Troubled Blood Predictions: The SWAGs

What We Think May Happen and Why: Mild and Wild SWAGs

Rowling admitted that she has embedded clues to the upcoming series entries in the books already published and that she is writing books like this because that’s what writers she likes do (no, I cannot think of any who do anything on the order of puzzle writing in a book series akin to what Rowling does). Read that 16 February 2018  Interview with J.K. Rowling here. The relevant passage is at the tail end:

You say that you’re often obsessed with your characters’ pasts. You must have gathered quite a lot of information about Strike by the time you got to Career Of Evil. Did you think about how much you should put in there?

Through the whole of the first three books I have seeded future plots. I already know where he’s going to go and I’ve already mentioned things I need to mention. I’ve mentioned people I need to have mentioned, because you will meet them in further books.

It’s a question of really knowing who they are and using that. I enjoy reading books of any kind, not just detective fiction. Where I feel the author really knows, I feel like I’m in safe hands. They know everything – I don’t need to worry, they’ve got it all worked out. I like that feeling when I read a book. That’s the kind of book I want to write.

Speculation on Troubled Blood, consequently, turns on a close reading of the previous Strike novels, 1-4, an understanding of the parallelism in Rowling works internally in the series and externally with Potter, and a sense of what constitutes a clue in the Rowling writing domain. I started the prediction making with respect to Phoenix parallels in an October 2018 post about the probable end of the Strike agency in Troubled Blood. (Be sure to read the comment thread on that post!)

We’ve come a long way since then. I’ve already posted my prediction sure-things, events and literary twists that have to happen because they have happened in every other Strike novel. Here are seven SWAGs for contrast, most ‘scientific’ or at least closely reasoned and a few at the end that explore the ‘wild’ side. Enjoy!

  1. Louise Freeman’s Summary and Best Guesses

The gold standard thus far for Strike 5 predictions is Creosote-Colored Tea Leaves, Louise Freeman’s review of the evidence and her informed hypotheses for Troubled Blood. You really do need to read the whole thing (and the comment thread!) but the neat summary she provided is here:

1. An education-related case to solve.

  • Possibly related to aborted English educational reforms of 2013.

2. Shanker dies; Strike blames himself.

  • Alternate prediction: Vanessa dies, Robin blames herself.

3. Whittaker versus Strike, Round Two. With baby brother in the mix. 

  • Alternate: Brittany Brockbank turns up; Strike gets a redo in helping her.

4. Cooling of Strike-Robin romance for now.

  • Possible new, short-term relationship for Robin.

5. Matthew and Charlotte as major sources of trouble.

  •  Conflict over joint bank account with flat proceeds as divorce settlement.
  • Charlotte uses real or fabricated abuse issue to recapture “Bluey.”
  • Rose mystery possibly solved.

6. Financial issues related to sale of building.

  • May connect to Robin’s divorce, if she is reluctant to fight for her legal share, but might do so if money needed to keep office. This could lead to her becoming the business co-owner.

There is no sign in the preview chapters of the Strike Agency being in financial or legal trouble, but almost all the rest of Professor Freeman’s predictions remain ‘live.’

          2. Joanne Gray’s ‘Bumpy Ride’

Right along with Professor Freeman’s best guesses, Serious Strikers need to read Joanne Gray’s hypothesis about the possible story events in Troubled Blood especially her thoughts with respect to Finsbury Park, Robin’s point of focus at the very end of Lethal White, and Clerkenwell. Check out Strike 5 A Bumpy Ride? Fasten Those Seat Belts!

          3. Heroin Drug Lord 3.0?

I speculated before the release of Lethal White that the fourth book would include revelations about “Digger” Malley and the Clerkenwell Crime Syndicate, specifically, that Strike’s IED hit in Afghanistan was one that the drug trade tsars in the UK paid for to discourage his investigation into the international heroin trade. Version 1.0 of the Heroin Dark Lord theory is here and Version 2.0 with necessary updates because of a mistake with dates is here. The comment thread exchange on the latter between myself and a skeptical Professor Freeman is worth a review, too. 

There are no indications, none, of anything like this in the first seven chapters we have so far in the Apple Books preview — except for an allusion to Clerkenwell in a very different context. Hope springs eternal in the Wild Guesser’s breast because of the probable Strike3/Strike 5 parallels, but it isn’t looking good for Heroin Dark Lord in a case of a missing person from 1974.

          4. Echoes from Spencer’s Faerie Queen

Read Elizabeth Baird-Hardy’s post and listen to her and Beatrice Groves discuss hoped for and more or less likely allusions and iconographic shading to expect from Spenser’s epic poem in Troubled Blood.

          5. Astrological and Tarot Pointers to Whittaker and Crowley

The evidence that Troubled Blood  will be an occult festival of sorts has been building for months. There were the twitter headers of Tarot cards and Aleister Crowley’s natal horoscope. Then the count-down publicity featured the astrological clock at Hampton Court. We know from one Rowling biography that she used to offer dramatized Tarot readings at her Comprehensive to entertain her friends and we have two natal horoscopes she drew and interpreted in the years she was planning and beginning to write the Harry Potter novels. And Marilyn Manson? The Solve et Coagula tattoo that also graces the Baphomet? Look for a veritable flood of Tarot imagery, star chart arcana, and Dark Side symbolism in Strike 5. 

          5. Interior Texts Galore

Rowling writes about writing and reading; her books almost always feature a book (or two or three) as well as other narratives, written or just believed, that characters and readers simultaneously struggle to understand. With Spencer, Crowley, and now Joni Mitchell already announced as special guests, the mystery remaining is how Rowling/Galbraith mixes this collection of texts into a thriller that will require several readings to catch the intertextual literary allusion and the interior mirroring of embedded book and book-in-hand alongside Strike’s trying to re-create the murderer’s narrative to see where he or she blunders. 944 pages of that!

          6. Incest Clues via Rosmersholm and Ada: The Nancarrow Siblings and Cormoran and Charlotte

Rowling’s beloved Vladimir Nabokov wrote a novel, his last complete work, that few but the truest of Nabokovians have read closely. Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle turns on the subject of sibling sexual relations, which is to say, ‘incest.’ Ibsen’s Rosmersholm has as its plot pivot the confrontation in which Rebecca West learns that the man who was her mentor and lover was also almost certainly her biological father. Galbraith has already featured one woman who was molested and raped by a sibling-twin; the bar room conversation between Holly Brockbank and ‘Venetia Hall’ about her nightmare childhood is one of the most disturbing in the series thus far.

Will Troubled Blood include this ultra-taboo subject? The two ‘couples’ suggested in HogwartsProfessor posts along these lines have been Ted and Leda Nancarrow, hence Cormoran’s great resemblance to his uncle in St Mawes (yes, I know that isn’t the only way he could have this visible kinship…), and Cormoran and Charlotte actually being brother and sister. These are supposed to be wild guesses, right?

       7. Uncle Ted Murdered Leda — or Was it Lucy?

And one more for an even seven! How about some clues in Strike 5 that it wasn’t Whittaker, Rokeby, or the Heroin-dealing Crime Syndicate that gave Leda the deadly dose of heroin. It was her brother, Ted Nancarrow, who wanted his barren wife to have children and grandchildren to enjoy in her old age; his Red Cap experience with drugs and murder cases made this desire a possibility, something he could have pulled off with all eyes and evidence pointing to Whittaker.

Or it could have been Lucy Fantoni or her much despised and overlooked husband Greg? There are more than a few hints in the books that Lucy was abused by her step-father Jeff Whittaker and that considers her nomadic childhood with Leda to have been child-neglect at least and probably much worse. Greg might have thought he was doing his fiancee, himself, and his future family a great favor by inserting the needle that killed Leda. We know so little about him beyond Strike’s disdain for his brother-in-law. Kelly Loomis draws that picture in this Guest Post.

Tomorrow I will begin posting exegesis of each of the seven Parts of Troubled Blood and explain our ground rules for the first week of discussion here at HogwartsProfessor. Please share your predictions, both ‘Sure Things’ and ‘SWAGs’ (or links to ones you’ve previously made) in the comment boxes below. There will be a score card the week after we’ve all read the novel!


  1. Bonni Crawford says

    1. We will find out what Greg’s surname is. Btw, I presume Lucy was Lucy Strike before she married? Unlikely Leda would have given her her father’s name (Fantoni) since she didn’t give Cormoran the name Rokeby. But maybe Lucy would have wanted to change her name to Nancarrow when she was 14 and made the final decision that they were her parents now.

    2. We will find out when and/or where Lucy and Greg met.

  2. Kelly Loomis says

    Something I’ve been thinking about is whether there was any kind of intersection between Leda, Margaret Bamborough and Charlotte’s mother. They may have been at parties together at some point. Wasn’t Charlotte’s mother a “jet setting” model, Leda the super groupie and Margaret a bunny? From Cuckoo, we saw how these worlds could intermingle as Ciara and Duffield mentioned who they knew from parties – enough so that Strike wondered if Ciara had slept with his father.

  3. JK Rowlings keeps saying that book 5 of Harry Potter is more of a “why-dun-it” then a “who-done-it.” Safely assuming that there will be a lot of mirroring of “The Order of the Phoenix,” maybe this is more of a why-dun-it, too. What if the killer is the obvious Dennis Creed, but he didn’t do it for obvious reason or his typical M.O.
    Or Margot isn’t dead, but has been in hiding for the past almost 40 years.

  4. If something like 7 happens, Lucy is my bet. Some frustration of her maternal instinct will cause violence. This reads Lucy as Clytemnestra, the half-sibling to the Gemini and daughter of Leda.

    Smaller prediction. Given the centrality of St. Mungo’s in Book 5, with the return of characters not seen since early books and subtly including a death so central to the book’s plot, that we will see Kentigern Gardens and it’s residents again this book (Kentigern being another name for St. Mungo) and that it will be tied up with the central mystery.

    I anticipate Rokeby will continue in the shadows, with Matthew and Charlotte taking on the main villain role until 7 (the suitors of the Leucippides against the Gemini), at which point Rokeby will assume the main villain role. Until then, Rokeby will have the traits of both Zeus and Hermes, allied in act 2.5 of Mythology after Hercules but before the outbreak of the Trojan war. Charlotte, described as like a swan in Silkworm, will be the representative of the famous (Mythological parallel: Zeus) that takes advantage of the non-famous Strike/Leda. This reflects a core theme of Greek myth: the repetition of archetypes of strife within family lines until they are resolved. This may strengthen the Strike related to Charlotte theory.

    Also, having read part of the sample chapters: book 5 in both this series and Harry Potter are the first in their respective series to mention the word “baboon”, and both in a joke at the expense of another’s appearance. The one in HP was in the context of our introduction to Luna, I wonder if we are not being introduced to a similarly important secondary character here.

  5. JKR: “I enjoy reading books of any kind, not just detective fiction. Where I feel the author really knows, I feel like I’m in safe hands. They know everything – I don’t need to worry, they’ve got it all worked out. I like that feeling when I read a book. That’s the kind of book I want to write.”
    John Granger: “no, I cannot think of any who do anything on the order of puzzle writing in a book series akin to what Rowling does.”
    Me: “She must like to read the Bible!”

Speak Your Mind