Rowling Offers ‘Lethal White’ Play List: Andrea Ross’s ‘White Horses’ For Robin

Go right to the source and ask the horse,

He’ll give you an answer that you endorse.

We here at Hogwartsprofessor have been chomping at the bit for three years waiting for Lethal White, and speculating about the title meaning since we heard it. Beatrice Groves has done a marvelous investigation of all possible white horse connections: from art, to Biblical imagery to poetry to archeology. Not having her knowledge–see my decidedly un-scholarly epigraph, above–I’m going to share something from “Mr. Galbraith’s” recent interview in the New York Times. The reclusive veteran thoughtfully provided a playlist for the novel.

There are eight songs or pieces of music mentioned in the novel that should be on the playlist: “Cutt Off” by Kasabian , “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley , “Wherever You Will Go” by The Calling , Rihanna’s “Where Have you Been,” “ Ni**as In Paris” by Kanye West and Jay-Z and “Oliver Twist” by D’Banj , “Black Trombone” by Serge Gainsbourg and Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, C Minor .

I’d add “So Long Marianne” by Leonard Cohen for Strike and Charlotte, “Heroes,” by David Bowie for the Olympic backdrop and “White Horses” by Andrea Ross , not only for the book’s leitmotif, but for Robin, and a romantic, innocent girl’s idea of adventure and freedom. (emphasis added)

After I got over my delight at seeing the phrase “Olympic backdrop,” I started looking up some of the songs.  When I googled “White Horses lyrics,” I landed not on the Andrea Ross tune, but White Horse, by Taylor Swift.  Check out these prophetic words:

And there you are on your knees,
Begging for forgiveness, begging for me
Just like I always wanted but I’m so sorry

‘Cause I’m not your princess, this ain’t a fairytale
I’m gonna find someone someday who might actually treat me well
This is a big world, that was a small town
There in my rear view mirror disappearing now
And it’s too late for you and your white horse
Now it’s too late for you and your white horse, to catch me now.

Not only is the song heroine dumping the guy that’s no good for her, she’s speeding away in an automobile.  Does that sound like Robin Ellacott, master driver, or what?  For all who are eager to see the Titian-haired Temp dump Matthew– or, as I prefer to call him, the Flobberworm, this is indeed music to the ears.

The White Horses tune Rowling Galbraith actually references is far lighter, but at least has the “romantic, innocent” girl galloping away to some sort of brighter future.

On white horses let me ride away
To my world of dreams so far away
Let me run – to the sun
To a world my heart can understand
It’s a gentle, warm and wonderland
Far away, stars away

Where the clouds are made of candyfloss
As the day’s born
When the stars are gone
We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey
Of a sad and very lonely day
That’s when I softly sigh
On white horses, snowy white horses
Let me ride away

Could this be a case of classic JKR, ever so “swiftly” misdirecting us to the wrong song? In either case, it is looking good for Robin to at least take some steps towards putting the Flobberworm out to pasture– it isn’t going to take her long to figure out he had the audacity to block her calls.

However, the choice of Leonard Cohen’s So Long, Marianne for Strike and Charlotte, suggests he’ll remain saddled with her emotional baggage for some time.


Two more days, people!


  1. I’m still can’t help thinking Matt will end up biting the bullet (or knife, club, rope etc) at some point during the series, either in this book or one after it. In which case while Robin may very well walk out on “Gutless” (aka Matthew), the idea that he might wind up a victim or her exploits would add an interesting bit of irony to the whole proceedings.

    Meanwhile, I’m glad to see “Mr. Galbraith” believes in good music to go along with a good book. I wonder if, once the book has been read, what you’d get if you put those songs together in the right order amounts to a kind of informal concept album, or like a soundtrack for a book? I don’t know, but seeing a track list provided just makes me wonder if “Mr. Galbraith” is implying it’s possible to tell a story through music, even if it’s a sort of mix-tape.

    Here’s what I can glean from the songs listed, and how they might relate to the book:

    Kasabian: Cutt Off.

    According to the band, the song is perhaps about convict suffering a mental breakdown, possibly due to a misuse of LSD. Sounds a lot like the trouble young man at the start of the adventure.

    Bob Marley: “No woman, no cry”.

    It’s obvious this oldie-but-goodie is related to the relationship troubles of the characters. The problem is I can’t tell if this is related to Strike/Charlotte, or Robin/Matthew. I’m inclined to believe it’s in reference to Strike’s troubles, because Matthew seems like the kind of guy who falls apart without the support of the person he thinks of as “his woman”.

    The Calling: Wherever You Will Go.

    This seems to be more from Matt’s perspective, or at least about Matt. The lyrics sound like your typical romantic proposal. However, it sounds like Matt needlessly pining for Robin. Matt must have been most likely to be voted village dweeb in school.

    Rihanna: Where have you been.

    This song has t obe describing the one and only Charlotte. The song is sung from a woman’s POV. The singer explains how: “I’ve been everywhere, man/Looking for you babe/Looking for you babe/Searching for you babe”. The repetition gives the suggestion of a person obsessed with a perceived lover.

    The best scenario is that Charlotte will be Strike’s new/old stalker. He’ll have become a dangerous obsession for her, and he’ll have to watch his back. The best example of the latter option is an old Clint Eastwood film called “Play Misty for Me”. Maybe Charlotte will try to barge her way back into his life, and it’s getting her to leave will be a horror story.

    Jay Z: Night in Paris.

    The theme of being pursued is starting to emerge as a running motif in these songs. The first song features Billy and his (not so?) paranoid fear of being pursued. Matthew can’t get Robin out of his head. Charlotte may be stalking Strike. This song is also about a protagonist being pursued. The singer mentions famous celebrity figures during the song, meaning this is meant, at least in part, to be about the price of fame. For the purposes of Book 4, I wonder if this song is about Jonny Rokeby.

    D’Banj: Oliver Twist.

    The singer has a confession to make. It’s nothing personal, he just can’t say know to sleeping around. He’s consumed with a need to go after woman he takes a fancy to. He also implies that the woman he is addressing (possibly his wife) is guilty of the same. This is a charge that sounds more like trying to pass the buck, than assuming any responsibility. He also states he likes to sleep around with famous celebrity singers like

    Rihanna. Again, I can’t help but think of Rokeby.

    Another possibility is that Rokeby could be addressing Charlotte. Maybe this will be the book where the two antagonists form a sort of devilish pact together. In which case, “Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss”.

    Serge Gainsbourg: Black Trombone.

    Well, FINALLY! I’m excited to see that Ms. Rowling at last makes an acknowledgment of the music style that practically became the soundtrack for the Noir genre, classic Jazz.

    In terms of meaning, and the story, that I’m less certain of. The lyrics are very opaque. They seem to be describing someone who’s alone in love, and yet is able to take some solace from the titular musical instrument. If I’m being honest, I’m reminded less of any of the major Strike characters, and more of T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. Maybe this song is meant to apply less to anyone character, and more to a general theme of the novel. We’ll have to see.

    Joanne Grey,

    I’m happy to say if it’s a contemporary soundtrack you’ve been looking for, then, you got it all right in this article. The only thing I can add is that you might want to check out a Dave Grusin cover of a Henry Mancini song, “Soldier in the Rain”. As I listened to the lyrics, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a certain “scarred” private eye.

  2. Beatrice Groves says

    Like your idea of the ‘Swift’ misdirection, John! Looking forward to finding out some answers tomorrow….

  3. Louise Freeman says

    Thanks, Beatrice, but it’s me, Louise. John would never put Mr. Ed lyrics in a post.

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