Who Killed Leda Strike? Peter Gillespie

Two premises of HogwartsProfessor writing about Rowling-Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike mysteries are that (1) their over-arching story, equivalent in some ways to the Lord Voldemort backdrop to Harry Potter that climaxed in the last books of that septology, is the enigma of Leda Strike’s supposed suicide and (2) that this will be resolved by Strike7. Feel free to comment about the validity or absurdity of those guidelines for our speculation; please do review the many posts on the site about parallels that exist between the Strike and Potter series, though, before you dismiss the ideas out of hand. 

We have discussed seven suspects to date for persons who may have had a hand in Leda’s death. If you are in a hurry to review them, here are quick links to the cases made against Jonny Rokeby and the Harringay Crime Syndicate (Heroin Dark Lord 2.0), Ted Nancarrow (Uncle Ted Did It), Dave Polworth, Lucy Fantoni (Lucy and Joan Did It and here), Sir Randolph Whittaker, Nick Herbert, and Charlotte Campbell-Ross. There’s a post, too, about why we can be confident all these best-guesses are wrong. Louise Freeman has set the ‘3M Standard’ for suspect speculation here as ‘Means, Motive, and Meta-literary Reasons;’ anyone that killed Leda must have credible opportunity and skills to have done the job, he or she must have a good reason for having killed her, and the revelation that this person did it must come as a shock to Cormoran Strike and the reader (see the Polworth post for my discussion of that).

Last week ‘Karol’ offered on a comment thread to a post about Old Man Whittaker as a suspect that Peter Gillespie, Jonny Rokeby’s right hand for many years, was responsible for Leda’s death. ‘Jeff’ had mentioned this theory in his prediction that Charlotte will be revealed in the end to have killed Strike’s mother and I’ve heard that Gillespie is a favorite in discussions of this subject at the Strike Fans forum. I’ve deleted ‘Karol’s comment from its original place both because we really try to discourage ‘hijacking’ of conversations about a post’s subject with barely related ideas and because the theory deserves its own post and discussion thread. Here, then, is ‘Karol’s explanation of why Peter Gillespie must be considered a prime suspect in the staged suicide of Leda Strike:

Also, may I add a person to the list of suspects? If Rokeby is on the list, what about his lawyer, Peter Gillespie? I haven’t followed all of the reasoning behind Rokeby as killer, but if the lawyer thought of himself as Rokeby’s protector could he have gone to see Leda? He keeps popping up. He was there when Strike went to meet Rokeby after he turned 18. Strike called him Rokeby’s long-time lawyer. How long?

Was Gillespie the same lawyer he had when Strike was 7? At that meeting Rokeby was arguing with Leda. Strike said “The gist was how dare she butt in, she had his lawyer’s contact details, he was paying enough, it was her problem if she pissed it all away, and then he said, ‘This was a fucking accident.’

When Strike explained to Robin about Gillespie’s actions in collecting payment of the loan used to start his agency he said,

“His whole ego was invested in being my father’s enforcer. The bastard was half in love with my old man, or with his fame, I dunno. I was pretty blunt on the phone about what I thought about Rokeby, and Gillespie couldn’t forgive it. I’d insisted on a loan agreement between us, and Gillespie was going to hold me to it, to punish me for telling him exactly what I thought of the pair of them.”

Al tells Strike in Troubled Blood that “Dad didn’t know how heavy he was getting with you, I swear he didn’t.”

I don’t know what perceived danger she would have posed by the time of her death, but it is clear Rokeby’s lawyer would have been her first point of contact. If Rokeby is writing his autobiography as Al mentions in The Silkworm, which ambition might feel more urgent with his cancer diagnosis, there could be some interesting revelations or memories getting stirred up.

Karol makes a good case against Gillespie. Let’s review the possibility with respect to Means, Motive, and Metaliterary reasons.

Means: We know next to nothing about Gillespie except for our experience of his hounding Strike in Cuckoo’s Calling and the passages Karol quotes above. He is a rock star’s lawyer and confidante; is it likely that he would know enough about heroin to do the job? Assuming that Mick Jagger is the real world model for Rokeby (see ‘Rokeby, Jagger, and Heroin’ for all that), I think it is a fair bet that he has a working knowledge of illicit drugs. Where I struggle in imagining Gillespie doing the dirty deed is in his opportunity to do it. Jeff Whittaker’s flat is a seamy place and as a lawyer I have a hard time seeing him being able to remain inconspicuous in the environment. He might have out-sourced the killing, of course, and he may be a master of disguise for all we know. It’s just not obvious that he could have done it.

Motive: Why would he have done it? Karol offers the most credible answer, I think. Because, as Strike believes at least, his “whole ego was invested in being [Rokeby’s] enforcer, if Leda posed any threat to him or his reputation, then we have sufficient motivation for Gillespie to kill her or to work with the Harringay Crime Syndicate to do the job. The best reason I have been able to find for that are fan fiction, of course, namely, that Leda knew something about the LA drug bust mentioned in the Rokeby Wikipedia article Robin reads her first weekn as the Strike Agency temporary secretary. As I explained in the original ‘Heroin Dark Lord‘ post:

That potential blockbuster story [the rock star knows Leda knows] would turn on Rokeby’s own drug use, his relationship with the drug ring in the Harringay Crime Syndicate, the 1975 drug bust in LA, and his involvement in a suspicious death by overdose or flat out murder to cover-up this drug use and trade. Leda is happy to remain mum about what she knows in exchange for some kind of child support and acknowledgment of relationship from Rokeby.

If this turns out to be true, then Gillespie may be the person who made it all happen, from Strike’s paternity test coming back positive for Rokeby to arranging her elimination at the necessary point in time, perhaps without Rokeby ever knowing the deal was cut in the first place. His ‘handler’ may have been the Black Hat all along.

Metaliterary Reasons: Is Peter Gillespie a killer the revelation of whose guilt is going to surprise anyone or cause Strike sufficient shock that it triggers a cathartic, transformative experience? This is where I think the idea fails flat out. Gillespie as the master mind killer is akin to ‘The Butler Did It,’ which in the genre is defined as “an ending or resolution to a fictional mystery that is stereotypical, predictable, or contrived.” Perhaps it would “subvert the genre” by offering a suspect that readers already despise as the ending to the first seven book set’s Big Mystery; it certainly would upset our understanding of how Rowling writes, which is to say, in pursuit of a bigger twist than Austen’s Emma.

I’m not a fan of the ‘Gillespie Did It’ theory, then, if I am persuaded that, if Leda had a secret to hold over Rokeby, his loyal lawyer would have been the person to make the deal with her to keep things quiet, at least until the statute of limitations had expired. Thank you, ‘Karol,’ for writing up this fascinating possibility!


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