit of a bonus, I discovered what has to be the second Strike fansite yesterday.

    It’s called, and it looks like the people behind it are dedicated fans.

    For whatever it’s worth, I thought it was just something worth passing along (they have nice fan art posters, if that makes a difference):

    Is it too much to hope that one day we could see a Denmark Street Lexicon from Steve Van der Ark, perhaps?

Speak Your Mind