Louise’s First Look at Troubled Blood Cover and Synopsis.

It’s been a banner week. Not only does The Ickabog wrap up in characteristic JKR style, but Robert Galbraith releases the cover and summary blurb for the next in the Cormoran Strike series, Troubled Blood. We can already see the predicted echoes to Career of Evil. I think we can count on a more gruesome story. I’ll also take a look back at my earlier predictions and see how this new information requires adjusting them.

First the cover:  dark, befitting the book pegged as the nigredo of the series, with the title in blood-red letters.  The dial (which does not seem to have the Roman numeral XX on it, unlike the teaser video on Twitter) presumably refers to the astrological/tarot element promised in the book.  Some have theorized that this represents the Hampton Court Clock Tower.  I love the lamppost, but am a bit disappointed to see figures that look more like the TV Robin and Cormoran than the book.  Where’s Strike’s pube hair? 

Onto the blurb:  

Already we can see some echoes to the third book of the series, which featured a psychopathic serial killer giving lots of unwanted attention, to put it mildly, to the Titian-haired Temp.  Career of Evil was also a look back at the past, with Strike forced to confront two past cases–one successful, one not– as well as his loser stepfather.  Here we, go back even further, to an unsolved disappearance, which, as astute Twitterers have already pointed out, occurred the very year of Cormoran’s birth.  Coincidence?  Will his digging into events in his hometown that occurred the year of his birth lead him to address a few of the questions of his own past?  Including the fact that neither Cormoran’s birth nor a DNA test broke up Jonny Rokeby’s marriage.  This could lead to connections to Order of the Phoenix, where Harry has to confront the meaning of a prophecy referring to his own birth. 

Other intriguing elements.  I am tickled pink that the mystery starts in Cornwall when Cormoran is visiting family– I have wanted to meet Uncle Ted and Aunt Joan for some time now. The missing woman, on the other hand, has a surname that suggests she is from the north–  specifically, Bamburgh, a tiny village on the coast of Northumberland (about 2 hours north of Robin’s home town of Masham) and home to a famous castle and mysterious sword.  Is this site destined to join the White Horse of Uffington as a stop on the Strike fan pilgrimage tour? 

Cornwall, in addition to being home to Ted and Joan, was also the home and burial place of Pamela “Pixie” Coleman Smith, illustrator of the world’s best known tarot deck, and the subject of a recent biography. It is also the site of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, which apparently includes a tarot reading machine, pictured above. Expect Cormoran to visit there—  I hope he brings Robin with him!

It’s hard to believe Cormoran and Robin will spend too much time on the road, though, with all they have goingon in London. It looks like the agency is thriving but The Flobberworm is being his difficult self regarding the divorce. I am still pulling for Robs to get her half of their flat proceeds sale. And who, pray tell, is the “unwanted male” paying her attention? The only one who has expressed interest in her so far is Spanner, and he seems nice enough to take a hint.  Could the belligerent and hard-drinking Tom Turvey be trying to avenge himself on Matthew by pursuing Robin? 

I don’t see how some of my other predictions:  the return of Whittaker, the emergence of Strike’s baby brother Switch (unless he is part of the family reunion in Cornwall–could he be seeking out his mother’s relatives after all these years, with Strike persuaded to go meet him?), an educational setting, and the death of either Shanker or Vanessa are going to work their way in, yet.  But, at 944 pages, a third longer than Lethal White and twice as long as the first three books in the series, there is plenty of room for sub-plots. 

One final note:  the missing woman is named Margot, a variation of Margaret.  So is Daisy, heroine of The Ickabog.  Any particular reason JKR would be particularly fond of that name? 

Counting down to September 15th. 

Comments

  1. Let’s not forget my favorite part of the synopsis: battling her own feelings about Strike! 😉 (It made my shipper heart very happy.) I like that they’re literally running against the clock on the cover and I feel like maybe this time they’ll be racing to save a third party…which would make a nice change from Cormoran running to save Robin. (She deserves a break, right?) Lastly, this may be stating the obvious, but I predict this serial killer has been inactive for many years. Whatever they’re uncovering is making him nervous and dangerous again.

  2. When it comes to the Hampton Court clock, my immediate thought was, “Does Spenser or his poem have anything to do with it”? I googled “The Faerie Queene” and “Astronomical Clock”, and recieved the following answers.

    Rebecca Olson offers a side theory that real life clock might serve as a model for the “Dial” seen in Lucifera’s court in the House of Pride sequence.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=oWArAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA46&dq=faerie+queene+astronomical+clock&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjWhsuv88fqAhVMaq0KHfDiDdMQ6AEwAHoECAYQAg#v=onepage&q=faerie%20queene%20astronomical%20clock&f=false

    She points toward James Norhnberg’s “The Analogy of the Faerie Queene”, where he makes the following observation: “The-fall-of-princes theme at the House of Pride also makes it a symbol of Fortune. It’s clock does duty for Fortune’s wheel, and represents time-serving (205)”.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=MNP_AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA205&lpg=PA205&dq=james+nohrnberg+the+analogy+of+the+faerie+queene+fortune%27s+wheel&source=bl&ots=HNCaoBq7-V&sig=ACfU3U2Z6b-FpZVUtxcnJl7RfZb0OI-Zrw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiG0Y3s9MfqAhVEXqwKHZYEDnwQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=james%20nohrnberg%20the%20analogy%20of%20the%20faerie%20queene%20fortune's%20wheel&f=false

    The most important information I might have found, however, comes from a former pupil of CSL’s, Alastair Fowler. In his study, “Time’s Purpled Masquers”, Fowler observes that Spenser was an expert in what he terms “poetical astronomy (55)”. “I have in mind the device whereby characters (in the “Queene”, sic) are grouped according to the stars in an appropriate constellation…Spenser’s allegorical houses are in this way linked with astrological houses; a formal subtlety he very likely learned from Chaucer. The device depended on – and in turn would foster – knowledge of poetic astronomy (55-6)”.

    Fowler takes this a further step in his earlier “Spenser and the Numbers of Time”. It’s main thesis is that the “Queene” “is in fact an astonishingly complex web of interlocking numerical patterns of many different kinds. We find numerological significance in line-, stanza-, canto-, and book-totals; in the location of these units; and even in the numbers of characters mentioned in each episode. Pythagorean number symbolism, astronomical symbolism based on orbital period figures and on Ptolemaic star catalogue totals, medieval theological number symbolism; all these strands, and more besides, are worked together into what – in this respect at least – must be one of the most intricate poetic textures ever devised (4)”.

    As for the symbolism and meaning of Lucifera’s Dial, it can symbolize the Wheel of Fortune (and hence of Folly), however Fowler posits a double meaning for it. For him, it recalls the Dial of (Ahab), and that it was “therefore a sign that the city would be delivered out of that proud tyrant’s hands (74)”. “(We) ought, perhaps, to treat the dial of Lucifera not only as an amplification of her pride but also as yet another small indication that, in its political orientation, Book I is conceived as a ‘realized apocalypse (75)”. An online copy of Fowler’s book can be read here:

    https://archive.org/details/spensernumbersof0000fowl/page/75/mode/1up?q=dial

    What all this says to me, in terms of Rowling’s next novel, is that this is the book where Charlotte (Strike’s Lucifera) might make her final bow, and I do at least wonder if this means Hampton Court is going to be the site for the big unmasking and showdown of this particular case. Strike’s challenge would have to be the same as Spenser’s hero in that he must resits the siren calls of Fortune. Anyway, there’s one idea.

  3. Kelly Loomis says

    An interesting side note as you’re looking at name meanings. There is a popular Netflix series called The Last Kingdom where an uncle forcefully takes over the fortress of Bamburgh in Northumbria from his nephew. The nephew escapes and is raised in safety by Ragnar the Viking. The son becomes known as Uhtred Ragnarson. His dream is to take back the fortress someday from his evil uncle and reclaim his home and title as lord of Bamburgh. However, he is reluctantly made to fight for kings -specifically Alfred – who is trying to unite the various kingdoms into a united England. The show is loosely based on true events. (Could some of this story somehow fit into John’s prediction of an evil uncle who killed Leda??)

  4. Any particular reason JKR would be particularly fond of that name?

    ‘Margaret’ is from the Greek world for ‘Pearl.’ Like gold, it is a symbol of solid light, but its color and watery origin make it an alchemical symbol of the albedo or ‘white stage.’ Pearls and Marges play an outsize role in this regard in Collins’ Hunger Games and Gregor books.

    Lest someone cry out that we cannot have albedo imagery or symbolism in nigredo-book character names, I rush to point out that Luna Lovegood, whose first name is the pinnacle in alchemical symbolism of the white stage, first appears in Book 5 of the Harry Potter series, the depth of that book set’s black stage.

  5. Nick Jeffery says

    It might be fun to try and locate the street scene. The lamp is of a London George IV type similar to this:
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Lamp_post%2C_St_Andrew%27s_Place%2C_London.jpg
    And the cobbles also are common to London:
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Lamp_post%2C_St_Andrew%27s_Place%2C_London.jpg
    But there are two strange shadows to the right of the lamp, that may be possible to identify with a specific location. I don’t think those shapes are part of the clock.

  6. Louise Freeman says

    I was trying to figure out what those shadows were, myself. Any ideas?

  7. Dr. Freeman,

    I’m sort of more than prepared to be wrong about this. However don’t those shadows by the lamp-post look a bit like the hour and minute hand of a clock? I know the Hampton Court clock has a kind of hour hand which tells the phases of the Sun at the same time it marks the hours in the day. Could this be the faint outline of that hour hand? If so, it is shown pointing at the numeral ten. I’m not sure what that could mean, if anything.

  8. Bonni Crawford says

    The lower down of those two shadows looks to me like a hand-shaped artifact with a flat base at the wrist, allowing it to stand unsupported. It looks as though it might be holding something, and my first thought was that it is a hand of glory, holding a candle or some other light source.
    Searching the museum of witchcraft and magic for ‘hand’ yields 485 results (https://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/?s=Hand), including a hand of glory candle that I am sure the wiccan shop owner in Lethal White would be proud to sell: https://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/object/3665-hand-of-glory-candle/
    That has the light coming from the tips of the fingers and thumb though, whereas the shadow seems to be holding something.

    Other possibly relevant results:
    https://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/object/hand-11/ – This might be the right sort of shape if viewed from the thumb side, but it’s not designed to hold anything, by the look of it.

    https://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/object/3818-hand-and-heart-bell/
    The hand atop this bell also has the right shape, but again, doesn’t seem to be designed to hold anything, and the Troubled Blood cover image, if it indeed depicts a hand, doesn’t seem to have a bell below it

  9. Louise Freeman says

    Re: Pearls and albedo: Luna’s most crucial function in Book five was at the very end, when she helped Harry move past his lowest point (Sirius’s death) with her empathy, her shared loss and the knowledge that she, too, heard voices beyond the veil– something neither Ron, Hermione, DD or Nick could do. You could argue, then, that she began the transition to the white stage. If this parallel holds, we should expect Margot to be present, in some way, at the end (maybe they’ll actually find the poor lady alive?) and that she, either literally or through the successful solving of her case, will communicate something to one or both of our protagonists that will get them moving from breakdown to purification.

  10. Nick Jeffery says

    I don’t *think* so Chris. The Hampton Court clock doesn’t have a minute hand, and the sun/hour hand would obscure a portion of the zodiac scale. In the cover that portion of the scale is complete.
    http://www.cosmicelk.net › hcclPDF
    inside the hampton court clock – The Cosmic Elk

  11. Nick,

    Yeah, like I said, I’m more than ready to be wrong when it comes to what the shadow could mean. The items I’m willing (more or less) to stand by is that the clock image itself does seem to be modeled after that Hampton mechanism. I’m more interested in the possible thematic meanings the image can/might have for the story. For instance, based on the presence of astrological symbolism on the clock face itself, it makes me wonder if in addition to Tarot, the reader might find astrology or its signs playing some kind of part in the 5th book.

    I’ll tell you the one element that really kind of has me stoked for this next one. The fact Tarot gets a direct mention at all in the official synopsis sort of has me hoping that my “Agents of Fortune” macguffin theory might still have some legs. It would be nice for Strike’s case to touch on his mother’s history, and for him to eventually come across one of her old Blue Oyster Cult albums, and discover that the whole thing is full of clues to her death.

    The biggest find I’ve been able to make about the band’s “Agents” album is that the tarot cards held by the magician/wizard/secret agent figure actually spell out the idea “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. That find wasn’t mine, however, it came from a site called TV Tropes, who were sharp enough to spot the hidden meaning in the way the cards on the album cover were painted and depicted (the info itself can be found under the Genius Bonus header):

    https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Music/AgentsOfFortune

  12. Karol Jay says

    I keep waiting for comparisons of Robin with Florimell. Rowling’s header included a print of the fleeing Florimell. My only knowledge of the Faerie Queene comes from online, so basically non-existent, but Florimell is described as someone trying to escape unwanted male attention, she’s chaste. As noted, the blurb for Troubled Blood refers to Robin and unwanted male attention (this could be plural). I think Robin may have a hard time with the expected intimacy of dating. She needs to be in control. This was brought out in some of her interactions with Matt in Lethal White.

    Other comparisons could be made between the False Florimell and Charlotte. And also Cormoran and Marinell who has some mother issues, was ‘of the sea” (Cornwall?), and was a confirmed bachelor, until he wasn’t. I hear some echoes. Anyone else?

  13. Kelly Loomis says

    I know there has been some speculation on some sites that the clock is not the Hampton clock because of a discrepancy with the XX in the teaser trailer but Rowling changed her twitter header today to the Hampton clock. So, keep up the guesses as to meaning!!

  14. Kelly,

    I think I know where at lot of the peculation came from. “Galbraith” released a trailer for the book using the Hampton Clock face. The trailer itself just broadcasts the release date Sept. 15th, 2020. They chose to show this date using the face of the clock itself. The trailer consisted of a series of shot of the clock, some of which included inserts of the numeral XX (20) which doesn’t appear on the clock face in either in real life, nor does it ever show on it’s book cover copy.

    It’s a minor detail, yet it also seems to have been one that’s confused a lot of people. The 20 is there just to showcase the date. The clock on the cover and real life remain unchanged. It proves little except that sometimes seeing is neither believing or knowing. The good news in all this is that the major signs still point to the real clock playing some sort of part (whether thematic, literal, or both) in upcoming novel.

  15. Dr. Freeman,
    I think I might have found out some interesting bit of trivia about Hampton Court. Among other things, the ancient Renaissance site has since been converted into what’s known as The Hampton Court Palace Festival. According to the Festival’s Wikipedia page, it is “an annual musical event at Hampton Court Palace in London.

    “Established in 1993, the Festival is known for presenting artists across the music genres such as Sir Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Eric Clapton, Tom Jones, Andrea Bocelli, Frankie Valli, Van Morrison, Jools Holland, Liza Minnelli, James Morrison Buena Vista Social Club, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras and Josh Groban. The concerts are held in the “Base Court” courtyard of the palace and continue a tradition of entertainment first introduced by monarchs and nobility in the 16th and 17th century.

    “The event is held over 18 days in June, and is run in conjunction with Historic Royal Palaces. The venue supports an audience of 3,000, and the events culminate in a Festival Finale with a programme of classical favourites and a firework display on the East Front Gardens”.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampton_Court_Palace_Festival

    What this means is that, in essence, there is a kind buried rock n’ roll element on the book’s cover. It’s just not so obvious because apparently no one thought to connect an old English castle with the likes of Van Morrison and Eric Clapton. This factoid sparks two thoughts in my mind. On the one hand, it “might” leave a way for Rowling to sneak either Rokeby, Whittaker, Switch, or all of them together into the same setting. This would make for a literal packed house as it present Strike with a situation in which he has to face several specters from his past, in a way similar to the showdown in the Ministry Stand-off in Potter 5.

    The second train of thought has to do with what kind of symbol we have on our hands with this new bit of info. The facts we have give us a setting that encompasses several allegorical facets at once. The setting is a palace in which both Tarot, Astrology, and Music are gathered together and are forced t occupy the space. I don’t know that it’s enough to call that space sacred. However, from an anagogical perspectives, it could be that Rowling has given us a rather neat and compact type of symbol, one that “might” signify the testing and formation of character.

    …Yeah, I’ll go take my meds now.

  16. Kelly Loomis says

    ChrisC that is a great find! We may have some exciting reading and guessing ahead.

    By the way, thinking of Strike’s family (siblings and steps), has anyone ever thought of Strike having any sisters other than Lucy? I began listening to the series again when I pulled up short as I heard Lucy being described as “one of his half sisters” (Cuckoo chapter 7) as he was thinking of places he had roughed it as he prepared to sleep in his office. “…the dank dormitory of the commune in Norfolk to which his mother has dragged him and one of his half-sisters when they were eight and six respectively.” I just assumed since we have only heard of half brothers and Lucy so far that he didn’t have any other sisters. Referring to Lucy as “ONE of his half-sisters“ that early on seems like one of those things we skip over as insignificant and it later turns out to be important in Rowling’s world.

  17. Louise Freeman says

    The other half-sisters were listed in Jonny Rokeby’s Wikipedia page that Robin reviewed in the first book. Rokeby had a daughter, Maimie, from his first marriage (as far as we know, she’s the only one older than Cormoran), two daughters, Gabi and Dani, from his second marriage (they are mentioned as having sent flowers to the hospital following Cormoran’s amputation) and another out-of-wedlock daughter, Prudence (I don’t think we know when she was born– but I think that is a great name for a presumptive extramarital accident). I think we’ve already had our “do the math” moment when Cormoran mentioned having 8 half-siblings in Cuckoo’s Child— Lucy plus the 6 other Rokeby-spawn only adds up to 7. That suggested Leda had another kid someplace, and we learn about young Switch Levay Bloom Whittaker in Career of Evil. Interestingly, Whittaker only gets about 5 minutes of screen time in the TV Career of Evil, but does manage to throw in a mention of his child with Leda. This is a big hint that SLBW will be important later, and I’m betting that will happen in Troubled Blood. (If there is anyone whose blood should be troubled, it’s poor little Switch, with Leda and Whittaker as parents, a severely mentally ill grandmother, then raised by wealthy but potentially abusive (?) great-grandparents.
    In any case, Strike has 5 half-sisters and 3 half-brothers.

  18. Kelly,

    That’s another great catch. In fact, I think it’s a line that slipped right by me without notice. I don’t know what that could mean at the moment. All any reader knows for sure is that Lucy is one of the few relatives that Strike is close to very personal reasons. However, there’s bound to be something about their past to be unearthed sooner or later that could unlock a lot of evidence of some kind further down the road.

    Also, now that I think of it, your referencing the commune sort of adds a bit more fuel to the fire. If Hampton Court hosts a music festival (both in real life, and now in fiction), and the commune Strike “did time” in was composed and rock fanatics and groupies like his Mom, then it does lend weight to the idea that we will see this particular plot element make a comeback of some kind. Again, the reason why I’m willing to have a cautious hope that we “might” see this train-wreck of a halfway home crop up again is because a lot of the gathered details so far point to rock music once more playing a part in the plot.

    In this regard, it took me a while, yet at some point I finally managed to realize that there is a sort of musical alchemical aspect by having the Hampton Clock feature in the narrative. Technically, I pointed it out while letting it slip right past my notice again. I mentioned singer-songwriter Van Morrison in passing, and even then, it’s just on account of the history of artists who’ve performed at the Palace Festival. What makes him something of a thematic alchemical connection is that he wrote a song about the literal Philosopher’s Stone. The lyrics can be found here:

    https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/vanmorrison/philosophersstone.html

    Rock critic Peter Mills takes things a step further, and has written an entire book on the premise that the Stone acts as a kind of guiding symbol for Morrison’s entire career:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=tZS6BwAAQBAJ&pg=PT403&dq=van+morrison+alchemy&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiV3cjXldbqAhVRaq0KHTC2AVgQ6AEwAXoECAYQAg#v=onepage&q=van%20morrison%20alchemy&f=false

    So, let’s assemble all the pieces once more. Rowling has the publishers place the image of a clock, which was made to tell both the time and the future via astrology, on the cover of her next book. And is in a real life castle, where an actual Rock singer who wrote a song about alchemy once performed. At this point I’m left to wonder if somewhere Nabokov is either rolling his eyes, or else nodding in approval.

    I said above that it looked as if Hampton Palace was taking on a kind of textual symbolic significance. It really does seem to take me this long, yet I’ve now figured out that the word I was probably looking for is alembic. In other words, the Palace seems like the vessel or container in which all the novel’s elements will be distilled somehow. At least there’s one possibility. I know Marilyn Manson’s music might play some part. Otherwise, I would hope that Blue Oyster Cult would make another return performance. Who knows?

    Either way, what I do know is that typing in Morrison’s name, along with that of Hampton Court will bring up clips of him singing at the festival (G-L-O-R-I-A!). Also, as a bonus, there is footage of him performing in Montreux, Switzerland. “Thought you ought to know”.

  19. In any case, Strike has 5 half-sisters and 3 half-brothers.

    And Charlotte is his twin sister, right? Didn’t I read that possibility explored in a comment thread here recently?

    {Searches diligently…}

    Yes, the Cormoran-Charlotte Twin-Incest Conversation starts here.

  20. A.M. Jacobs says

    As many Strikers have observed, (see also the comments on the question of “who killed Leda Strike” and elsewhere on this pillarpost) the name Leda points towards twins. And the swans in Lethal White seem to underline that. It has also been suggested on reasonable grounds that Rokeby might not be his biological father. So is it totally unthinkable that Strike could also have an as yet unknown twin? And that his stay in Cornwall, where he gets to investigate a case referring to his own year of birth, may point him in that direction? Although great fun to speculate, I can’t wait to read Troubled Blood.

  21. Kelly Loomis says

    Thanks everyone. I haven’t started doing a thorough study of the series yet and forgot about the Wikipedia reading Robin did on Rokeby. I’m hoping to look at it “academically“ or more studiously in the next couple of months before Troubled Blood comes out. And just the name of the novel gives me goosebumps of anticipation!!

  22. I love that the color tones on the book cover look like a 1970s mystery book cover. I am sad that it’s the diminutive versions of Strike and Robin, not their true tall selves.

    I know almost nothing about Western astrology, I feel like I have no chance of solving this who-dun-it. (Not that I solved the others.)

  23. Rebecca,

    I don’t think I’ve seen anyone comment yet on the significance of the chosen color scheme for “Troubled Blood”. I think that’s down to two reasons. For one thing, up till just recently, the covers were pretty generic. That’s not a real criticism, sometimes generic can necessary. However, the covers of the past two books (starting with “Lethal White”) have begun to stand out base on the colors that are used to illustrate them.

    For instance, Strike 4 has a green, white, and gold scheme. Those colors are significant on accounts of their symbolic value. This same scheme is repeated on the cover for Book 5. The general background is gray-blue-ish-black. The author’s name is in white. The title, meanwhile, is red. It’s all three colors of the alchemical sequence on display for the reader to see (that is “if” the reader knows what to look for).

    Just an interesting bit of trivia. If nothing else, it probably means the author is starting to shift into first gear with the series, and (perhaps) she’s been trying to get the publishers to find illustrators who can do the same.

    Just two other things of note. I really do agree it’s nice to see a use lamp-post imagery on the cover, and I hope it’s a sign of something plays either a symbolic or at least affectionate allusive role in the story.

    Second and last, after giving it some thought. I think those shadows on the cover are just meant to be a pair of birds. I’d like to say they were doves, however from narrative logic standpoint I’m pretty sure pigeons are the most likely candidate.

  24. Joanne Gray,

    A while back you brought up the subject of one of Ms. Rowling’s twitter headers. It was the one that showcased an old Dickensian illustration of a section of London known as St. John’s Gate, Clerkenwell. At the time, the furthest anyone could get in terms of speculating what roll the setting might play in any of the Strike books was its connection to a real-life crime syndicate, and how this might connect to the mentioned and never seen figure of “Digger” O’Malley.

    After the gears had turned long enough the thought finally occurred to me to wonder if there was any possible connection between the Gate of St. John’s and Hampton Court. In order to understand this connection, it helps to know who were the original owners and operators of the Gate. As far as I’ve been able to dig up, the Gate was constructed in the 1500s by a collective of Catholic priests known as the Order of St. John.

    One of its first leaders during that period was a priest named Thomas Docwra. “Docwra was Grand Prior of the Order of St John at the time St John’s Gate was constructed in 1504. The Docwra coat of arms can be seen on the North and South sides of the Gate. He took over from Sir John Kendall in 1501 and served in the role until his death in 1527 when he was replaced by Sir William Weston, the last Grand Prior before the monastery was dissolved. Under his leadership, Hospitaller land in Hampton was leased to the Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey, who proceeded to build Hampton Court Palace on this site. The Hospitallers’ chapel bell can still be seen above the Astronomical clock at the palace”.

    http://museumstjohn.org.uk/collections/thomas-docwra-1458-1527-prior-of-england-1501-1527/

    In other words, it was the actions of this one priest whose religious order was situated in Clerkenwell who is responsible for the construction of Hampton Court in more or less the way it stands now. Henry may have been the one who came along and built the clock, yet he’d have had no real place to put it if weren’t for the monks at St. John’s Gate.

    What this means is that we are able to establish a connection between two locations that, on the surface, appear to have nothing to do with one another. It was the Order of the Gate that created the Palace, and it is both of these locations that are being highlighted by the author. That just leaves the question of what any of that could mean in terms of Book 5.

    In terms of the surface plot, I’m inclined to at least hope that this means two things. In the first place, your theory about a return of the Harringay Syndicate in some form or another might just be somewhere in the offing. At the same time, the fact that there is an actual historical connection between the Gate and the Court leaves further room for Mr. Granger’s original Heroin Dark Lord theory to make a comeback.

    This is nothing set in stone, or even ice for that matter. However, one possibility is that several off-screen personalities have the dramatic opportunity of a plot that allows the author to bring them all on-stage for the first time (unless it’s possible for them to be dealt with in an off-stage sort of way). We “could” see the return of Digger if the possibility is raised that the “mysterious circumstances” in which Mrs. Bamborough went missing involved her stumbling upon an operation of Malley’s, leaving her the unfortunate victim of being in the exact place to witness something that she shouldn’t have. Maybe it was a murder, a professional mob hit against a rival, or even just a simple drug deal or exchange of illegal funds going down. The net result is that if Margot ran afoul of Digger and his gang, the first thing he would do is make sure that no witness could “make any guy in the room”.

    The additional connection of Hampton Court leaves a natural enough setting to introduce figures like Rokeby, Whittaker, and Switch. It also leaves the potential open for the former two to have been among the “faces” Margot saw when she turned the wrong corner, so to speak. If it turns out that Rokeby is guilty of more than one crime, then the stakes for the final remaining books would go up a notch (or two, depending on whether or not Papa Rock takes a more active role in the series’ white and red texts). In case anyone needs reminding. I saw the Court Palace as a good place to showcase a figure like Rokeby for the very reason that it is an actual venue for the occasional Rock concert.

    https://hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com/

    With these ideas in mind, it is at least able to plot or map out the movement of Book 5. It starts in Cornwall, and then from there is moves on to Clerkenwell, and eventually, through whatever twists and turns, to the Palace. All the elements keep pointing in that direction, and the setting itself seems primed in the text as a crucible where all the major secrets from the mystery-of-the-week are revealed, and all characters get tested; some going up, others going down (in which the audience gets to see Digger (as the Big Baddie for the week?) take a final bow in a possible Tony Montana-style blaze of glory?).

    If I had anything to add to that, then it would be to address Dr. Freeman’s question of an academic setting for the case. There are one or two clues that still makes me hold out some hope of seeing either Oxford, Cambridge, or both make an appearance of some kind in the text. The first is a minor one, and is less serious than the second. It involves one of the Clerkenwell clerks responsible for Hampton Court. Docwra was the guy who ordered its construction. However, it was another Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey, who oversaw its direct creation. He was the master of the Palace before Henry VIII threw him out. Afterwards, his hat made its way to one of Oxford’s collector’s museums. It’s a minor thing, yet it makes me wonder if the Cardinal might be an unknown source for the Sorting Hat.

    https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/blog/cardinal-wolsey

    It’s the second clue that makes me think it’s best not to dismiss an academic setting as a player in the plot. It comes from Rowling herself. On her Galbraith page, she placed a copy of an 80s album by the Smiths. It was called, alternately, “The World Won’t Listen” or “Louder than Bombs”. I think her posting an image of this album is significant mainly because of one of the songs on it. Its title is “Shakespeare’s Sister”. According to the song’s writer, it’s subject matter is as follows: “The title refers to a section of Virginia Woolf’s feminist essay A Room of One’s Own in which she argues that if William Shakespeare had had a sister of equal genius, as a woman she would not have had the opportunity to make use of it.[1][2] Sean O’Hagan says that the essay was “one of the many feminist texts Morrissey embraced as a sexually confused, politically awakened adolescent”.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare%27s_Sister_(song)

    That bit of information always stuck out to me because it kept reminding me of Ciara Porter, from “Cuckoo’s Calling”. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that “Louder than Bombs” is the source of inspiration for not just Ciara, but also the insufferable brat known as Evan Duffield. Ciara is a fashion model, and because of that, no one around ever takes her seriously, or treats her with much of any respect. In spite of this, she tells Strike she is trudging on and taking a degree at Cambridge. All of these traits match the description of Morrisey’s words regarding Shakespeare’s Sister. I don’t think we’ve heard either the band or the song mentioned anywhere in the series yet. That makes me hopeful that somewhere along the way, readers well get a chance to catch up with Ciara somewhere on the road to Hampton.

  25. ChrisC,

    Sorry for my delay in responding. Literary alchemy! Yes, I wasn’t thinking about that when I commented on the cover. It is definitely there.

    The covers do seem to be shifting into first gear after the first 3 book with their standard mystery vague and unimportant images. I was noticing how much the Lethal White cover stood out with its white binding looking at the paper back versions at the bookstore.

    Honestly, when people were talking about the shadows to the right of the clock, I was confused. They look 100% like birds to me. Although maybe more then two. Pigeons in London do seem more likely then doves. I was researching what the difference is and found this link:

    https://pigeonpedia.com/difference-between-dove-and-pigeon/

    They’re in the same taxonomic family and, practically speaking, whether to call a bird a dove or a pigeon is somewhat a matter of opinion. So maybe we can say there are a pair of doves on the cover?

  26. Rebecca,

    After looking through Lyndy Abraham’s Encyclopedia, I’m sort of forced to conclude that one of two possible options are on the table re: the birds on the cover. On the one hand, they could very well be the doves you thinking of. While pigeons are the most logical assumption any casual viewer might take when giving the face of the cover even the briefest glance, the fact is that a dove is the bird with a much greater symbolical significance.

    According to Abraham, the animal itself is a symbol of the Albedo, or White stage of the great work. That makes it the middle ground stage between the Black and the Red. She also states that it represents a “transforming arcanum (59)”. It “unites and reconciles the opposite substances…it brings peace to the quarreling elements (ibid)”. In other words, all a dove can (on occasion) symbolize is ye old English Lit. concept of the Unity of Opposites.

    There’s just one thing that makes me question whether the birds we see are a pair of doves. The problem can best be stated in the form of a question. What is a White stage symbol doing on the cover of a book that is meant to symbolize the Nigredo, or Black stage? If the White stage is about peace and reconciliation, then the Black is often the exact opposite. Such texts tend to have a harsh and biting edge, although, to be fair, it may just be possible that a lighter version of this first stage is simply when the best laid plans result in a screwball style collapse when they’re brought to completion. In which case the whole point of such an occurrence is to highlight or point out a character flaw that was guaranteed to wreck everything no matter how hard the protagonist tried to have it otherwise.

    It’s because the Nigredo is usually the direst out of the three stages that inclines me now to think the birds on the cover might be crows. According to Abraham, this animal, the crow, is “a symbol of the putrefaction and black Nigredo which is the first stage of the opus alchymicum (49)”. Also, crows are carrion birds in real life. They’re job is to take care of and dispose of any and all mortal remains. The Norse recognized this trait so well that they developed a cult of Odin around it. Because of this, the crow has obtained a rather grim reputation in literary circles. For all of these reasons, it makes the most sense to me now to realize that the birds are probably meant to be crows.

    That said, thanks for noticing for the reply. If I had to guess why the covers are taking on a more symbolic role in the marketing department, then the best guess I can come up with is that at some point the author must have decided to take a personal interest in that aspect of the whole production. Maybe she had the idea for what the cover or colors schemes of certain books stood out in her mind in a clearer way for some books rather than others? Aside from that guess, the most definitive answer is: ya got me there! I think it’s just nice pick up on neat details like this after a long time of not having much cause for it.

    Other than this, the biggest question on my mind at the moment has to do with Spenser and his poem cycle. Does anyone reading this know if there are any possible connections between the “Faerie Queene” and Tarot? I’m proposing anything here. I’m asking a genuine question, because I haven’t found anything out there on the subject yet. What brought the question up for me was reading a Strikefans post that collected most of the major clues for “Troubled Blood” in one place. What do you think, Becca, or anyone else for that matter?

    strikefans.com/troubled-blood-cover-revealed/

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