Troubled Blood and Strike Speculation 102: More Trouble with JKR/Galbraith Dates

Troubled Blood certainly filled in some of the gaps in Cormoran Strike’s history; perhaps most notably telling us, at last, about the two times he met Jonny Rokeby (at age 7 and age 18, as it turns out).  It also cleared up one difficulty with Cormoran Strike’s timeline: namely the fact that Strike believed his conception and birth broke up Rokeby’s marriage, when both happened in a year when Rokeby was unmarried. For once, my guess was right; it was Rokeby’s second marriage (to Carla Astolfi) that broke up, not when baby Corm was born, but in 1979 when the paternity test (an HLA, or blood typing test, *not* a DNA test) showed Rokeby to be his father. We should assume that Carla was dating or engaged to Rokeby at the time of the indiscretion in the New York party, and that she was not able to forgive this infidelity 5 years later. Indeed, it is entirely possible that Rokeby left his first wife, Shirley Mullens, for Carla; we also learned in Troubled Blood that it can take a while for a divorce to be final. Robin initially left Matthew for cheating with Sarah 7 years previously, before their marriage; Carla left Jonny for the same reason.  And unlike Robin, Carla had the good sense not to change her mind.

But Troubled Blood did not fix all the problems with the Strike series timeline, and may have given us a few others to ponder. I’ve spent the last week or so working on pre-series timelines for both Robin and Strike. Almost none of the basics changed from the dates listed in John’s 2018 post, Lethal White and Strike Speculation 101: The Trouble with JKR/Galbraith Dates:  

  • Strike was still born in  November 1974. 
  • Leda still died in late 1994 or, more likely, early 1995. (Most likely the latter. More on that later!). Troubled Blood clarified that this was “mid-way through”  Strike’s second year at Oxford. 
  • The IED explosion still happened mid-year of 2007, probably between May and September.

I hope to soon make both my full timelines available here on Hogpro, so that other serious Strikers can offer additions and corrections. But for now, after the jump. I’ll share some dates that don’t add up, and still are giving us headaches, post- Troubled Blood. In particular, the odds of the 2008 date of the Digger Malley investigation being correct have just fallen precipitously.

We already know that Troubled Blood started off with one major timeline gaffe in the first part of Cormoran’s backstory it told us:  namely, the story of Cormoran’s and Lucy’s first abandonment in St. Mawes in January 1978, when Cormoran is described as 4 years old (right!) and Lucy as “newborn.”  (Wrong!) Every other reference to their relative ages has set them at around 2 years apart; in fact, they are probably a bit less, given that Lucy is said to be 19 and Cormoran 20 when Leda died. This means Leda died sometime before Cormoran’s 21st birthday in 1995, but after Lucy’s 19th, which must have occurred earlier in the year.  If Lucy was born in May, she would be 18 months younger than her brother; any earlier and they would be closer to 1 year apart in age than 2. But, Leda dying after May sounds less like “mid-way” through Cormoran’s 2nd year at uni, and more like “at the end of.”  (Unless Oxford requires a summer term?).  In any case, Lucy would have been 2 to 2 1/2 years old when Cormoran started school at 4, not a newborn.

If Leda died in 1994,  Lucy would have been 18, not 19, unless her 19th birthday fell in December, in which case she and Cormoran would be 1 year apart in age, not two and certainly not four. That is why, despite the 94 date on her TV gravestone, I think Leda died in 95.

Troubled Blood Timeline fixing, it seems, is off to a bad start. 

Book 5 also gives us a date for Strike’s release from Selly Oak hospital.

His thirty-third birthday, for instance. He’d just been discharged from Selly Oak hospital, and was walking for the first time on a prosthesis, and Charlotte had taken him back to her flat in Notting Hill, cooked for him, and returned from the kitchen at the end of the meal holding two cups of coffee, stark naked and more beautiful than any woman he had ever seen. He’d laughed and gasped at the same time. He hadn’t had sex for nearly two years. The night that had followed would probably never be forgotten by him, nor the way she had sobbed in his arms afterward, telling him that he was the only man for her, that she was afraid of what she felt, afraid that she was evil for not regretting his missing lower leg if it brought her back to him, if it meant that, at last, she could look after him as he had always looked after her. And close to midnight, Strike had proposed to her, and they’d made love again, and then talked through to dawn about how he was going to start his detective agency, and she’d told him she didn’t want a ring, that he was to save his money for his new career, at which he would be magnificent.

Real touching, yeah, but Strike’s 33rd birthday was November 23, 2007, making Naked Barista Night only 2-6 months after the IED explosion. This is a problem on two fronts.  

First, recall Timothy Cormoran Anstis’s christening, (The Silkworm) which was  “postponed until he was eighteen months old, because his father and his godfather had to be airlifted out of Afghanistan and discharged from their respective hospitals.”  This would have been late 2008 to early 2009, and suggests Strike was in the hospital much longer than 2-6 months. Furthermore,  Charlotte attended the christening with him: 

Having a woman that beautiful on his arm, even while he was still on crutches, had acted as a counterweight to the half a leg still not yet fit for a prosthesis. It had transformed him from the Man With Only One Foot to the man who had managed—miraculously, as he knew nearly every man who came into contact with her must think—to snag a fiancée so stunning that men stopped talking in mid-sentence when she entered the room.

This does not sound like a person who has been out of the hospital for a year. And how was he wearing the prothesis in November 2007, but not yet fitted for it, a year later?  

All of this has led me to question whether JKR/RG made another math error and Naked Barista Night was in celebration of Strike’s 34th, not 33rd birthday. That still doesn’t jive with him wearing a prosthesis upon discharge, but at least it leaves time for a hospitalization of “months and months,” and puts the founding of the agency closer to 18 months prior to Cuckoo’s Calling. 

But postponing Strike’s release from the hospital a year, until late 2008, blows up any chance of the date he gave for the Digger Malley investigation in Career of Evil being correct.

Wardle: “How the hell did you get mixed up with Digger?”

Strike: “Joint ops with Vice Squad, 2008. Drug ring.”

Before, it was at least theoretically possible Strike had recovered a full year before Anstis and returned to active duty after the amputation, to participate first in the Digger-hunt, testify in court, then to nip off to Iraq.* 

Strike (to Robin): “… so now Wardle’s convinced the Harringay Crime Syndicate found out who I was, but I left for Iraq shortly after testifying and I’ve never yet known an SIB officer’s cover blown because he gave evidence in court.” 

If Strike was hospitalized and re-learning to walk 12-18 months after the explosion, and started the agency right after discharge (whether that was in 2007 or 2008!), he could hardly have gone back to work with the SIB and Vice Squad, and certainly would not have been re-deployed, one-legged and still learning to use the prosthesis, to Iraq.

In addition, Strike speaks of the Digger operation as if it was one of his success stories. If the drug kingpin/ murderer gets put away for less than two years—and Digger was apparently out and dealing with Russian casino owners by 2010—the evidence Strike presented against him must have been pretty weak. 

I am now looking at the 2008 date of the Digger Malley investigation as an error of “newborn Lucy” proportions. 

I welcome, of course, additions and corrections from sharp-eyed readers.

Part two of this post will cover the hot mess that is the chronology of Donald Laing’s military career. Bring oven mitts. 

*Or possibly Afghanistan. Remember, according to both Strike’s leg and Freddie Chiswell’s corpse, they are the same country…



  1. Beatrice Groves says

    Looking forward to the timeline, Louise! The only bit I can help with is:

    But, Leda dying after May sounds less like “mid-way” through Cormoran’s 2nd year at uni, and more like “at the end of.” (Unless Oxford requires a summer term?).

    – No, you’re right: Trinity term is the end of the Oxford year, which ends in June (this year Full Term will end on June 19th, for example). In Cambridge, just to add to the confusion, this is called May Week: hence the title of Clive James’s autobiography *May Week was in June*. So if Leda dies in May, this would be in the final term of Strike’s second year.

  2. Karol Jay says

    Sometimes it feels as though the timeline of events is intentionally confusing. Rowling says she has a big file on Cormoran, hard to believe it doesn’t include a calendar.

    I suspect you’re right about Strike leaving the hospital on his 34th birthday. He was 35 in Cuckoo. I can’t imagine he and Charlotte living together for over two years before breaking up again. Also, if it were his 33rd birthday, then the last time he’d had sex would have been when he was 31. He had taken Tracey to Lucy’s 30th birthday party meaning Strike would have been 32, more or less. I doubt that relationship was sexless.

    Good luck getting things sorted.

  3. Louise Freeman says

    Too funny! I had noticed that in putting together my timeline and thought “Strike and Tracey celibate?” Not bloody likely, as Leonora Quine would say.
    Actually, my head cannon now says Strike and Tracey were dating in early 2006, while he was stationed in Germany– she had the panic attack on the “alpine road,” remember? They split amicably and he got together with Charlotte later that year, taking her to the disastrous Cornwall Christmas, where she has a fit of histrionics, storming out and embarrassing him enough he does not return to Cornwall until The Silkworm (he says then it had been 4-5 years since he had gone back). He returns to Germany, encounters Barclay on the drug investigation in early 2007, then gets sent to Afghanistan in summer 2007 to get blown up.
    If Charlotte leaves him Christmas 2006, that would fit with him being in hospital “f’long time” (as he told Robin when drunk) before she came to him for the Kairos moment in 2008, a year or more after the accident. Then he is released shortly before his 34th birthday and moves in with her. That puts the Kairos moment about 2 years since he has seen Charlotte (as he also told Robin) and makes Naked Barista Night on his 34th, roughly 2 years after the Bad Christmas. Hence the “not had sex for two years.” That has them only living together for a year or so, and puts the start of the agency roughly 18 months before Cuckoo’s Calling, where it belongs.

  4. Very curious to see your timeline! I have also been working on one. Here are a few things I thought I worked out/decided:
    * I threw the “newborn” statement out the window
    * The Digger Malley testimony totally threw me for a loop and I just assumed it was a mistake.
    * I think Lucy could have been born in spring (March/April 1976) for a few reasons:
    — It would make her a little over a year younger than Strike, but because of the “two year” difference in the years – 1976-1974, it would be easy to generalize it as two years even if closer to one
    — If Leda died in December 1994, for example, then that would match Strike being able to leave uni midway through his second year, and Lucy would be close enough to 19 for it to be easy to round up. Strike would be just-turned 20.
    — Strike is at Lucy’s 30th birthday party with Lucy, with two legs and Tracey. If that is March 2006, perhaps he broke up with Tracey soon after, got back with Charlotte briefly again later that year?

    Anyway, FWIW, that’s my take on Lucy’s age/timeline.

  5. Louise Freeman says

    HB: Thank you for your contribution. I think we have come to very similar conclusions.

    I’d love for your thoughts on Lucy’s 30th to be true, because that would increase the odds of the Milady Bezerko Christmas from Hell of being in 2006. We know Strike was in Germany in 2007, since that is where he encountered Barclay, so he likely was stationed there at the end of 2006.

    If so, it gives a new meaning to Joan’s invitation to him in The Silkworm: “why don’t you come for Christmas, seeing that you’re on your own again?” Is that nice, refined Joan-speak for “Don’t you even think of bringing that bitch back into my house!” ???

  6. No problem! I’ve been having fun with this and mainly trying to figure it out for fan fiction purposes. One other thing – at the beginning of the post you mention Strike starting school in January 1978. It would have had to have been January 1979. He wasn’t 4 until November 1978, so by my guesstimation, they were dropped off by Leda, perhaps around Christmas/New Year’s and then Strike would have started school in January 1979 when he was just a bit over 4. Lucy would have been almost 3. I shudder to think how Leda was managing to live in squats, party, and enjoy her lifestyle with a toddler and a preschooler…. or how she would have dealt with two children in diapers at the same time. But we don’t necessarily know much about her relationship with Rick Fantoni, do we. Maybe there was some stability there for a while.

    Leda would have then taken them back sometime in March perhaps. Speculation: Leda left them to try to sort out the paternity stuff with Rokeby, and took them back so that she could get a blood test for Cormoran.

  7. Karol Jay says

    I have tried to work out school dates and just got confused. Not having any experience with the British school system or their cutoff dates doesn’t help, but I assume they are similar to those in the US. What got me started was Strike’s age when Charlie Bristow died. He died at Easter 1983 and were told he was 9. However Strike would have turned 8 the previous November., not 9, and would have been one of the older students if the cutoff was late summer. It doesn’t matter a whole lot except when placing his time wandering Brixton which supposedly happened when he was about 9. Mysteries, and putting together the mystery of Strike’s life, are based on clues and it’s a bit frustrating when they don’t add up. I read the books because I like the characters and decided I just need to ignore some inconsistencies, but then never know if I’m glossing over something important.

  8. Louise Freeman says


    Nick Jeffery kindly gave me a run-down of the British state-funded (“public” to us Yanks) school system. I have condensed what he told me below.

    The school year starts on 1st September (just like Hogwarts) so each school year starts with children the same age from 31st August. Prior to 2013, compulsory education in England covered children between 5 and 16 years old.

    State funded schools were organised as:
    Infants School 2 years from 5-6 and 6-7
    Junior School 4 years 7-8, 8-9, 9-10 and 10-11
    Infants and Junior School were very often combined into Primary Schools.
    Secondary Schools 5 years from first form (11-12) to fifth form (15-16).
    A Secondary School would generally also have a non-compulsary Sixth Form.
    Sixth Form 2 years 16-17 (lower sixth) and 17-18 (upper sixth).

    It is now very common to have 2 years of nursery school from 3-4 and 4-5 but this was not state funded until the 1990s.

    English and Welsh state schools have three terms –
    Autumn – September to December
    Spring – January to Easter
    Summer – Easter to July

    Each term has a one week break called “Half Term” at the mid point and a two week break at the end. The summer break is usually 6 weeks – historically to help with the harvest.

    O Levels would be taken in the fifth form of secondary school (or resat in lower sixth)
    A levels would be taken in upper sixth.

    O level is perhaps an anachronism. As long as you remained in education up to 16 (18 from 2013) you don’t have to sit any examinations, but that would be unusual.
    From 1951 – 1986 the O levels were the standard fifth form exam.
    From 1965 – 1986 the CSE (certificate of secondary education) was offered for those less academically gifted.
    These were both replaced by the GCSE (general certificate of secondary education). I sat GCSE exams in 1987, but they are still commonly referred to as O Levels.

    Most undergraduate courses in England are three years, with some exceptions- Classics at Oxford is four years, and many foreign language courses are four years with one year spent abroad.

    I hope that is helpful. It certainly was for me— I could not figure out why Strike was starting primary school at 4!

  9. Karol Jay says

    Thanks! I had done a bit of poking around on the subject, but this lays it out very nicely. I had wondered if Joan enrolled Strike in some kind of nursery/pre-school because he was curious and bright. I don’t know how common that was at that time, but apparently there would have been no requirement for her to do so. If he had turned 5 in Nov 1979 then he would not have been required to enroll until Sep 1980 in Infants School. Do I have that right? And then there’s the question of Strike being in school with Dave Polworth who celebrated his birthday in August. Wouldn’t that have placed them in different classes? Both were born 1974. Perhaps getting too picky.

  10. Louise Freeman says

    I think you are right, Karol. If there is a strict cut-off date of Sep. 1st, Dave should have been a year ahead of Cormoran. Kids with August birthdays should be the youngest in their class, while kids with November birthdays should be among the the older. Dave and Cormoran could have been in the same nursery school, if it was for 3-4 year olds, but Dave should have started his compulsory education a year before Cormoran.

    The same issue comes up with Charlie Bristow. We know Cormoran was 8 when Charlie died; if Charlie was 9 already, they should not have been in the same grade.

    I guess it is possible both Dave and Charlie were held back. I know in the U.S, parents of kids with summertime birthdays have the option of delaying the start of kindergarten by a year. The expensive private school, in particular, may have been more flexible.

    As for Joan and Ted enrolling Cormoran at age 4, I imagine they were concerned about the nomadic life he had lived with Leda and wanted him in a situation where he could socialize with normal children, and start learning his shapes, letters, numbers, etc. Also, it sounds like this first dumping of the kids was a surprise, with Leda sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night and leaving a note. Joan could well have had a job or something and not have been prepared to suddenly be a stay-at-home mom to two kids with whom she hadn’t expected to be saddled.

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