An Even-Odd Strike Pattern Addendum: The Waitress on Break Tells Backstory

Last week I shared a pattern that may exist in the Cormoran Strike mysteries by Rowling-Galbraith. In Strike Pattern: Bars in London and Out of Town Business-Conversations in Alternating Books  I explained that odd numbered books featured Cormoran and Robin in a bar, some mention of Strike’s boxing, heavy drinking, and remarkable revelations about their pasts that pushes their relationship and understanding of each other significantly. Even number books, though they include meals and drinks in pubs, have no unveilings of this kind. They do have a meal on the road in which they discuss their business partnership and Robin’s ability to do the job given her personal circumstances and mental condition.

I speculated in last week’s post that, if this is a true pattern, we should have another of these even numbered book scenes in Strike6, Ink Black Heart. It occurred to me today that Silkworm and Lethal White, our two previous even-numbered books have something else in common. In both books Strike goes to some lengths to interview a waitress, who, on a break from the hectic labors of waiting tables, reveals the backstory elements the Peg-Legged PI suspects is out there but needs to nail down. Join me after the jump for the relevant scenes in Strike 2 and Strike 4 — and what we should look for in Strike6!

In Silkworm, it is Loulou at The River Cafe. Strike gets half-brother Al Rokeby to make reservations at the exclusive restaurant where the rock-star’s legitimate son knows all the wait staff. Strike’s hope is that Al will introduce him to someone, anyone, who had witnessed the confrontation between Owen Quine and Liz Tassel the night of their argument in the Cafe. Al just knows the person, Loulou, “a  smart cookie.” The actual conversation with the waitress is relatively short; most of the chapter is Strike speaking with his sibling and learning about him and his father.

When Loulou does finally get her break, she reveals that Quine was clearly not enraged but enjoying the challenge of acting like he was. He yelled at his agent “All because of Fancourt and his limp fucking dick.” This revelation causes a cascade of associations to at last flow together in Strike’s head to form a  theory. “He turned his theory around and around: it was perfect, snug, and solid” (367; the interview is in chapter 40, 356-367).

[Aside: Dan Chard the publisher interrupted the Strike-Rokeby catch-up conversation to say hello to Al. He leaves quickly because he did not expect that Rokeby’s guest was Strike, but Al confides in his half-brother that Bad Dad Jonny will be writing and publishing his autobiography. As Louise Freeman predicted months ago, that seems a sure thing to appear in the Ink Black Heart, per the tranverse lines connecting books 2 and 6 in a seven book ring.]

The Lethal White waitress is Tegan Butcher, who meets with Strike and Ellacott at The Crafty Filly, a drinks establishment at Newbury Racecourse. Before she has her break, Robin and Cormoran have their even-book pattern conversation about her fitness to work as a detective because of her panic attacks (cf. 545-552). Their conversation with Tegan is much longer and more involved that the one at the River Cafe with Loulou but there are at least three points of correspondence beyond the waitress being on break and recalling essential back story.

The back story is about two people, one being the murderer, intentionally staging a fight in front of an audience to misdirect the investigation of a murder. Tegan reports on her break that Raphael and his step-mother went at it in a “proper shouting match” knowing she was within earshot.

The back story includes a stunning revelation. Tegan doesn’t talk about anyone’s “limp fucking dick,” but she does spill the beans about the Chiswell gallows construction and export operation.

Strike solves the crime in the wake of this revelation. He teases Robin for most of the next chapter, telling her that Tegan’s testimony explains “how the testimony of Della Winn and Raphael Chiswell fitted together.” “Think,” he kept saying, “just think” (568). They drive to the dell where Barclay joins them for the late night dig that unearths the dead miniature horse and leads to the confrontation with Mrs Chiswell. Strike has solved the case, and, as in Silkworm, all he needs to do is figure out a way to prove it.

[I suppose another Silkworm-Lethal White parallel is that Robin has a one-on-one confrontation with the murderer in each that leads to her near death, by Tassel strangling her in the taxi and by Raphael shooting her on the boat. I’d include that except that Robin has a wrestling match and meeting with the knife of Donny Laing in Career of Evil, as well, an odd-numbered book.]

If this is a pattern, the test of it will be its predictive accuracy. If Strike talks with a waitress in Ink Black Heart and learns some interesting back-storythe even-book pattern is that he will also get exactly the clue or the factual evidence that convinces him he knows the answer to ‘whodunnit?’ If Strike6 parallels Strike2, they’ll be in The River Cafe, or having dinner with Papa Rokeby, or be looking for information from a waitress-witness about the ghosted autobiography.

Comments and corrections, please!


  1. Mr. Granger,

    I think the most interesting potential revelation of this post is that it gives us a plausible sounding solution to the title of “Strike 6”. There’s been some speculation as to the meaning of the titular “Ink Black Heart”. Theories as to its symbolic significance have ranged from Marilyn Manson, an old Peter Lorrie film, to the Bard of Avon. Whatever its thematic importance, the one thing you appear to be suggesting is that Book 6’s title might be a reference to a possible autobiography published by Rokeby himself.

    I’ll have to admit the idea is intriguing enough to the point where I should say its worth keeping in mind. Beyond this, the alternating patterns in even and odd books appears to be well spotted so far. Now all that remains is the test of the published text itself

    Keeping fingers crossed.

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