Whodunit? Harry Potter — In the Great Hall — With a Wand!

Those of you who love a Harry Potter themed podCast, head on over to Mugglenet Academia for a spirited and convivial conversation with Dolores Gordon-Smith, author of the Jack Haldean mysteries, about the influence of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers’ detective fiction on the Hogwarts Saga.

Mrs. Gordon-Smith, an Englishwoman with Irish mum, besides being an expert practitioner of the mystery writing craft (with a specialty in the set piece Drawing Room dramas of the inter bella period) is a lifetime reader and admirer of the Grand Dames of Detective Stories. And she knows her Harry Potter, too! Keith Hawk from MuggleNet and Sarah Granger, a rising fourth year student at the College of the University of Chicago join me and Dorothy for a romp through and review of each book in the series as a mystery piece.

For more on Sayers, Christie, and the meeting of Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot, and Harry’s friends at Hogwarts, there’s a chapter devoted to the subject in Harry Potter’s Bookshelf, a chapter I can recommend without blushing!


  1. miles365 says

    Wow, what a great episode – my favorite so far!

    I loved mysteries growing up, so I had a secure understanding of how mysteries worked. PoA fell flat for me also. I knew Sirius was innocent. (The most likely suspect is never the actual culprit. Plus, motivation of madness is just too easy.) However, I have to admit that I didn’t suspect Pettigrew. Not many mysteries have a rat as a murderer.

    I agree that GoF fails as a mystery. There’s nothing to make readers suspect Moody. The real Moody drinks from a hip flask, suspects everyone, and wants to help Harry survive. This reveal didn’t make me slap my forehead; it made my jaw drop.

    Obviously the Order isn’t the mystery of OotP. Perhaps “What is the weapon?” or “Why isn’t Harry allowed to know anything?” But my vote for the central mystery is “Why dementors in Little Whinging?” You’ve got the obvious suspect in Voldemort, and the big reveal that it was really Umbridge, plus plenty of evidence pointing to Umbridge along the way.

    HBP: Dumbledore, private eye.

    In DH, I think the core mystery is “What is this symbol?/What is Voldemort after?” which develops into “Who is the master of the elder wand?” And in this final book, Harry is finally one step ahead and actually solves the mystery. In regards to whether the mystery of the Deathly Hallows is fair, I’d say we’re looking at the wrong mystery. Like all the other book titles, we can’t guess the object/person before the story begins.

    However, if the series succeeds as one seven-part mystery, we should expect to have been given clues along the way enough to guess at the solution to the over-arching mystery. And that’s exactly what did happen. The central mystery might be “How can Voldemort be defeated?” Evidence: SS) Voldemort tried to kill Harry, but Lily’s love caused the curse to rebound. Cos) When the curse rebounded, Harry is infused with Voldemort. GoF) Voldemort is infused with Harry. OotP) Voldemort tried to kill Harry because of a prophecy. He’ll keep trying. HBP) Horcruxes are why Voldemort didn’t die. DH) Harry is a horcrux.

    On a sidenote: Dolores mentioned Wilkie Collins. I haven’t read his work. Is Wilkie a common name? I know the apparating instructor was named Wilkie Twycross. Might it be a hat-tip?

  2. What a terrific, thoughtful comment. I really wish we were sitting in a pub with a couple of beers or at home with tea and cakes instead of having to chat over the Internet. Still, it’s soooo much better than nothing! It’s a mistake to try and force a mystery format onto books which clearly aren’t mysteries, such as Order of the Phoenix, but perfectly proper – and good fun – to pick out mystery elements.

    I dont know if Jo Rowling has read Wilkie Collins – John, with the great work he did on his Bookshelf book, probably does, but she’ll certainly know of him. I think that Wilkie Twycross is an inspired suggestion for a little tribute to a cracking author. The name is so very uncommon that I bet you’re right!

Speak Your Mind