Guest Post: ‘Twas Charlotte Killed Leda

In my post reviewing the likeliest suspects for ‘Murderer of Leda Strike,’ I dismissed the idea that Charlotte Campbell did the deed as a looney-tune gambit. A Serious Striker writing as ‘Fiona’ posted a fun response that defended this fan theory. Lest it take over the discussion on that post’s thread (and be forever lost to future Rowling-Galbraith students wanting to identify who first figured out the over-arching mystery of the first seven Strike books), I have bumped the comment up to ‘Guest Post’ status to draw your attention to ‘Fiona’s argument and to invite your response.

I confess to loving the fan-fiction motive — and all such speculation have to come with a heavy helping of fan-fiction, more or less credible — if I’m missing why Charlotte would be moved by the revelation to kill Leda rather than the person who gives her the bad news. I look forward to reading what you think, especially if you believe Charlotte a better bet in the ‘Who Killed Leda?’ sweepstakes than Dave Polworth or Ted Nancarrow! Enjoy ‘Twas Charlotte Killed Leda‘ by first time post-er ‘Fiona’…

Hey, I have also thought about the idea of Charlotte as Leda’s killer! I know it sounds nuts, but it would certainly provide the required twist at the end of the series.

Firstly I’m basing this on other theories that have been posted on this site. I apologise for not remembering the names given to the theories and whether it was John or other contributors who introduced them. By these theories I mean the ones concerning Leda mirroring her mythological namesake concerning Zeus, the double father idea, and twins. Also the idea that the “aristocrat” in the photograph that Strike says is the only known picture of his parents together is the father of both Charlotte and Strike.

Now consider: Strike has gone to Oxford, and therefore already met Charlotte when Leda dies. (We know he meets her almost immediately.) At some point while at Oxford our chaos-loving Charlotte says, ‘Next weekend, come home and meet the family,’ mainly for the sake of shocking her upper class parents with her rough-around-the-edges boyfriend. They arrive chez Charlotte and she triumphantly says something to the effect of “Hi, Mummy, Daddy, meet my new boyfriend! His father is a crazy rocker and his mother is an even crazier drug addict!”

Mummy Charlotte is suitably unimpressed but Daddy Charlotte practically loses it. He takes Charlotte aside and says, “You need to break up with that boy, NOW.” Charlotte laughs and says “I knew you wouldn’t like him.” But her father insists he has good reasons for what he says and if she only knew what he knew she would end it. Charlotte, however, insists she loves loves him and nothing in the world could make her end it (assuming this is all just snobbery on her father’s part.)

So her father realises he will have to tell her the truth. And he does, but first makes her swear not to share a word of what he tells her to anyone. He tells her about his (presumably brief) affair with Leda, and the resulting pregnancy which threatened to ruin his reputation, relationship, and possibly derail a political career. How he (as theorised by others here) convinced Jonny Rokeby to take the responsibility for the baby, in return for arranging that Jonny faces no consequences for actions/crimes of his own. (This presumably all took time to arrange, hence the delay in Jonny accepting paternity, with the paternity test in turn being offered as an excuse for this delay.)

Charlotte is at first, of course, very shocked by this revelation, and it probably doesn’t do any favours for her ever fragile state of mind.

But the often mentioned obsessive connection between Strike and Charlotte begins to win out in her mind. (A similar sort of connection or strong interest has been noted on occasion in real life between siblings who meet without realising they are siblings.) Charlotte realises that she really does love him, and, while knowing they were siblings shocked her at first, the idea of doing something that is so taboo begins to appeal to her (remember this is Charlotte we are talking about).

She decides to stay with Strike and conceal her discovery from him (because he would obviously end it if he knew). She tells her father this, and also tells him that she will spill his secret if he attempts to interfere with her relationship with Strike. Thus threatened her father can do no more, and steps out of the picture.

But there is one other person who knows the secret and could derail her relationship: Strike’s mother. As soon as Leda realises who her son’s new girlfriend’s father is, she will surely share the secret with her son, which will cause Strike to both end the relationship and be further furious and disgusted if he works out that Charlotte knew of their blood relationship, yet allowed their sexual relationship to continue. Therefore Leda must be silenced before she has the chance to speak.

As to means and opportunity, well, Charlotte is a wealthy student, given sometimes to erratic behaviour. I doubt anyone would think twice about her popping up to London whenever the impulse takes her. Strike would have no reason to connect his girlfriend being in London with his mother dying the same day. He would see no motive (and I believe he had already joined the army at this point, so would have no idea where Charlotte was on any given day or time). As to opportunity, I believe that Charlotte, with her wealth, connections and character could have obtained the heroin with minimal difficulty. Having casually obtained Leda’s address from Strike (a suitably lengthy time beforehand) either in conversation or from his possessions with addresses on them, she proceeds to Leda’s flat, and after waiting for a time when she is sure Leda is home alone, enters, and administers the fatal dose.

After all she can’t be crazy Charlotte for nothing!

Three quick notes:

(1) Yes, there is a mistake about the Army enlistment which happens after Leda’s death rather than before it. That’s not a set-back to the idea that Charlotte did it.

(2) The idea is actually very Nabokovian. Check out the brother-sister incest relationship that is the heart of Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, his last and longest book and perhaps his most neglected. Here is the plot from the novel’s Wikipedia page:

Ada tells the life story of a man named Van Veen, and his lifelong love affair with his sister Ada. They meet when she is eleven (soon to be twelve) and he is fourteen, believing that they are cousins (more precisely: that their fathers are cousins and that their mothers are sisters), and begin a sexual affair. They later discover that Van’s father is also Ada’s and her mother is also his. The story follows the various interruptions and resumptions of their affair. Both are wealthy, educated, and intelligent. The book itself takes the form of his memoir, written when he is in his nineties, punctuated with his own and Ada’s marginalia, and in parts with notes by an unnamed editor, suggesting the manuscript is not complete.

Just sayin.’ And of course this links up with the brother-sister relationship of Cuckoo’s Calling, the son and step-mom sexual affair in Lethal White, and the daddy-daughter incest that is the backdrop of Ibsen’s Rosmersholm. If we’re looking for Strike7 to have heavy shading from Strikes1 and 4 (and we are), this works. Perhaps the baby they conceived died because of the increased likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities in incestuous couplings? “Calling Dr. Freeman!”

(3) I need someone to explain to me, though, why the daddy wouldn’t need to be silenced as well or just as much as Leda — or why Daddy didn’t snuff Leda (if he’s as well connected as he seems, ordering Rokeby to take the fall for him, how hard could that have been?). I don’t see a Campbell father who is scandalized by the possibility that his daughter will be mating with his son fades from the scene. In fact, I find it hard to believe he would not like the idea of keeping it all in the family, if you will.

Again, your thoughts, please! And thank you, Fiona, for sharing your theory!



  1. Thanks for making this it’s own post, I’m chuffed!
    The reasons I favour Charlotte as a suspect over her father in this scenario is that he has already created his solution to the original problem of Strike’s existence, and his solution was cover up, not murder. If he was going to kill/have her killed he would surely have done it as soon as he first found out about the pregnancy? If the story does break, the last thing he needs is a murder charge added to the scandal. (But Charlotte may not view the situation so rationally)

    Why Charlotte wouldn’t also ‘silence’ her father: she knows how invested he is in keeping the secret quiet. If the story gets out now it’s going to be even bigger and more damaging to him than it originally was, because it now has the extra added factor of the Rokeby cover up. Surely the best he can hope for now is to keep quiet and placate Charlotte so that she does too?

  2. Charlotte’s father has died, mentioned in Lethal White, when Strike is walking to meet Chiswell for the first time.

  3. Its’s so much fun to see how people can take an idea and make up very different stories and explanations. I made a case for Charlotte that simply focuses on Charlotte’s character. I expect Rowling will deliver some big twist that will make this look silly, but it’s still fun to think about while keeping the world at a distance.

    Strike thinks he knows all of Charlotte, even her messed up bits. If the killer is someone Strike doesn’t expect and who would be a big kick to his psyche, then Charlotte would be a prime suspect. He thinks he understands her down to her bones, knows her swift changes in moods. I don’t understand the hold Charlotte has over Strike’s imagination, as he says in TB. Perhaps he had hoped to become some kind of healed, whole self with someone who understands him, and he her. But the reality is far from his hopes. Two broken halves can’t necessarily be mended together.

    As for why? Charlotte doesn’t like to share and wants all of him. It may be acceptable for him to sleep with someone else, but love and loyalty directed elsewhere? That might be a problem. Did Strike have the answer when he said to her in LW that “You wanted to stop me wanting anything that wasn’t you. That’d be the proof I loved you, if I gave up the army, the agency, Dave Polworth, every-bloody-thing that made me who I am.” Was Leda the first and biggest impediment to Charlotte’s need to have all of him?

    And perhaps she expected Strike to turn entirely to her after such an emotional, upheaval. She craves and creates emotional storms or takes advantage of them, such as when she arrived at the hospital when Strike was at his most vulnerable. If so, she miscalculated and instead of turning to her he surprised her by leaving university and entering the army.

    As for opportunity, we know from CC that travel between London and Oxford is not an impediment. Robin did so when she went there to check into the alibi of Tony Bristow while Strike slept off his big drunk.

    I think it is quite possible Leda killed herself, obviously for reasons that are unknown at present. I don’t know how someone could put a needle in her vein without a struggle or leaving marks unless she had already been incapacitated. No such evidence is mentioned, but perhaps Strike will decide to look at his mother’s case with the eyes of an experienced investigator and find things his 20 years old self couldn’t. That could be one legacy of the change he begins in TB and the idea might be planted after solving Margot’s cold case. Or maybe not!

  4. Not to exclude the Charlotte theory entirely, but I would like to point out that the idea of Johnny Rokeby agreeing to a cover story does not seem to fit with his efforts to get Strike to attend his party in TB. Just a small thought.

Speak Your Mind