Welcome to Part Two in our series of guest posts written by Dr. Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter. (You can find Part One here.) Dr. Groves teaches Shakespeare and Renaissance English Literature at Oxford University, and her blog Bathilda’s Notebook can be found over on Mugglenet. In this second and final part of the series, Dr. Groves discusses her seven predictions for The Running Grave!
[I have not read any pre-released chapters of Running Grave – only the blurb: there are no spoilers in this blog!]
Last year I made four predictions for Ink Black Heart and achieved a strike rate of three out of four – with which I was pretty happy! (Not that it helped me spot the murderer though – one of my predictions was that Strike would make a joke which would point to him and although it came true, I still failed to spot it!). We’ve had an in-depth discussion, as I mentioned yesterday, on The Three Broomsticks podcast of what Running Grave being the seventh book might mean for its parallels with Deathly Hallows and so, remembering that seven is the most powerfully magical number, here are seven predictions for Strike Seven!
Prediction 1: Strike’s joke is on the money
I’m repeating this successful ‘strike’ for Ink Black Heart for Running Grave. Humour will be used to deflect from a clue to the murderer again – this is trademark Rowling – and I think it will once more be Strike who makes the joke. Remember that Cuckoo’s Calling moment when Strike bites back the comment ‘What, her too?’ (24) on discovering that another of John Bristow’s siblings has died. The reader is distracted by the black humour of the moment, but it is indeed a case where losing one might be bad luck but losing two begins to look like carelessness. Given that we’re expecting some ‘closing the circle’ moments with the first book, I’ll be looking out for a repeat of this ‘Strike is unconsciously on the money’ joke.
Prediction 2: Rokeby’s ending
My second guess is another repeat prediction – this time of something which was a conspicuously failed guess for Ink Black Heart: Rokeby’s death. I don’t think Rokeby is the ‘Snape’ of the series in the sense that we are going to discover that he has always held a candle for Leda or that he is has been protecting Strike from death all these years without the latter knowing it, but I do think he’ll be the character for whom new information in book 7 (delivered after his death?) will make Strike and the reader view him in a new, and slightly more favourable, light.
Prediction 3: A musical clue
Music is one of the places where Strike’s personal arc (see his psychologically interesting choice of Denmark St as a place to live and work) intersects with the individual plot of each book. Rereading Cuckoo’s Calling after having read Troubled Blood and Ink Black Heart brought the importance of its musical clue into new focus. (There are loads of musical clues in Ink Black Heart although the majority of these are red herrings ). Troubled Blood has the clearest musical clue – Strike cracks the case after letting Pat listen to the music she wants – and this is a satisfying link with its paired novel, Career of Evil as that was the novel based around song lyrics. The important musical clue in Cuckoo’s Calling, likewise, means that I’ll be looking out for one in its paired novel, Running Grave. The clue in Cuckoo’s Calling comes when Rochelle raps Deeby Macc’s lyrics:
No hydroquinone, black to the backbone,
Takin’ Deeby lightly, better buy an early tombstone,
I’m drivin’ my Ferrari – fuck Johari – got my head on straight
Nothin’ talks like money talks – I’m shoutin’ at ya, Mister Jake. (282)
On page 211 we’re told that Strike can just make out ‘—ck J—’ on the back of a Guy Somé hoodie on a runner in the CCTV and a hundred pages later learn that the custom-made hoodie Somé sent Macc had ‘some of his lyrics on the back’ (314). It is never actually spelt out that this means that the lyrics Rochelle provides – ‘[fu]ck J[ohari]’ – are a crucial clue that the runner is the killer (he has been killing time in Macc’s flat before he goes to kill Lula). The reader has to listen to the lyrics and work out this clue for themselves.
The importance of musical clues later in the series brought this early clue into sharper focus on a reread and, of course, it is important in other ways too. The Johari window is a psychological term that visualises how self-disclosure and self-discovery play out in our relationships with others or, as Robin puts it, ‘It’s all to do with how well we know ourselves, and how well other people know us’ (360). Making Johari into a clue is a witty thing to do in a detective novel (where the reader is constantly trying to work out how well they know the characters) and making it into an undisclosed clue – never fully spelt out – is particularly on point! But it also works well as a framework with which the reader can view the central relationship of the series. Robin and Strike’s relationship takes place as a dance of what is visible to others (all their friends know what is going on!) being invisible to themselves before finally moving into the ‘known known’ quadrant in Ink Black Heart. Here’s hoping for full knowledge between them, building on the full self-knowledge they reached in the previous novel, in Running Grave.
Prediction 4: A double I Ching connection
My fourth guess is that the I Ching will connect both with the Norfolk cult (either the Universal Humanitarian Church or the commune from Strike’s childhood or both) and Prudence via her being a Jungian therapist, and Jung’s interest in the I Ching.
Prediction 5: Allusions to the mythic landscape of Aylmerton
I have previously discussed the rich myths which lie embedded in the Norfolk landscape of which Rowling has given us teasing glimpses in her Twitter headers. The round tower of Aylmerton is traditionally linked with Viking raids, there are the so-called shrieking pits nearby and there is a putative secret underground tunnel linking Aylmerton with Gresham Castle (where the Pastons lived) and Beeston Priory’s haunted ruins. Both the ghosts of Beeston Priory and the shrieking pits – the white lady and the grey spirit – carry more than a whiff of Hogwarts about them, and I think it likely that some of this evocative local history will get at least a passing mention! On a similar note, another of Rowling’s headers – ‘Lions Mouth’ lane (brilliantly identified by @CormStrikeFan) – borders the Felbrigg Hall Estate and I wonder if, lightly fictionalised, this stately home will become the headquarters of the Universal Humanitarian Church?
Prediction 6: The pull of the spiritual
Aylmerton’s surrounds not only have a richly storied history, but also rich spiritual connections. Alongside the church itself, there are the possibly biblical origins of the name of ‘Lions Mouth’ lane; the wayside cross outside Aylmerton church that may once have marked the Walsingham Way; the supposed underground tunnel from that cross to Beeston Priory containing a statue of the Old Testament idol the golden calf; the haunted ruins of Beeston Priory itself and the unquiet spirit said to linger in the shrieking pits. In particular, the fact that the cross just outside Aylmerton Church is an ancient way marker for the pilgrimage route – the Walsingham Way – which criss-crossed medieval Norfolk may be, as I discussed yesterday, a pointer towards a similar kind of ‘double quest’ in Running Grave. We already know from the blurb that this detective story is starting out a little bit differently – a quest to save someone rather than a quest to find their murderer. We have also been presented with a fake ‘church’ (the Universal Humanitarian Church) and a true church (St John the Baptist Church, Aylmerton). It is only in the seventh Harry Potter novel – Deathly Hallows – that we first see a church bringing a sense of the numinous into the story. Perhaps St John the Baptist Church – or Walsingham itself (the place where Richeldis de Faverches built ‘England’s Nazareth’ after a vision in 1061, one of most important shrines in medieval England and still a major site of pilgrimage to this day) – will counterbalance the false church with a genuine spiritual pull.
Prediction 7: The Kiss
‘R’bin,’ he said, giving up and gazing down at her. ‘R’bin, d’you know wadda kairos mo…’ He hiccoughed. ‘Mo… moment is?’
‘A kairos moment?’ she repeated, hoping against hope it was not something sexual, something that she would not be able to forget afterwards, especially as the kebab shop owner was listening in and smirking behind them. ‘No, I don’t. Shall we go back to the office?’…
‘’SGreek,’ he told her. ‘Kairos. Kairos moment. An’ it means,’ and from somewhere in his soused brain he dredged up words of surprising clarity, ‘the telling moment. The special moment. The supreme moment.’
Oh please, thought Robin, please don’t tell me we’re having one.
(Cuckoo’s Calling, 367-8)
Robin’s instinctive response to this is pin-point accurate, but its brilliance is only revealed on a reread as we know how much she (and we) now want them to be having one! Ink Black Heart opens with a kairos moment gone wrong – it is, as the epigraph tells us, a moment that changes everything. It is ‘the telling moment’ but the Johari window is not yet fully open. The kiss-that-missed doesn’t reveal Strike and Robin’s true hearts either to each other or themselves. The supreme moment, the kairos moment when the Johari window will be flung wide and each of them finally fully understands themselves and the other will happen in a kiss-that-doesn’t-miss in Running Grave. (Here’s hoping, at least).
Let me know what you think of my predictions and please add your own below! (Though nothing derived from the pre-released material, please – I am avoiding these like the plague so please no spoilers in the comments!)