First Flip of the Tarot Cards: Louise’s Predictions for Strike 6.

I went into my first predictions for Troubled Blood a bit overconfident, after my bulls-eyes in Lethal White, where I successfully predicted a connection to the London Olympics, a Yule Ball analog where Robin would get to wear her fabulous Green Dress, and that the title referred to the horse disease, not heroin, and that a killer would be an equestrian. For Troubled Blood, I can really only give myself one of six points, as I nailed the rather easy targets of Matthew and Robin fighting over the proceeds from their flat sale, and Charlotte attempting to get Bluey to rescue her (albeit from the misery of her marriage and a suicide attempt, not, as far as we know, from Jago’s physical violence). Maybe I will give myself a bit of partial credit for the “cooling” of the Strike-Robin potential for romance and Robin dating someone new. Granted, the detective partners are clearly more attracted to each other than ever, with thoughts of beds and clean sheets in the aftermath of whiskey and black eyes, but their relationship, for now, has landed squarely in the realm of “best mates.”

The closest thing to a “new short-term relationship for Robin” was her very brief pairing with Saul Morris, which existed largely in Morris’s dreams, Pat’s hopes, and Linda’s speculations. Robin spent Boxing Day texting DeMorris Dickhead* for the express purpose of making her family think she was dating someone new. It was interesting to see a little of that fakery unintentionally seep over to Strike, and and arouse his jealousy as he pondered making new rules against partners and contractors dating. But my other speculations: an education-themed mystery, Whittaker v. Strike, the return of Switch LeVay Bloom Whittaker or Brittany Brockbank, came to naught. As much as I’ll miss Aunt Joan, I am most grateful that neither Shanker or Vanessa filled in for Sirius Black and crossed the veil.

Still, I want to take a stab at putting some ideas down as we start to ponder, and the process of scanning Rowling’s Twitter Headers for clues begins anew. More after the jump.

Starting with the most general, we can expect multiple connections to both The Silkworm and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This means an albedo-themed story for Strike, much as Troubled Blood was his nigredo. This could mean literal snow and ice, as in The Silkworm, or other images of cleansing and purifying water, as opposed to the destructive flooding of Troubled Blood. We can also expect lots of white stone, metallic silver, and moonlight, as well as a return to the white swan motif, which could, of course, lead to more of Leda’s story unfolding. But what does that mean as far as specific plot points?

I think it is almost inevitable that the main mystery will, in some way, involve books. The Silkworm, Half-blood Prince and Chamber of Secrets all centered, in some way, on a mysterious book, its author, and the sinister reason it was written. I fully expect Strike 6 to complete this foursome, and all of us Hogpro writers face revocation of our Potter Pundit/Serious Striker credentials if this does not pan out. There are two ways I can see this unfolding, if JKR/RG chooses to revisit the past and not start a new book mystery from scratch.

  1. The return of some of the literary world characters from The Silkworm. Perhaps Daniel Chard, Michael Fancourt, or Christian Fisher will need detective services?  Or even Jerry Waldegrave, who, if we believe his drunken rantings of 2010, should have his own company by now.
  2. Biographies of one or both of Strike’s parents. Rokeby was supposed to be considering publishing his ghost-written autobiography back in 2012. Maybe his cancer diagnosis will have pushed that project to the front burner by 2015 and Strike, in the course of his investigations, gets a sneak peak at the manuscript. This would allow him to see his father’s life unfold much like Harry learned of Tom Riddle’s past in the pensieve.
    1. Even further back, we had Whittaker’s courthouse vow to write a biography of Leda Strike after he was acquitted of her murder. Could Stepdaddy Dearest team up with the scumbag hack that is Carl Oakden to finally fulfill that promise, in hopes of cashing in on Strike’s fame?

Another, and related theme we could see is memory. Chamber of Secrets was about a memory sealed in a diary; Half-Blood Prince involved Harry viewing memories in Dumbledore’s pensieve, and his mission to recover a true memory from Slughorn. Remember this bit from The Silkworm? 

“Elizabeth Tassel told me there’s a Jacobean revenge play featuring a poisoned skeleton disguised as a woman. Presumably someone shags it and dies. Not a million miles away from Phallus Impudicus getting ready to—”

“Don’t,” said Robin, with a half laugh and a shudder. But Strike had not broken off because of her protest, or because of any sense of repugnance. Something had flickered deep in his subconscious as he spoke. Somebody had told him…someone had said…but the memory was gone in a flash of tantalizing silver, like a minnow vanishing in pondweed.

“A poisoned skeleton,” Strike muttered, trying to capture the elusive memory, but it was gone.

I think Strike will spend some time trying to recover this specific memory in Book Six, and it will be the key to some major mystery about his past.

More possible Silkworm connections:

  1. Richard Anstis. Wardle was the major Met ally in books 1, 3 and 4, with George Layborn and the ghost of Bill Talbot stepping in for Troubled Blood. The only major case involving Strike’s ex-Army pal-who-owes-Strike-his-life was in The Silkworm. It would therefore complete the ring structure to involve Antis in Book 6. Just please let Strike meet him at the Feathers, and spare us the hell that is Helly.
    1. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind seeing Timothy Cormoran, Strike’s less-than-desired godson and namesake again, or even meeting the second godson, who has been mentioned in passing but not turned up as of yet.
    2. If Anstis doesn’t appear in the story as the Met detective, maybe we will learn more about the Viking explosion and the two boys seen running away from it, one of who got a lot of screen time, and passed on the opportunity to kill Strike, in the TV adaptation. While the explosion is remembered in every book, Strike has a near-flashback to it at the snowy accident on the motorway. There may be a deeper examination of those memories in Book 6.
  2. Talgarth Road. Harry inherited Number 12 Grimmauld Place at the start of Half-Blood Prince. The house that hosted Owen Quine’s final banquet is the closest Strike equivalent to that spooky residence. I assume it was renovated and turned into the Joseph North Writer’s Retreat after the events of the Silkworm, with Fancourt buying out Leonora’s share and the proceeds placed in trust for Orlando. But, could Strike or Robin somehow come into possession of the home for Book 6?? It could solve their real estate problem if they lose the Denmark Street digs, or even if they just wanted a nicer place to live.
  3. Robin’s driving. Her advanced driving skills saved the day in the Silkworm. I’m hoping to see her in an exciting behind-the-wheel adventure again, ideally one that leads to a killer’s capture.
  4. The truth about Charlotte’s baby. The Silkworm is where MiLady Berserko texts “It was yours” in a last-ditch effort to get Bluey to burst into the chapel yelling “Elaine!” and stop her wedding. I don’t think we’ll get the solution to the mystery of Leda’s death until Book 7, but this is one question that could get answered. I think that, as Charlotte married Jago Ross in The Silkworm, she will formally divorce him in Book Six. Despite Strike changing his number, we haven’t seen the last of her.
  5. The end of Two-Times. He first appeared in The Silkworm, having our heroes tail his Miss Brocklehurst. He got his nickname as a repeat client in Career of Evil, and turned up again in Troubled Blood. I am hoping something will happen in Book Six to ensure his permanent exit, whether that is a happy marriage to a faithful brunette, relocation away from London, bankruptcy, death, or accidental castration.
  6. Christmas. The Silkworm ended with Strike and Robin heading out of London to celebrate Christmas with their respective families. I would like to see them celebrating the holiday together, in London. Maybe Robin could help the new-and-improved Cormoran select thoughtful gifts for his nephew and godchildren, instead of something he thinks will annoy their parents. Then they can head to Lucy’s, meet the visiting Ted (who certainly would not be alone his first Christmas as a widower) and enjoy Christmas dinner. Maybe Nick and Isla will also be invited, and can share the news of their best possible Christmas gift: a miracle pregnancy or the opportunity to adopt.

More possible Half-Blood Prince connections:

  1. Less of a twist. Rowling’s works are famous for their surprise endings: it’s Quirrell, not Snape, after the Stone; Sirius Black is a loving godfather, not a mass-murderer; Snape was Dumbledore’s man all along, etc. The pattern was broken a bit in Chamber of Secrets, where Gilderoy Lockhart, the guy we thought was an incompetent dolt turned out to be…  an incompetent dolt. Similarly, in Half-Blood Prince, Harry suspects early on that Draco has joined the Death Eaters and is on a secret mission for Voldemort, and he turns out, for a change, to be exactly right. If we are ever going to bet on the Met’s obvious suspect turning out to actually be the culprit, Book Six is the safest place to take that gamble. Antis may get a moment to shine, after all, and better him than Carver.
  2. Strike and Robin’s first intentional and romantic kiss, hopefully in the aftermath of a major victory. Just as Harry and Ginny (and Remus and Tonks) acknowledged their feelings for each other by book’s end, I hope Strike and Robin will get a moment. I don’t think they will be at their “happily ever after” state at the end, just as Harry and Ginny were on indefinite hold, but they should be beyond “best mates.”
  3. Death of a father-confessor-mentor figure. Rokeby tops the list of nominees for this; he may turn out to have an exceptionally aggressive form of prostate cancer, which is usually quite treatable. The other logical choice is Ted, though I’d hate to see that (and he better not go before we find out how he learned where Cormoran, Lucy, Leda and Shumba were living in Brixton!) Rowling being Rowling, I could see this element not going with a logical choice, at all, and instead being someone else on whom Strike has begun to trust and depend. Perhaps Pat, Andy Hutchins, or one of the Met cops?
  4. Sectumsempra. This is perhaps my the darkest speculation. Could Strike find himself in possession of something really dangerous– in his case, perhaps information– that he doesn’t fully understand, and someone gets seriously hurt, or worse, as a result?  We have seen hints of this before; Strike turning down a client who was searching for his ex-wife, for fear he would do her harm, the team deciding not to tell their clients what they found out about Shifty’s Boss, for fear of his suicide, and Strike stating that they can’t reveal the possible Ricci connections to the snuff film and to Margot’s disappearance, for both their own safety and their clients’. Perhaps, this time, they aren’t so careful.

Other random possibilities:

  1. One of the more shocking aspects of Troubled Blood was that Strike remained celibate throughout. Strangely, I see this trend continuing, as part of his “purification” process. Now that he and Robin have all but acknowledged their mutual attraction, I don’t think there can be any more using of women as restaurant and brothel substitutes, or as convenient distractions from his feelings for Robin. Thus, if Strike finds a body in Book 6, I bet it won’t be after a night of sex.
  2. Another part of Strike’s purification may be that he stops smoking. It was one of the wishes Joan expressed to him after she got her terminal diagnosis, along with wishing to meet Robin. He has Pat Chauncey as a daily example of where that lifestyle can led; she could well wind up with terminal lung cancer or full-blown emphysema, and be hacking like Liz Tassel before the book’s end. They have both been described as sounding like men on the phone, thanks to their knackered lungs.
  3. Speaking of Pat, I think we might hear more about her first husband, and why Strike’s resemblance to him might have triggered some hostility.
  4. Finally, I predict we will see Strike doing his laundry more often, and particularly making sure he has clean sheets on the bed.

What I hope we don’t see:

  1. Any of Matthew and his shameless (as opposed to blushing) bride, except perhaps as snatches of small-town gossip from the Ellacott family in Masham. Hopefully, they will both get a good shellacking for Sarah’s tackiness in calling off her lavish wedding to Tom mere weeks ahead of time, then shoving her 6-month pregnant belly into a white designer gown for the autumn Flobber-nuptials. But, overall, I hope our narrator was truthful in the statement that the Flobberworm walked out of her life “for good” after the mediation meeting.
  2. Intra-office jealousies. In The Silkworm, Strike and Robin had their first major row when he started talking about bringing on a new employee, and she envisioned, resentfully, a female ex-police officer who would displace her and relegate her back to the role of secretary and receptionist. We have, of course, a female ex-officer, Michelle Greenstreet, joining the firm in Book Six. Robin is, by now,  securely seated in the partners’ desk in the inner office, and Pat tending the phones, files and tea kettle. I hope this means we see a Robin who is above any sort of professional rivalry with her “great” new colleague. Michelle could be a much-needed contemporarily-aged gal pal and ally, maybe even a flat-mate if Robin decides to vacate Max’s place in deference to the new boyfriend. I also hope Ms. Greenstreet is arriving with a relationship or sexual preference status that precludes any attraction between her and Strike. The touch of “Strike is jealous of Morris getting texts” we saw in Troubled Blood was amusing, but only because we know how much Robin loathed Morris. Any “Robin-is-jealous” love triangles at the agency would seem very cliched at this point.
  3. Saul Morris, Resident Dickhead (see below).* But, I want him to make a cameo, Delores Umbridge-style, in Book 7, and hopefully let Robin break his nose again.

I’ve cast a particularly wide net here, and keep my predictions intentionally vague, the better to claim victory later. But I am hoping for lots of comments and critiques in the chat.

Let the speculation begin!

*His electronic Christmas gift aside, Morris makes multiple other jokes to Robin involving erect penises, and his parting jab is an accusation that Strike has a “hard-on” for Robin. I therefore feel justified in using this term as an accurate descriptor, not a crude epithet.


  1. Louise Freeman says

    From Reader Chris C.

    When it comes to “Strike 6”, all I’ve got is just two thoughts in mind. One is a hope, the other is just expectation. My hope is best expressed in an article I was wrote down for this site, and it has to do with a Rock lyric associated with Leda Strike.

    “If the Blue Oyster Cult lyric is a pointer to Leda’s former gangland position as the main reason for her murder, then perhaps it makes enough sense to look for Strike to find out a lot more about his mother’s mob ties in the next remaining books, and what role Rokeby and Whitaker might have played in it. For what it’s worth, I hope this means my Treasure Island Horcrux Hypothesis still has some life left in it”.

    So much for hopes or theories. The one solid expectation I have for Book 6 has to do with the matter of the story’s pacing. I recall a tweet from “Mr. Galbraith” saying that the next case would find Strike dealing with a mystery revolving around younger people. This would mark out Case No. 6 as something of a polar opposite to “Troubled Blood”. In terms of narrative strategy, it does make a certain amount of sense. “Blood” was meant as the series Nigredo. As such, it is meant to be the darkest part of the cycle. It’s also the slowest, in terms of pacing, out of any of the other novels in the series thus far.

    It is with this in mind that Rowling’s desire to make sure her readers adjust their expectations for narrative pacing in terms of the next book begins to perhaps make a bit more sense. The fifth book was all about dealing with the past, and pretty much the entire cast, with the exception of the main leads, was geared and presented as a much older demographic. It’s a minor thing to note, yet it goes a long way towards explaining the way that book is paced and laid out in terms of its overall slow narrative release. So what happens if you switch from old to young in terms of the overall narrative perspective?
    I think the best answer is to describe it as switching from Saturn to Mercury. One is a symbol for a slowed, almost forgotten past. The other, meanwhile, is a representation of the wild, fast-paced abandon of youthful energy. I’ll have to admit that of the two, I think I prefer the Messenger to the Timekeeper (then again, I’m probably biased. I don’t hold with astrology, and yet even I have to note the perfect irony of being a born Gemini. It also doesn’t help the case against once I point out that I took to the comedy and humor of guys like Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor like a duck to water!).

    What I think (or hope?) all this means in practical terms is that, no matter how long the page count, the next Strike adventure is going to be written in such a way that it will always feel as if the narrative has to keep moving. If there are any moments that stand still, such as the by now signature scenes between Strike and Robin putting the puzzle pieces together, then there’s going to be a new sense of urgency about it all. Even if they’re not on any deadline, those scenes will be phrased and worded so that this time we’re really left on the edge of our seat, eager to turn to page to find out what’s happening next.

    The one other main difference I expect has to do with the overall mood of the piece. If we’re going with the idea that “Strike 6” is the series Albedo, then it should act as something of a polar opposite to “Troubled Blood”, a dark and light contrast, other words. If Book 5 was the dark text, then 6 should prove to be its relatively light-hearted opposite in terms of both mood and overall sense of narrative drive. In terms of what to expect, I can only suggest that a lighter mood means a mystery in which the main leads will find it both easier going, and also somewhat exhausting if it means a faster narrative pace. The key difference here is that even the exhaustion should be treated with a genuine sense humor, rather than ragged desperation. Maybe the fact that the case will deal with the younger generation means we can expect Strike to let loose with the occasional grumble of “kids these days”, only to be given a good-natured ribbing for it by Robin.

    The best way I can suggest the contrast to expect in switching from the dark contrast of “Troubled Blood” to the lighter one of 6 is to resort to what can only as the best possible musical, tonal representations for each novel. If “Troubled” is summed up by Mark Murphy and Till Bronner’s “What if?”, then “Strike 6” is better suggested by Frank Sinatra’s “L.A. is My Lady”. It might sound a bit too obtuse for its own good, yet it’s the best recommendation I’ve got to suggest the differences in tone that we can expect between the two books.

  2. In terms of the Silkworm Jacobean memory that is quoted above, I usually take these kinds of hints as being self-contained, i.e. referring to something to do with the present investigation. Every book has a similar moment. I thought this particular one was to do with what Strike later reveals to Elizabeth Tassel during the denouement – namely, that Christian Fisher’s statement at the very beginning of the book (about Bombyx Mori being “reminiscent of Fancourt’s early stuff”) ties in with Andrew Fancourt’s mention of the fact that he and Tassel studied Jacobean revenge tragedies together at uni.

    The theme of memory is however very important and I wonder which key memories about Strike’s childhood or Leda’s life (or perhaps about Charlotte’s life or their troubled relationship) were unearthed in Silkworm and whether they might get a follow up in Book 6.

  3. Louise Freeman says

    I’d be willing to bet that the “silver minnow” memory is something from Strike’s childhood, the Norfolk commune being the most likely source. We also saw Cormoran flashing back to Leda telling him she loved someone and “someday you’ll feel that way” in the TV adaptation of Career of Evil, so there is a set-up there for Cormoran to recall something from his childhood.

  4. I think the memory that flashed through Strike’s mind had to do with the lunch he had just had with Elizabeth Tassel. At the time he’d thought “She looked as though she had lost weight since he had last seen her; the well-cut black suit, the scarlet lipstick and the steel-gray bob did not lend her dash today, but looked like a badly chosen disguise.” It was his own impression that she wore a disguise, not what anyone had told him.

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