“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 18: “Lethal White Under the Magnifying Glass (with Spoilers!)”

We pull apart the latest Cormoran Strike novel on this episode of Reading, Writing, Rowling.



Katy and John dissect J.K. Rowling’s most recent crime novel, Lethal White, with guests Beatrice Groves (Oxford University, Bathilda’s Notebook) and Louise Freeman (Mary Baldwin University, hogwartsprofessor.com). In a lively, detailed, and wide-ranging conversation, we talk about predictions we got right (like Louise’s accurate guess about the London Olympics), how the relationships in the books are developing, literary allusions, mythic elements, and where the story might be going in future books.

John brings out the many connections between this fourth book in the series and Harry Potter Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and we talk about how ring structure works in this series so far. Louise and Bea share with us some of the cratylic names and their meanings, as well as the connection to Ibsen’s play Rosmersholm, the source for the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter, and perhaps more subtly Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Together, we unpack the meaning of the white horse images Rowling uses throughout the book, and Bea shares the story of how her correct prediction allowed her to do a pre-fan-pilgrimage at the White Horse pub in Uffington! We also examine ties between the Fantastic Beasts movies – Crimes of Grindelwald, in particular – and the Cormoran Strike series. Lethal White conveys insights into JKR’s writing process, and we look at where she got the ideas for some of her plot points, like the illegality of gallows-selling. And what about those swans? We have fascinating answers for you on their metaphoric and mythic significance.

Relationships are at the core of the mystery itself, but they’re also a large part of the appeal of the detectives’ personal lives. What’s going on with Charlotte? Louise refers to Matthew as a Flobberworm, which he resembles (in a malevolent form) in this book – what will he do in future books? Are Cormoran and Robin moving toward becoming a romantic couple? We have surprising, provocative answers for all those interested in JKR’s latest writing venture.

Spoiler alert! We discuss all aspects of the novel in this episode.

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Laurie Beckoff

My Harry Potter journey began in 2000 when I was six and continued through a bachelor's thesis and master's dissertation on medievalism in the series. I'm a Gryffindor from New York City with a passion for theatre, fantasy, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.