Ever since we learned that little-known crime-fiction writer Robert Galbraith’s novel The Cuckoo’s Calling is actually the pseudonymous work of J.K. Rowling, we’ve been wondering if we might have been able to ferret out that well-kept publishing secret ourselves using our knowledge of the Harry Potter book series. Suspicions about who might have really written The Cuckoo’s Calling were fueled by its author’s Rowling-esque penchant for Latin quotes and incredibly detailed descriptions of women’s clothing, but those literary quirks aren’t unique to the Potterverse. Computer science and linguistics aided obsessive sleuths in finding far more striking similiarities, but not even those sophisticated tools could determine with absolute certainty whether the now-famous pen name belonged to Rowling. “Computers don’t really understand high-level concepts like ‘women’s clothing,’” explained Patrick Juola, the Duquesne University computer science associate professor who used forensic stylometry to help solve the mystery. “It’s actually hard to get the computer even to know the difference between a CD that pays interest and a CD that plays music.”
While Juola and another expert, Oxford professor Peter Millican, were able to gather enough incriminating evidence to induce Rowling to give up the secret, let’s imagine for a moment that she’d remained mum. Might a Potterphile have been able to read The Cuckoo’s Calling and detect even subtler, more telling clues that only a Rowling megafan could pick up? Vulture scoured the much-discussed crime novel and found ten very interesting (and admittedly quite tenuous) links to the Harry Potter book series
1. The name Lucius. Rowling quotes the Roman poet Lucius Accius in the prologue to The Cuckoo’s Calling. So is the Death Eater, a.k.a. Draco Malfoy’s dad, named Lucius not as a sound-alike for Lucifer but as a way to honor this poet? Maybe! Or maybe not!
2. News spreading like wildfire. Both the Harry Potter series and The Cuckoo’s Calling begin with the news that someone has died. In each case, word travels fast, whether it’s Voldemort or a supermodel.
3. Magical feelings. Harry finds out that he’s a wizard shortly after midnight on his birthday. In The Cuckoo’s Calling, one of our protagonists, Robin, gets a proposal of marriage shortly after midnight before her first day of work at a detective agency. Walking through the bustling streets of London, she feels that the proposal is an “unspoken wish come true” and uses an interesting word to describe the turn of events. That word is magic.
4. Giant men. Cormoran Strike, another protagonist in The Cuckoo’s Calling, is described as being bulky, hairy, and messy, and as having made his home his workplace. When Cormoran meets Robin, he literally knocks her over; he then reveals to her the secret world he lives in (the private detective world, in his case). Sound a little like Hagrid? Rowling’s love of naming offers another link: Cormoran is the name of a giant in the folktale “Jack the Giant Killer” and means “giant of the sea” in Cornish.
5. An uneasy relationship with fame. The aforementioned Lucius quote, “Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous,” sets the tone in The Cuckoo’s Calling, a book about a slain supermodel who’d learned that fame can be a burden. The quote might as well apply to Harry Potter, notorious for having defended himself against Voldemort as a baby.
6. Love of alliteration. Luna Lovegood, meet Lula Landry, a famous supermodel who, incidentally, is also an orphan of sorts and who was adopted by a family that may or may not have been good to her (sound familiar, Harry?). Another similarity between our two LL girls: Both are connected to tabloid magazines in their respective worlds.
7. Rabbit teeth. Poor Hermione. As a child, she was teased for her oversize front teeth, especially that time a spell made them grow as large as a beaver’s. John Bristow, character in The Cuckoo’s Calling, has a similar affliction, only without the magic. Rowling describes him as “distinctly rabbity in appearance with a short upper lip that failed to conceal large front teeth.”
8. Female go-getters. Speaking of Hermione, The Cuckoo’s Calling co-stars another smart, capable young woman who keeps saving the day for our hero. Robin, whom Cormoran Strike hires as a temporary assistant, proves to have “more initiative and better punctuation” than anyone he’s ever employed.
9. Schoolteachers obsessed with the rules. As a child, Cormoran had to endure a sadistic schoolteacher who incorporated the death of another student into her lesson plan: “She had not been able to resist telling the class that Charlie, who as they would remember often disobeyed grown-ups, had been expressly forbidden to rise anywhere near the quarry, but that he had done so anyway, perhaps showing off, but she been forced to stop there, because two little girls in the front row were sobbing.” Cormoran calls her a “mean old bitch”; we call her Umbridge.
10. Chocolate, chocolate, everywhere. Chocolate, as you might recall, is a remedy for a Dementor attack. It’s also used in The Cuckoo’s Calling — to ward off bad vibes. Chocolate biscuits, chocolate bars, and some chocolate hidden in a desk all serve a purpose. During a particularly nasty hangover, Cormoran munches a family-size bar of Dairy Milk to prevent dehydration and hypoglycemia, and to recover from the news of his ex-fiancée’s new engagement. Chocolate may not be a definitive Rowling trademark, but it certainly adds another delicious twist to the story.