The Pentagram Idea: What if Cormoran Strike was Originally Intended as a Five-Book Series?

Several days ago I floated a new idea on this side:  5-6 Flip, the possibility that Troubled Blood was originally intended as the sixth book in the series, which would explain why, in addition to the expected connections to Career of Evil and Order of the Phoenix, we also see a lot of parallels with The Silkworm and Half-blood Prince. This is illustrated most clearly if Bill Talbot’s old notebook is considered the analog to both the Bombyx Mori manuscript and the Prince’s doctored potions text.

John’s post on Sunday about the asterisk model of ring composition (which, I will freely admit, I’ve always had a hard time getting my head around; hence my tendency to search for turtle-back structures) made me think of something different. At the time the Cormoran Strike series would have been first conceptualized, and the plan to publish under a pseudonym hatched, JKR’s other major project would have been the Fantastic Beast screenplays. That franchise was initially announced as a film trilogy, but quickly grew to a five-parter (though disappointing proceeds may yet knock it back to three). We have no idea how long JKR intended to stay incognito, or how the series would have sold if the Robert Galbraith disguise had lasted longer, but there was no guarantee the book series was going to endure for seven volumes. What if, instead of a planned seven-novel arc, JKR originally planned for a 5-parter, like Fantastic Beasts?  Connecting the dots for a 5-part cycle gives neither a turtle-back or an asterisk, but a pentagram.  You know, exactly what was scribbled all over Bill Talbot’s police notes in Troubled Blood. 

Aha!  Another model that generates testable predictions!  Let’s see what some of the predictions, and pitfalls, of this model are, after the jump.

As the illustration above shows us, the Pentagram model predicts five cross-connections, plus a final “latch” between the first and last books. Here is the full list, staring with the four that we have already confirmed:

  1. Career of Evil–Troubled Blood:   Check.
  2. The Silkworm–Troubled Blood:   Check.
  3. Cuckoo’s Calling–Lethal White:   Check
  4. Cuckoo’s Calling– Troubled Blood:  Check.

That leaves two sets of linkages that we have not yet examined, but will in posts scheduled for later this week:

  1. Cuckoo’s Calling–Career of Evil. (Updatehere!)
  2. The Silkworm–Lethal White. (Update: here!)

But, just as a preview of coming attractions:  I’ve already compiled a pretty good list. It always puzzled me a bit why one of the most obvious reflections of the series : Strike getting drunk in the Tottenham in CC and Robin coming to find him; Robin getting drunk in the Tottenham in CoE and Strike coming to find her, occurred in two books that would not be expected to be connected, in either the turtleback or asterisk models.  But, the Book 1-Book 3 connection is predicted by the pentagram structure.

Another possibility in this model:  I have argued in the past that Robin undergoes a reverse-alchemical process during the first three books, as she shifts from the vision of herself from Matthew’s wife to Strike’s partner. The Pentagram model allows her to undergo an actual alchemical transformation, at least as regards her relationship with Strike, which breaks down to its lowest point in Career of Evil, undergoes purification in Lethal White (good albedo title) and is finally transformed into a best-friendship (and figurative marriage) as they walk off into the “golden glow” in Troubled Blood.

There are, of course, some problems with this model.  The biggest is that 5 books don’t seem to fit with the Parallel Series Theory, one of the best-supported models out there in Strike Studies. My tentative solution:  Troubled Blood is not just the series counterpart to Order of the Phoenix, but a condensation of Order, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows into one very long and complex story. As such, it completes a full alchemical cycle in one book, with nigredo at the beginning, transitioning to albedo after a Christmas from hell, and to rubedo at the end, sometime after Joan’s Easter Sunday burial, with its white lily urn and the pink roses tossed into the ocean. All of which gives Troubled Blood an alchemical structure and timeline very similar to that of Deathly Hallows.

The 3. Troubled Blood-Deathly Hallows connection will also be explored more in depth at a later post. (Updatehere!) I share John’s hope that this will spark more in-depth discussion of Troubled Blood

I now think the plan is for a seven book ring structured series and that books 6 and 7 will connect even more strongly to Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. Obviously, JKR would have been free to expand her plans once she was outed and it was clear there was a near-infinite market for her work. Hence the isolated “Part Two” in the midst of Lethal White. But, as with the 5-6 Flip idea, a ghost (or perhaps skeleton) of another plan may yet be visible. It is possible, for instance, that the cliffhanger ending of Career is a marker of its original place as the series turning point.This also opens up more possibilities for The Ink Black Heart, including its being the start of an entirely new alchemical (there’s that “black” title thing again) or ring cycle.


  1. It is a very interesting theory and something else to be thinking about, for sure!

    I did see quite a few parallels between TB and Silkworm, especially the fact that they are the only two books in which the killer is a single woman (we can’t count Kinvara, since she was in cahoots with Raph). Also, the doberman shitting in both books, I doubt that was accidental.

    I will definitely re-read the parallels that have been found here in the blog and I will be looking out for possible parallels in CC-CE and SW-LW.

  2. Louise Freeman says

    Thanks, Beth! I had not thought about the defecating dobermans— great catch. Please add to the list in comments.

    A nice analog to the German Shepherds that protect battered women in CoE and LW.

  3. Bonni Crawford says

    This is a fascinating idea, Louise, and seems to fit well with Rowling’s recent assertion that she’s currently got plots up to Strike 10 in mind. The Ink Black Heart being the start of a new alchemical cycle seems to me the best alchemical interpretation of the title of Strike6.

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