Lethal White: Add Seven Cuckoo Echoes

I joked in yesterday’s touchstone turtleback post on the ring structure of Lethal White that we should have a page here dedicated to new correspondences that Serious Strikers have found between Strike 4 and Strike 1, Cuckoo’s Calling. Realizing that Strike falls on and cracks his cell phone screen in both books made me look at my charting notes for any other Cuckoo-Lethal links. In addition, that is, to the echo of Cuckoo’s first chapters at the beginning of Lethal White’s Part 2 we’ve talked about at ‘The Missing Page Mystery.’ Here are six for starters, each offered in the hope that you will be inspired to share any you have found and not already discussed inLethal White: Cuckoo’s Calling Retold?and that post’s comment thread.

(1) The African Student Link: In Cuckoo, Lula Landry had been searching in the last months of her life for her biological father. She had found her biological mother, Marlene Higson, who told her that her father had been a student from Africa. Lula finds him, albeit after his repose, and makes the search for her half-brother, Jonah Agyeman, a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. John Bristow hires Strike after murdering Lula because she had told him that she was leaving all her money to Jonah; Bristow thought Strike might be able to find the runner on the street whom John suspected correctly was Agyeman without figuring out Bristow had done it.

In Lethal White, there is, even after Robin and Cormoran learn from Tegan Butcher that Chiswell had been selling gallows overseas, the mystery of why Chiswell would care if people learned about this. He was a public advocate for the death penalty, after all. The answer is that one of the gallows had been stolen and a British student studying in Africa, Samuel Murape, had been hung on those gallows and there were pictures of his desecrated corpse in the Foreign Office. This is why Chiswell hired Strike: to keep the “unintended consequences” of his gallows business from hurting him politically without revealing to Strike the link between him and Murape’s judicial murder.

(2) Murder by the Canal and a Phone: John Bristow in Cuckoo’s Calling murders Rochelle Onifade who was blackmailing him about the will she knew Lula had written in the upscale resale store the day of her death. We’re not told how she died; the police believe it was suicide, Strike thinks the murderer pushed her, and I’d ask the pathologist if there was any sign of strangling. Weird thing is, Bristow kept Onifade’s Nokia cellular phone as some kind of souvenier when he threw her into the river (see ‘Three Galbraith Mistakes in Cuckoo’s Calling for more on this.) 

At the end of Lethal White, Raphael Chiswell lures Robin to a hidden part of a canal, punches her in the solar plexus to knock the wind out of her and prevent her screaming, and throws her cell phone in the water. In a reverse echo, the phone dies in the water but the intended murder victim lives to testify against the bad guy. Yes, I think the several “Blackmailers don’t kill the people they’re blackmailing but the reverse” comments in White are pointers to dead Rochelle.

(3) An Adulterous Affair Key to Alibis: In Cuckoo’s Calling Ursala May, wife of Cyprian May, is shacking up on the sly with Tony Landry, Cyprian’s partner in the Landry family law firm. On the day of Lula’s seeming suicide, the adulterous couple were having a liaison in Oxford. To cover up his whereabouts that day, he claimed to have been visiting his sick sister, John Bristow’s adopted mother. Both Bristow and Landry know the other was not at Lady Bristow’s flat that day but each is the other’s alibi. Learning about the affair is essential to breaking Bristow’s “cast-iron alibi” for the time of the murder and establishing “means.”

There is a hidden adulterous affair, too, in Lethal White, right? Kinvarra Chiswell is Raphael’s step-mother but they are much closer in age than Kinvarra and her husband Jasper. They conspire to murder Jasper and the key element in their plan is to disguise their adulterous relationship by pretending to despise one another. Kinvarra’s “cast iron alibi” is only broken when the affair is revealed in Strike’s investigation and confirmed on CCTV camera’s at Padington Station.

(4) The Polish Cleaning WomanCuckoo’s Calling includes in its cast of players a very attractive Polish cleaning woman named Lechsinka (she speaks with Strike in Part 4, chapter 2, p 280). It turns out Felicity Purdue, ‘Flick,’ pretends to be a Polish cleaning woman to gain access to Jasper Chiswell’s Ebury Street townhouse.

(5) Panic at the Finishing Line: Strike struggles in Part 5, chapter 1 (pp 421-422) of Cuckoo to get Wardle to pursue a warrant for the killer’s arrest. Lives are on the line! 

“I’d have thought,” said Eric Wardle slowly, looking down at the will in its plastic packet, “you’d have wanted to show this to your client.”

“I would, but he’s in Rye,” said Strike, “and this is urgent. I’ve told you I’m trying to prevent two more murders. We’re dealing with a maniac here, Wardle.”

Extra credit if you can name the two potential murder victims!

In Lethal White, Strike says to Robin after seeing her photo of ‘Mare Mourning’ at Chiswell House in ch 67 (p 598): “We need to go to the police,” said Strike. “The odds on another murder just went up exponentially.”

(6) Barge Scene Echoes: Forgive me, but when Raphael calls Kinvarra “the stupid cow” in his confrontation with Robin on the barge (ch 69, p 629), I had to think of DI Carver yelling at Wardle in Cuckoo’s prologue, “The poor cow jumped. Nobody else was there.” And then, when Robin revealed as her coup de grâce that Raphael had been caught in a disguise on CCTV footage in a place and outfit that would tie him directly and undeniably to the murder site (p 630), I had to think of John Bristow listening to the exact revelation from Strike in the Agency office finale of Cuckoo’s Calling. Speaking of which scene —

(7) The “Bat Shit Insane” Murderer: John Bristow gets away with the murder of his fabulously rich sister, who died intestate so all the money was coming to him, and all he has to do to keep it is walk away from the subject (or murder Rochelle Onifade and then walk away from it). Instead he hires a private detective to investigate the crime, an investigator with no other clients and now a full bankroll to track him down. “Bat shit insane” just about covers it.

Raphael Chiswell, though, is maybe even a little crazier. Bristow murders Lula with maybe an afternoon of planning and gets incredibly lucky. Chiswell murders his father, a Minister of the Crown, to get access through his step-mother to a painting at Chiswell House, the value of which Stubbs no one in the family understands. It doesn’t take much thinking to see a hundred different ways he could have won the painting without killing Papa, bedding Mama, or drawing down the power of Her Majesty’s Metropolitan Police Force in mass to investigate a crime where he is the only suspect with a criminal record.

My thought was that he simply should have substituted his biological mother’s piebald horse painting in the damp bedroom for the Stubb’s (as he had in taking it to Drummond for valuation) and waited for a year. His father would have sold piebald pish for the 5,000 pounds and the stolen Stubbs painting could have been taken out of the vault to the US (or Arab Emirates?) and been auctioned anonymously to the global Masters market. He claims to have learned a lot in prison, but his IQ obviously didn’t make a jump. “Bat shit insane” is an apt moniker for him as well.

I’m going to be listening to Robert Glenister’s audiobook version of Cuckoo’s Calling this week now that I have the charting of Lethal White finished. I’m betting I find at least seven more correspondences between the first and fourth Strike mysteries. Have you found any we’ve missed? Lemmeno below in the comment boxes, where I’ll be posting any that I hear this week!

Post: And, if, when re-reading Cuckoo and Lethal, you think of any events suggested by the relationship of those books to possibilities in Strike 7, the series finale, feel free to share those thoughts here.

Exemplum gratis: Guy Some in Cuckoo calls Lula Landry’s brother John Bristow “the accountant” though he knew Bristow was a lawyer. Evan Duffield repeats this “accountant” accusation later in the book. Bristow is Lula’s murderer. Can we assume that the only actual accountant we know in the series, Matt Cunliffe, definitely outraged and probably out of work at Lethal’s end, will turn out to be a revenge murderer in the series latch-finale as well? Or will Ted Turvey murder Matt in a reverse echo for Cunliffe’s one too many premature balding jokes?


  1. Louise Freeman says

    Lots of nice finds here!

    A needlessly elaborate murder scheme is also a connection to Goblet of Fire. As many fans have pointed out, a disguised Crouch-as-Moody could have simply turned a teacup into Portkey and invited Harry for a cup of tea in his office, and whisked him off to the graveyard the first week of class. There was really no need to rig the TriWizard Tournament

  2. A bit of a different subject, but I came across an odd mistake in Lethal White on page 585. Its the scene where Strike & Robin are in the house with Kinvara after digging in the dell. The text says “The door opened. Kinvara had returned, and to Robin’s consternation, she was carrying a revolver.” Strike then calls it a “Harrington & Richardson 7-shot”. Four paragraphs later the text says “…then followed the Labrador back into the garden, Strike limping after her with the rifle.”

    It seems like an odd mistake, calling it a revolver, then specifically identifying it as a Harrington & Richardson 7-shot revolver, and then stating Strike with the rifle…I may be reaching too far here, but I wonder if there was initially a passing thought of linking this weapon to the rifle that Freddie used to shoot Spotty the miniature horse…? But then thought it was better to link this weapon to the one Raff would use to hold Robin hostage later so that Strike could have secretly removed the ammunition. Maybe too much of a reach, or just a simple mistake instead of failing to clean up loose ends!

  3. Nice find, MikeG! It looks like an error in editing akin to Strike’s saying that Freddie Chiswell died in Afghanistan; it happens once and multiple times afterwards it is noted that he was killed by a sniper in Basra, Iraq. Here the gun is described repeatedly as a “revolver” and once as a “rifle.” I suspect Galbraith’s editor, being British and of a certain class and politics (one not having done military service or police work), has handled neither revolver or rifle and scarcely knows the difference. Which might also be said of Galbraith, for that matter, the origin of the mistake almost surely.

    Again, great catch! I will pass it on to a friend that is in contact with the publishers and who has sent them our previous gaffe-finds.

    Back to Cuckoo-Lethal White correspondences!

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