Super Lethal White Speculation Podcast! Reading, Writing Rowling, Episode 14: Cormoran Strike – and Harry Potter?

Tuesday morning, just after midnight or later in the day when your bookstore opens for business, we’ll all be reading Strike 4, aka Lethal White, the latest Robert Galbraith Cormoran Strike whudunnit. I have the day off from my Muggle job Tuesday and, no, I won’t be answering email or cell phone calls. It’s like a throw back to Midnight Madness parties and the anticipation of a first reading of a Harry Potter novel… and those are happy memories for Rowling fans, right?

I will, of course, be posting on a daily basis here about Lethal White from late on the 18th and the days following for at least a month. Until Tuesday, though, what are we to do?

Marietta College’s History professor and Potter Pundit Katy McDaniel, the host of MuggleNet’s ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast anticipated our frustration in the waning moments of the Great Wait and recorded a conversation among three Strike Scholars, Karen Kebarle, Louise Freeman, and myself, about all things Cormoran with special emphasis on what we can expect in Lethal White. It was a ‘wow’ meeting of minds and I recommend it to anyone wishing for an appetizer beyond the excerpt teaser published yesterday in The Guardian.

Dr. McDaniel describes the podcast conversation this way:

J.K. Rowling’s second literary career as Robert Galbraith acts as a commentary on her Harry Potter series and also sets out on a new literary path. With guests Dr. Karen Kebarle and Dr. Louise Freeman, Katy and John examine the connections between the Harry Potter series and the first three Cormoran Strike novels. J.K. Rowling’s artistic signatures appear in the detective novels, in particular via the classical literary allusions that appear in both. Do apparent correspondences reveal more than just that the same mind created both Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike (or the reader’s tendency to see connections everywhere)? An understanding of mythology and ancient literature helps us ponder where the detective series might be headed in the fourth book, due out in mid-September.

Some fans have made the leap from Harry Potter to Cormoran Strike, but others have not. Our conversation explores why this second series has received less popular and scholarly attention, as well as the compelling qualities of the novels – the characters and relationships, plotting, descriptions of modern London, and themes – that have drawn us to them. We also contemplate the larger story arc: Is this essentially a romance between Cormoran and Robin? Does Strike have a “Moriarty” foil who will eventually become important? What will we learn about Cormoran’s father and mother?

Predicting where J.K. Rowling is heading with the series is tricky, but close readings of the previous books, her social media clues, Lethal White’s synopsis, and Rowling’s slow narrative release in the Harry Potter books point us in certain key directions. Do you think we got it right?

If that’s not enough, check out my post ‘Lethal White: What We Can Expect‘ and my most recent speculations about the White Horse idea with which Rowling has been teasing us vis a vis Lethal White in ‘Heroin Dark Lord.’

On Monday I’ll share my Day-Before-Publication ‘List of Ten Things that Have to Happen’ and my ‘Off-The-Wall Prediction List’ of the things I’d love to see in Lethal White. Let me know what you think of the MuggleNet podcast — and stay tuned for an exciting week of Strike posts here at HogwartsProfessor!


  1. Mr. Granger,

    You mention Matthew being the “most disturbing character” in terms of how he reveals flaws the reader might not be aware of in themselves.

    Here’s a question I came away with. It’s regards to the TV series, so I’m willing to take it with a bit of salt. However, when I saw the actor chosen to play Matt, my initial reaction was: “Whoa, Stalker Alert!”

    There wasn’t any forethought in that reaction. It just happened instantly. If I had to point to one element that might have caused it, then maybe it was just something in the characters eyes. On the other hand, it could have been just something about his overall demeanor. I got the impression of the guy who isn’t just like another Dursely. I got the impression of a guy who has a potentially dangerous temper.

    If I had to create a criminal profile for Matt, then it wouldn’t be like the ritual wife-beater type. If Matt has anger management issues with women, then it’s more of like a coiled snake in his head. He’ll be calm and cool one minute, however the instant Robin’s back is turned he might just lash out real quick.

    I don’t know, that’s just the impression I was left with from watching the character’s portrayal in the TV series. I will admit I never got this vibe from book Matt. The novel version seems more like a man who doesn’t really know where he’s going, or what to do with himself. This circumstance might make him angry, yet even there the text-based Matt is more feeble in his outbursts. He’s more a like a drone who’s self-aware enough to realize he’s not really living a meaningful life, yet he’s not brave enough to change it.

    It’ll be interesting to see which version Rowling winds up putting on page.

  2. 1. I laughed when John said that some of Matthews actions are a little too close to home. ChrisC, I don’t have a strong memory of the TV Matthew. I haven’t seen the “Career of Evil” series yet. But, to me, the book Matthew crosses the line from “not great things men do in relationships” into emotionally abusive. Particularly for a younger, “pre-Strike” Robin who was very vulnerable emotionally and mentally for a time and put herself under his protection but also control. I don’t think that Matt is going to turn out to be a psychopath or anything. I see him as more of a Malfoy type character who is redeemable but who is making a lot of bad choices. But I think his and Robin’s relationship has a pretty toxic side to it, under the surface of a more prosaic relationship.
    2. I think that the actor, Tom Burke, who plays Strike is a good actor, but totally agree with John that you lose so much with an actor who is more average size of Strike’s “giant-ness” and how imposing that is to anyone around him, even if he had the temperament of a saint, which he doesn’t. As well as losing the dynamic of a big age difference between Robin and Strike (and this would seem even larger with Robin only being 25.)
    3. I was thinking about how Strike is both Harry and Dumbledore. He is involved in the mystery and then solves it himself instead of Dumbledore solving it for Harry. (Except possibly in Deathly Hallows where Harry perhaps puts all of the pieces himself in the “dream sequence.”)
    4. I wanted to talk about the many similarities of Azkaban to Career of Evil. I know that you may have just been avoiding spoilers of the solutions of the mysteries, but the solution of the mysteries in both books is exactly this same. Except I think that the solution to Azkaban is much more believable. I didn’t like the solution for Career of Evil either (as John as mentioned how he feels about it in the past). I thought it was a bit of a cheat. Agatha Christie does use it in “Third Girl,” though, so I guess it’s on the table. But you have to look at Peter Pettigrew as the solution in Azkaban, not the double identity of Sirius Black. Pettigrew kills 19 muggles of whatever it after Voldemort’s first failed attempt to kill Harry. But both solutions involve the double identity of someone we’ve been introduced to us in a benign way who turns out to be the killer. Their double identity allows them access to innocents that they otherwise would not have had, or they would have been found out really quickly when/if they killed them. In Peter Pettigrew’s case, he doesn’t kill Harry, although if he hadn’t been found out and Voldemort rose to power in another way, he definitely could have. (It’s also a children’s book and generally avoids children dying.) In Career, the psychopath uses his advantage of his secret identity to commit his first crime (in the timeframe of the book.) The reveal of the secret identity is the solution of both mysteries. Although I think in Azkaban, the solution is much more solvable.
    5. Much of both Azkaban and Career deal with secret pasts. In Azkaban, Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and Lupin all have secrets in their past. (Even though Sirius’s secret is actually that he is a good guy.) In Career, the killer, Matthew, and Robin all have secrets in their past that are revealed. (Not to mention all of the info that we find out about Strike’s past.) I think there’s a parallel between Robin and Lupin both having had something in their past happen that wasn’t their fault, but that they’re trying their best to overcome.
    This is a smaller point, but if you make Matthew Ron (the wrong match for Robin/Hermione, according to JKR at one point) then Matthew/Ron and Robin/Hermione have a big fight in the book and later reconcile.
    6. I don’t know how much the parallels help us predict future books, but I think that they’re definitely there. In the Harry Potter series, Harry continues to find out the details of the death of his parents all the way through book 7. I think that Leda Strikes’ death is the central mystery of the Strike books.
    7. JKR/Galbraith could write a 7 book story arch involving Robin and Cormoran’s romance (I do think they’ll need some relationship counselling at some point) and the death of Leda Strike but still continue the series with “lesser mysteries” after that, particularly if it’s something she really enjoys writing. So in that way it could be or could not be a book series.

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