Harry, Krystal, and Kara Did It: Rowling’s Clues to Why Leda Strike Killed Herself

Much of our energies in interpreting Rowling-Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike mysteries this past month has been spent speculating about the enigma of Leda Strike’s death. It was ruled a suicide by heroin overdose by the police who were unable to gather sufficient evidence at the time to convict Jeff Whittaker of having staged the death of his wife as a suicide. For posts about the various suspects besides Whittaker, see Heroin Dark Lord 2.0, Uncle Ted Did It, Dave Polworth, Lucy and Joan Did It, Sir Randolph Whittaker, Nick Herbert, Peter Gillespie, and Charlotte Campbell-Ross. There’s a post, too, about why we can be confident all these best-guesses are wrong.

The only one of these posts in which Leda’s suicide is seriously considered as a suicide is in the argument that Dave Polworth did the dirty deed. My conclusion there is that, unless Leda learned that her husband had sexually molested her daughter, it was hard to imagine her actually committing suicide, at least not in sacrificial love for her older children. I’ve since wondered, because of Louise Freeman’s intriguing post about Old Man Whittaker as possible killer, if she might have killed herself in despair because Whittaker had convinced her that she had killed or forever removed her from baby Switch LaVey Bloom Whittaker.

Then it occurred to me: Rowling has restricted her catalog of work, her oeuvre, to fourteen books, that is, the seven Harry Potter novels, Casual Vacancy, the five Cormoran Strike mysteries, and The Ickabog. Suicide or at least deliberate and sacrificial deaths are almost a rule in all these books except for the Strike novels.

  • The inciting incident of the Hogwarts Saga is the voluntary death of Lily to save her baby son from the Dark Lord; Harry Potter commits suicide in a way, too, by letting Lord Voldemort kill him without making any resistance; Dumbledore in similar fashion dies at Severus Snape’s hand, a death of his own volition and planning.
  • Krystal Weedon, the long-suffering and pathetic heroine of Casual Vacancy, commits suicide by heroin overdose in despair over her part in the accidental death of Robbie, her little brother.
  • There is Rhiannon Winn, whose death by suicide is the Rosmerholm Beata Rosmer equivalent inciting incident of  Lethal White. Not to mention Ellie Fancourt’s ‘topping herself’ in The Silkworm, again, the first death in the deep back-story that drives the subsequent action as the plot’s genesis point…
  • The Ickabog bornding process is a willing self-death to birth Ickaboggles their children — and the Ickabog of the fairy tale Rowling writes has the most deliberate and consequential bornding-death-to-self imaginable.

You’d think that Rowling has a thing about death-to-self being almost a spiritual process, a means of transformation and ego transcendence, something akin to the alchemical solve et coagula maxim tattooed on her writing wrist.

If Leda committed suicide, though, it almost certainly wasn’t the sacrificial death that births a new and better person, here or hereafter, that we see in Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows, and The Ickabog. The obvious parallel is with Krystal Weedon in Casual Vacancy, whose suicide is by heroin overdose exactly as Leda’s supposedly was. Krystal’s despair and self-slaughter is understandable, born as it was in remorse for her neglect of her brother, albeit in pursuit of a mean for him to escape with her their shared nightmare existence.

Is Krystal’s suicide suggestive that Leda killed herself for much the same reason? Rowling said that the moral of Harry Potter and the deaths in Deathly Hallows specifically “all came down to conscience” and remorse, guilt, is the most self-effacing form conscience takes (hence Harry’s asking the Dark Lord to “feel some remorse” as his only hope of recovering from his Horcrux madness). I think we have more reason to wonder what happened to Switch before Leda’s death that might have caused her to despair in remorse for his death or her inability to protect him.

If there is a pointer to Leda’s suicide being murder in the most recent Strike novel, Troubled Blood, the gang-rape and murder of Kara Wolfson by the Ricci mob may be it. Betty Fuller tells Strike that Kara, a prostitute, had been raped by Ricci or one of his gang members and she attempted to have what revenge she could by working for the police to gather evidence against her ’employers.’ She is brutally raped and knifed to death, a murder Nicco Ricci films as a warning to ’employees’ who in the future might be thinking of turning state’s evidence. Betty Fuller’s account and Brian Tucker’s description of Kara allow Robin and Cormoran to solve the mystery of who killed her but her body is never recovered and her murderers will remain unpunished.

If Rowling-Galbraith is as self-referencing in her work as we have demonstrated she is in the Strike novels’ many parallels with her Harry Potter books corresponding numbers, I think we have to consider seriously the possibilities that Leda’s suicide will be revealed in the end to be:

  • heroic and self-sacrificing in some respect, as were Harry’s and Dumbledore’s willingness to die;
  • a function of despair and remorse, perhaps even a consequence of rape, as was Krystal Weedon’s death by heroin overdose;
  • something akin to the Ickabog’s bornding and its Ickaboggles, one born murderous because of its fear and one who is kind because of Daisy’s love; and, perhaps,
  • a death traceable to rape or a desire for revenge and justice gone horribly wrong as was Kara Wolfson’s. 

Do you think it credible that Rowling is re-writing the much-neglected and maligned Casual Vacancy so readers will once again experience the death from despair and remorse of a woman without options in the world? Just as Krystal tried to become pregnant by having sex with Fats to escape the prison of life in The Fields, did Leda succeed tragically in that same effort with Jonny Rokeby and as Sarah Shadlock has with Matt Cunliffe? Did Leda lie to Jeff Whittaker about Rokeby’s child support payments because she realized her young and lazy husband had married her with the same hope?

What clues do you think Rowling-Galbraith has given in her previous work to the mystery of Leda Strike’s seeming suicide? Am I way off-base in thinking suicide, be it sacrificial death or dissolution in remorse, is a theme running through the fourteen works she claims as her own?

Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!

Who Killed Leda Strike? Peter Gillespie

Two premises of HogwartsProfessor writing about Rowling-Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike mysteries are that (1) their over-arching story, equivalent in some ways to the Lord Voldemort backdrop to Harry Potter that climaxed in the last books of that septology, is the enigma of Leda Strike’s supposed suicide and (2) that this will be resolved by Strike7. Feel free to comment about the validity or absurdity of those guidelines for our speculation; please do review the many posts on the site about parallels that exist between the Strike and Potter series, though, before you dismiss the ideas out of hand. 

We have discussed seven suspects to date for persons who may have had a hand in Leda’s death. If you are in a hurry to review them, here are quick links to the cases made against Jonny Rokeby and the Harringay Crime Syndicate (Heroin Dark Lord 2.0), Ted Nancarrow (Uncle Ted Did It), Dave Polworth, Lucy Fantoni (Lucy and Joan Did It and here), Sir Randolph Whittaker, Nick Herbert, and Charlotte Campbell-Ross. There’s a post, too, about why we can be confident all these best-guesses are wrong. Louise Freeman has set the ‘3M Standard’ for suspect speculation here as ‘Means, Motive, and Meta-literary Reasons;’ anyone that killed Leda must have credible opportunity and skills to have done the job, he or she must have a good reason for having killed her, and the revelation that this person did it must come as a shock to Cormoran Strike and the reader (see the Polworth post for my discussion of that).

Last week ‘Karol’ offered on a comment thread to a post about Old Man Whittaker as a suspect that Peter Gillespie, Jonny Rokeby’s right hand for many years, was responsible for Leda’s death. ‘Jeff’ had mentioned this theory in his prediction that Charlotte will be revealed in the end to have killed Strike’s mother and I’ve heard that Gillespie is a favorite in discussions of this subject at the Strike Fans forum. I’ve deleted ‘Karol’s comment from its original place both because we really try to discourage ‘hijacking’ of conversations about a post’s subject with barely related ideas and because the theory deserves its own post and discussion thread. Here, then, is ‘Karol’s explanation of why Peter Gillespie must be considered a prime suspect in the staged suicide of Leda Strike: [Read more…]

Guest Post: Agatha Christie’s The Clocks – TV Adaptation a Source for Strike?

In 2019 I wrote about Agatha Christie’s 1963 Poirot novel, The Clocks, a send up of the James Bond spy-thriller then in vogue: Agatha Christie’s ‘The Clocks’ or ‘Arabella Figg Meets Hercule Poirot.’ Chris Calderon thinks that the 2009 teevee adaptation of this novel for BBC1’s series ‘Poirot’ has a lot to tell us about the Cormoran Strike series that Rowling may have been plotting and planning at the time.

Make the jump to read the connections he has found between the show and the series! [Read more…]

Slow-Reveals, Interior Reality, and the Power of Symbols: Why Smart Potter-Pros Get WandaVision

I recently promised I’d collect my thoughts on the new Disney+ series WandaVision, and I was planning to wait until the final, ninth episode airs, a little over a month from now. However, I’ve been thinking about how some viewers love the show, while there does seem toWandaVision (TV Mini-Series 2021) - IMDb be a group of malcontents who don’t seem to like/understand it; it occurs to me that some of the tools that make watching this show both enjoyable and thought-provoking are tools familiar to close readers of the Hogwarts adventures and Strike series. So it seems like a good time to go ahead and share some mid-point ideas about how those of us who are long-time Rowling readers may have some super powers that give us a headstart on seeing the magic in this new MCU short-run. Be warned, the following conversation is for those who have already seen the first four episodes, as well as the pertinent MCU films, so proceed if you dare, and see how a world filled with wizards and witches is great place to learn about how to navigate a world of one particular (Scarlet) Witch, Wanda Maximoff. [Read more…]

“Nae Problem:” How Career of Evil Should Have Ended 15 Chapters Earlier.

Robin Ellacott has certainly made some questionable decisions: sneaking off to warn Alyssa about Brockbank, letting sentiment over the Royal Wedding dupe her into resuming her engagement to the Flobberworm, trying to grab Strike’s arm when he’s throwing a punch, not dumping the Flobberworm at the wedding reception, drunk-texting Saul Morris on Boxing Day, not dumping the Flobberworm on the honeymoon, visiting Mucky Ricci without telling Strike and not dumping the Flobberworm when he ripped her gorgeous and expensive green dress. But, I would argue, her most foolish lapse of judgement came in a scene I’ve never seen discussed: Chapter 47 of Career of Evil.

The somewhat disgruntled Robin has been observing young Stephanie, believing, quite rightly, that Strike has intentionally put her on their least likely suspect to keep her out of harm’s way. Once Stephanie takes off in a van with Whittaker’s henchmen, she heads over to Wollaston Close to monitor Donald Laing’s apartment. Although neither she nor Strike ever seemed to realize it, she makes one of the most boneheaded moves of her career on this stakeout. Startled by Laing’s curtains being open, and trying to fake a phone call while searching for a better spying position, she slips on some spilled curry and falls. Guess who arrives to assist?

Somewhere in her vicinity a man burst out laughing. Cross and humiliated, she tried to get up without spreading the muck further over her clothes and shoes and did not look immediately for the source of the jeering noise.

“Sorry, hen,” said a soft Scottish voice right behind her. She looked around sharply and several volts of electricity seemed to pass through her…

“Ye’ll need a tap,” he said, grinning broadly as he pointed at her foot and the hem of her dress, “and a scrubbing brush.”

“Yes,” said Robin shakily. She bent to pick up her mobile. The screen was cracked.

“I live up there,” he said, nodding towards the flat she had been watching on and off for a month. “Ye can come up if y’want. Clean yerself up.”

“Oh no—that’s all right. Thanks very much, though,” said Robin breathlessly.

“Nae problem,” said Donald Laing.

Oh yeah, it is a problem. More  on why this is indicative of a sudden drop in Detective Ellacott’s IQ after the jump. 

[Read more…]