The messy science that spotted J.K. Rowling's secret novel


I just assumed they put it together based on the main character of the Cuckoo’s Calling having a gun-shaped scar on his forehead since he was a child, when his parents were murdered and he miraculously survived.

Plagiarism, puff journalism, court opinions, legislation, latter-day prophets, or any prophet for that matter - there are a lot of things the light of authorship could sanitize. But I can just as easily picture the Internet blood frenzy of divorce PI’s, stalkers, McCarthy-esque BBS collation, and/or a cease-and-desist scorched earth.These programs are freeware, after all. For my own safety, I’m going to start using Oxford commas.

I’ve read quite a few news stories that highlight this aspect of the story - it is, after all, the most interesting bit of it - but I think it’s window-dressing. As far as I can tell, the Sunday Times was tipped off anonymously on Twitter, and when they asked Rowling/her publisher about it, they confirmed it was her.

Of course, that isn’t a very exciting detective story, so if we insert a bit of mildly dubious computational linguistics into it, it works much better for the newspapers. (The analysts were essentially asked to confirm her authorship, not detect it.) I’m not getting the sense that this analysis needed to be done in order to force the admission.

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