Guest Post: Thoughts on Leda and parentage as we await Troubled Blood.

Reader Kelly Loomis has made some excellent comments on the Cormoran Strike series, and the Hogwarts Faculty has decided that her latest should be highlighted in a guest post, rather than buried in the comments of the earlier Troubled Blood post.  We also thank her for alerting us to the micro-excerpt just released, apparently confirming that the astrological clock of Hampton Court will be a key feature of the series.  Maybe even the equivalent of Lethal White‘s White Horse of Uffington? Enjoy, and thank you, Kelly, for permission to share your insights.  Please use this thread as an updated site for more Troubled Blood discussion.

As you know, I’ve been going through the books by both reading and listening the last few months. I even subjected myself to the tv series. I did ask a silly question recently that was easily answered had I read a few chapters further.
I have several thoughts regarding parentage, Uncle Ted etc.:
1) Ted must be fairly well off (or the aunt is/was).  If his aunt and uncle stay in that swanky hotel he put Robin up in, they must have some money. Having been in London, I can’t imagine what a nice place like that would cost. And Strike claims they stay there whenever they get up to London. Also, he was a red cap which was what inspired Cormoran to that future career. I know in Britain, it is common for “gentry” to enter military service so that would not mean he couldn’t have come from money. Or, he just figured out a good field to enter into after exiting.
2) Regarding Strike’s parentage, there are a  a few things mentioned. 1) People always comment how Strike looks nothing like Rokeby. Also, Eric Bloom – lead singer of Blue Oyster Cult – was described as having hair exactly the same as Strike’s. And, he was supposedly the one that got away and Leda never “shagged“ him. 2) Strike described himself as the spitting image of his uncle. Does that include his hair?
3) Leda got married to someone coming through town with the fair. And in Troubled Blood, there will be reference to tarot cards and a missing woman the year of Strike’s birth. I wonder if “Gypsies” (the preferred term, in some circles, is Romani) still travelled around at that time with fairs telling fortunes and if any of this book will tie in with the man Leda married for the sake of a new last name and new dress. And if Strike will learn about some of these circumstances during this investigation.
This is a crazy thought – could Lucy have had anything to do with Leda’s death? She is the one who has tried to have a life most unlike her mother’s. We’ve had one woman killer in Liz Tassell. Could we have another? Strike talked about how women could smolder but when they blew, they really blew. Lucy – if she was sexually assaulted by Whittaker – could have taken revenge against her mother for dragging her into those kind of circumstances over and over. It just seems Rowling is going to knock the socks off us all.
Another crazy thought is that Strike is Uncle Ted’s illegitimate son. Haha! That would really be nuts.


  1. Louise Freeman says

    I love the idea of a connection between the fortune-teller/tarot elements of this book with the carnival man whose surname our hero carries. It would be very like Rowling, with her reliance on coincidence, to have Cormoran (or Robin) stumble across the name “Strike” when pursuing old records… and could they resist following up?

    I also like the idea of matricide-by-Lucy, which seems to work better for me than Uncle Ted as the killer (though I could very well see him using his police skills to cover up her involvement).

    Interestingly, I have been listening to PD James mysteries on my long car drives this summer, and I am struck by how many elements (not just names, as John has already pointed out) seem to be borrowed. I’m only on my fourth one (going in order of availability from library, not sequentially) and I am already picking up on several. Not only is Cordelia Grey’s start to a PI career almost identical to Robin’s, as John has already noted, but there is: a young female writer who committed suicide after a scathing response to her first book, a murdered and fallen-from-grace government minister, a hand-written will written shortly before a murder that was set up to look like suicide, a daughter who rebels against wealthy parents by joining an ultra-left-wing political group, and more than one aristocratic family requiring both an heir to a title and cash to keep the ancestral home. Also, twins seem pop up on a regular basis. I’ve just come across a child who let an abusive parent die rather than summon help after an accident. Could Lucy have, somehow, witnessed the overdose but looked the other way?

    I doubt JKR is going to make Mr. Bloom a baby-daddy without his consent, but with both Cormoran and Switch having middle names connected to him, he may well turn up in some form.

  2. Nick Jeffery says

    Great post Kelly!
    Two observations from me. Firstly St Mawes is a very expensive location within Cornwall. Currently the cheapest 4 bedroom property in St Mawes is £725,000 and nine properties are on the market for more than £1 million in what is a fairly small village. Many of the houses here are summer properties of the very rich.
    The Royal Military Police (the Red Caps) are not a very fashionable corps of the British Army. The lower levels of the gentry would be expected to join one of the county regiments (infantry or cavalry), with the more well connected joining the Guards. If Uncle Ted did come from money, it was fairly recently gained.

  3. Kelly,

    From my vantage point, all I can do right now is approach your thoughts like a scoreboard and critique them like hits and misses.

    As for Ted’s wealth, and military records as it affects his nephew, I’m sort of forced to draw a blank and admit I know little of that, other than that it was Ted who inspired Strike to go into the Red Caps.

    As for the original Mr. Strike, it’s an interesting theory. However I’m not quite sure I buy it. I’ve seen or heard nothing that puts me in mind of gypsies, and their connection with Tarot, intriguing, never seems to offer me much in the way of clear cut evidence for going there. The original Dad Strike still remains a mystery to be uncovered as far as I’m concerned.

    As for Lucy as the main culprit, once again I’m going to have to fall into the skeptical camp. Until such proofs or hints come along that single her out as the ultimate series murderer, I’m afraid I’ll say I remain unconvinced.

  4. Kelly Loomis says

    ChrisC, I’m not claiming to be convinced of these ideas! As far as parentage and Leda’s killer, John got me thinking what possibilities could be out there with his Uncle Ted theory. I know Rowling usually surprises me so I tried to come up with ideas that may seem “out there” but which might have some little thing that makes me think it could occur.

    Regarding the tarot cards, I thought of it linking to the carnival and Strike because carnivals usually seem to have some sort of fortune teller. If this murder mystery takes Strike back to Cornwall and the very year of his birth where we will undoubtedly be given more clues to his past, it seemed possible it might link to the man Leda married who was travelled to town with the fair.

    And Nick, thank you for the information about St Mawes. Not being from the U.K., this is information I was not aware of. This makes it even more interesting as we think about what it might mean for Cormoran’s family’s ties to upper crust Britain and maybe his very existence!

  5. Kelly Loomis says

    Louise, I agree a real life person (Bloom) would not likely be Strike’s father. And it is probably a misdirect that Rowling has thrown in.

  6. Dr. Freeman,

    Your statements that the Clock could function as “a key feature of the series, maybe even as the equivalent of Lethal White‘s White Horse of Uffington” raises an interesting train of thought.

    The basic idea is this. When you stop and realize it, every book in the series has one of these “key features” as an over-arching image for the individual volume in question. These images can be displayed in the following order: Book 1 (Cuckoo); Book 2 (Silkworm); Book 3 (Blue Oyster Cult Music); Book 4 (White Horse); Book 5 (Astrological/Zodiac Clock).

    The fact that each book has its own unique symbolical “stamp” associated with each volume raises a number of intriguing question. The first one, what does each symbol mean for its own individual book, is perhaps the most self-explanatory. In that case, each symbol serves to highlight a key feature or thematic idea at the heart of each novel. The Silkworm, for instance, represents the artist in relation to both creation, and the changes it can have on the very same subject. The White Horse has been shown as a symbol for both the crumbling British Empire, and the ghosts of past injustices that continue to haunt the Ruling Class.

    These ideas are pretty self-explanatory. It’s when we turn from examining each ruling symbol in isolation, and take them as linked elements in a seven part sequence that the next question occurs. What exactly could or does it even mean if we look at the main image of each text when looked at as a procession? Do they all possibly add up to a symbolical statement of some kind when seen in completion? If the collective images are designed to come together to form a sequence, does this create a chiasm of imagery? Is the sequential scheme that of a b c b a, and the like? Or could this all be empty speculation?

    I really can’t provide an answer to all this. It’s just something you made me take notice of. If the images are meant as a chiastic structure, then I could understand how some try and argue that after Book 5, the imagery will reverse itself, going back to Horse, Music, Worm, and Bird. The trouble is I’m not sure whether it is a sound idea, precisely because it all sounds just a bit too pat. If there were any validity to the idea that each ruling book symbol forms a procession, then, somehow, it just makes more sense to me that each following image would fulfill a double function. The pictures themselves would be new, however, they would each be of such a nature that their very appearances contain thematic callbacks to each item that preceded it in the series. I can’t even begin to guess what kind of symbol the writer might choose next, however the thought that she might use something like and Owl did occur to me. Until you realize that too is a bit on the nose to be plausible. Still, all this is just an idea that I have to give you all the credit for. There is just one more idea about these ruling symbols. I suppose, if nothing else, these are the closest Strike readers will get to this series’ equivalent of the Hogwarts House Heraldry, and their connotations. I just wish I knew what else the current set amounts to.

  7. Hi,

    That’s my first comment here and I begin apologizing for my poor english. It’s not my first language.

    I wanted to add that besides the symbolic aspect each title points in a literal way to a fundamental clue Strike uses to solve the crime. For example Lula’s phone call in the boutique indicates she was going to meet someone other than her boyfriend. Or the fact that the foal in the painting had lethal white syndrome and wasn’t brown (?) indicates that Raphael was up to something.

    In the same way I wonder if ‘troubled blood’ will point to a clue. My first tought seeing the title was that in french ‘troublé’ can have the same meaning as in english or something as ‘cloudy’, ‘dirty’ or a liquid that contains solid particles. As far as I could find the origin of the english word is french. Maybe some character will misuse it? Margot is a quite common french name. And in a previous book Robin asks Strike if she is correct about how to translate ‘blanc de blancs’.

    I’m waiting to see if blood that is tainted or contaminated in some form will be relevant to the plot.

  8. I’ve had some miscellaneous thoughts about Strike’s parentage.
    1) What if we find Leda is adopted? So we’d have a brother and sister similar to John Bristow and Lula Landry.
    We haven’t heard anything about Strike’s grandparents, but it’s always his aunt and uncle who come to his rescue.
    2) Strike is always saying to forget motive in solving a mystery, with having the means and opportunity being more important. This is only part of why I’ve wondered if Strike’s aunt or uncle killed Leda. Supposedly JKR has Already mentioned everyone needed To solve the mystery.
    3) And what if Strike’s uncle is really his father? I think many of us are wondering… so is it a red herring? And do we really know Uncle Ted is Leda’s brother? Or could Aunt Joan be her sister? That’s far fetched, and I’d have to go back through all the books to check the details again. Could Aunt Joan have killed Leda when she found out Ted is the father? Hopefully we’ll learn more in Troubled Blood.
    4). One last thought, not necessarily about parentage…but there are several instances in the books so far where Strike’s careful interviewing skills leads a person to recall information they didn’t realize they knew. One instance is Billy in Lethal White recalling info when Strike visits him in the mental hospital. I’m wondering if Shanker might recall information eventually that would reveal important information about Leda’s death. Shanker could well have been privy to the goings on the day Leda died since he was practically an adopted son.

    If we use Strike’s method of solving mysteries, we need to look at people, places, and things. I have a feeling this is a clue left for us by JKR. She sure is a master of the slow burn, cliffhangers, and prolonging a mystery for years!!!

  9. Kelly Loomis says

    Jill, your thought of Uncle Ted being the father goes along with my thinking and your the tie in to Leda and Ted being possibly adopted is a good way of facilitating him fathering Cormoran. It’s been stated that Aunt Joan tried to not denigrate Leda in front of the kids but her claim that Leda got married because she wanted a new dress gives us a pretty clear idea of what she thought of her.

    I’m really hoping for more people, places and things in this next book especially since we’re going to Cornwall and Cormoran will be investigating something that happened during the year of his birth.

    One thing to say though is that even though Rowling leaves us clues, she sometimes leaves out pertinent information until the end such as the fact that Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs were animagi in Azakabhan.

  10. Bonni Crawford says

    Thanks everyone for this fascinating thread!

    This may or may not be relevant to anything, but do we know anything about when, where or how Lucy met her husband (Greg, I think, but I haven’t got a book on me to check). Nick and Ilsa’s meeting at Strike’s 18th has been mentioned more than once, I feel maybe to emphasize something. And one time it was mentioned was a Lucy and Greg’s.

    If Lucy met Greg in London, when and where – given she moved to St Mawes (to live with Ted & Joan) when she was 16 I think. Hard to see what motivation she’d have had for loving back to London – maybe work? Or university? She’s presumably been with Greg a while, since she’s had 3 kids with him (and bought the house together, presumably, unless Greg inherited it or something). I just feel we’ve been told weirdly little about Lucy’s earlier adulthood, especially contrasted with the repeated mentioning of both Nick and Ilsa’s careers, how they met and what they did at university (linked with careers, but still, mentioned explicitly, e.g. Strike saying sarcastically to Ilsa, “the world lost a great comedic wit when your husband chose to study Medicine” (or something like that, again I don’t have the books with me at the moment).

    Probably something more sensible can be made of all this but, as an obvious and probably outlandish theory, Greg killed Leda? So that Lucy would be free of any worry or duty she might have felt to visit Leda in her squat, and, being free of that, would be able to join Greg fully in middle class suburbia? I can’t imagine Greg being so passionately in love with Lucy (or anyone) that he would murder out of desire to make her happier or spare her pain. But then we only see Greg through Strike’s perspective, and maybe Strike isn’t fair or balanced in his perception of Greg. Or maybe Greg tries to pick holes in Strike’s business plans because he’s not comfortable with the detective potentially poking around in his past?!!

    I’m not convinced by the Greg as murderer idea, but I do think we’re told notably little about Greg and Lucy prior to their current circumstances. And I’d like to know, what attracted Greg to Lucy in the first place? I can see why Lucy would go for Greg, but not really the other way round.

    I’d be very interested to hear other’s ideas about any of the above!!

  11. Louise Freeman says

    I’ve just re-listened to Lethal White (almost, I’m up to “Get out of there! It isn’t Matthew!”0 in preparation for Troubled Blood, and Career of Evil is next on my list. A few gleanings:
    1) Lucy left Leda permanently to live with Ted and Joan at age 14, and never returned. The reason given was Whittaker’s strutting naked around the apartment and “sexual taunts”– which should certainly be considered sexual abuse even if there was no physical contact. I would like to think that, even in 1990, Whittaker could have been criminally charged for that, as could Leda if she knew about it but permitted it. I don’t think we can ignore the fact that she basically choose Whittaker, that gem of a human being, over her own daughter.
    2) Ted and Joan tried to get Strike, then 16, to come as well, but he refused, already feeling a need to protect Leda from Whittaker. While I don’t think we’ve been told explicitly, I have always assumed this happened before Shanker appeared on the scene. We have been told that Shanker was more inclined to retaliate against Whittaker than Strike was and, had he seen Whittaker humiliating Lucy, the love and protection Shanker felt for Leda would probably have extended to her daughter.
    3) LW, however, tells us that there was a period when Strike was 16 when he did go back to St. Mawes, during one of Leda’s “upheavals,” — he remembers this when he thinks about going into the pub to get his first beer, without being ID’ed. (Drinking age in UK is 18, right?). The language used then— I think it was “found himself dumped” implied that Leda sent him back, rather than Ted and Joan insisting on taking him (as they had during the Shumba era, when Lucy was 7 and Strike was 9) or Strike asking to leave. Again, it is not clear when this visit was, relative to Whittaker moving in, Lucy’s leaving or Shanker’s arrival. It is interesting to me that he would be sent back to St. Mawes at that age, rather than Leda just letting him fend for himself.
    4) We have been told that Leda married Mr. Strike for the sake of a new dress and a new name, which she kept and gave to her son, even though the marriage only lasted a few weeks. This suggests there was something in her home environment that she was eager to escape. As far as I know, we have never been told anything about Ted and Leda’s parents, even their surname, or whether they are currently alive or dead. (Maybe, like Harry’s grandparents on both sides, they were conveniently dead by the time baby Cormoran came along?) But, there may yet be some dark secret to be revealed about what made Leda so eager to set out on her own. If there was abuse of some sort, I would assume Ted himself was not directly involved, given that Leda freely handed her children over to him on apparently multiple occasions. Do we even know if Ted or Leda was the older sibling?

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