First Seven Chapters of Troubled Blood Pre-Publication Release on AppleBooks

Troubled Blood, the fifth Cormoran Strike mystery, is due in bookstores as hard copy and eBook on 15 September. Its first seven chapters and front matter, however, were released last week on AppleBooks for members of that service in the United States (and only in the United States) to peruse and read. HogwartsProfessor friends in the US and overseas, Hurrah!, sent me screenshot editions of this preview and I pledged in gratitude for this kindness (I do not own any Apple products so had no access to the release) to write up my thoughts on what the epigraphs that open the book, the structure points to be made from perusing the Table of Contents, as well as the substance of the seven chapters.

Let’s start with a hat tip to these friends-who-will-not-be-named lest they be besieged for copies of their samizdat edition as our first order of business. Thank you for your brilliant and successful effort to create a readable pdf file from what is meant to be phone-only reading. Cheers!

Next, there is the necessary warning to those not wanting to be spoiled or who want to read the seven chapters on AppleBooks themselves before we begin discussion here. Everything after the jump will be revelations of the book, almost ten percent of its substance in chapters, and all of its epigraphs and Table of Contents (TOC). Don’t ‘go there’ if you want to wait until its proper publication or if you are preparing pre-pub predictions about the book.

As a summary of my first thoughts, a preview review of the preview, I share below as a first entry on this subject the epigraphs, the essentials from the TOC, the dedication, and capsule outlines of the players, scenes, key elements, and odd notes of the seven chapters. I open the conversation inside these summaries with my first thoughts on the revealed parts of Troubled Blood. If you’re interested in any of that, please join me after the jump by clicking on ‘Read More.’

The Epigraphs: Troubled Blood opens with twin epigraphs, a throwback to Deathly Hallows’ Aeschylus and Penn notes, one from Edmund Spencer’s Faerie Queen and the other from Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth.

The Spenser excerpt is from Book IV of the Faerie Queene, The Legend of Cambel and Triamond, Canto VI, ll 417-422.


Backe to that desert forrest they retyred,

Where sorie Britomart had lost her late;
There they her sought, and every where inquired,
Where they might tydings get of her estate;
Yet found they none. But by what haplesse fate
Or hard misfortune she was thence convayd,         420
And stolne away from her beloved mate,
Were long to tell; therefore I here will stay
Untill another tyde, that I it finish may.


Read that Book IV canto in full here and about Cambel and Triamond in the Craik exegesis of the canto’s 47 parts here. Rowling quotes from the 47th, which is to say, the concluding Spenserian stanza. The Legend of Cambel and Triamond is subtitled, ‘On Friendship’ and I expect this will be one of our takeaways from this epigraph, i.e., what it reflects on the story of Robin and Cormoran’s friendship. The obvious meaning is that Troubled Blood turns on the cold-case search for a woman who disappeared in Cornwall in 1974.

I asked Nick Jeffery for his help with the Crowley epigraph. He sent the following full paragraph for the passage from a GoogleBooks edition of The Book of Thoth with the note, “Crowley seems to be talking about ceremonial magic in tarot.”

The Star represents Nuit, the starry heavens. ‘I am Infinite Space, and the Infinite Stars thereof.’ She is represented with two vases, one pouring water, a symbol of light, upon herself, the other upon the earth. This is a glyph of the economy of the Universe. It continually pours forth energy and continually re-absorbs it. It is the realisation of perpetual motion, which is never true of any part, but necessarily true of the whole. For, if it were not so, there would be something disappearing into nothing, which is mathematically absurd

The surface relevance of this, again, is about the key element of the cold missing person case, that the woman in question simply disappears. That Rowling begins the book, though, with a passage from a classic work that is epic, alchemical, and profoundly allegorical, even iconographic, alongside a paragraph from a modern occultist promises the serious reader a trip to the supernatural world above, within, and suffusing the visible realm. It promises to be quite the paranormal ride.

The Table of Contents: Troubled Blood is a novel of 73 chapters in seven parts. The AppleBooks preview is the first part, chapters 1-7. The second part is eight chapters long, 8-15, the third has sixteen chapters, 16-30, the fourth eighteen chapters, 31-48, the fifth eleven chapters, 49-59, the sixth twelve chapters, 60-71, and the seventh only two chapters, 72-73. The TOC given in the AppleBooks preview does not give pagination for these chapters or titles (none of the seven chapters provided have titles in keeping with the other Strike novels and all the seven begin with quotations from Faerie Queene).

My first thought on this, as HogwartsProfessor readers would guess, is that Part Seven acts as a ring composition epilogue or story-latch. I think we can expect a return there to the story opening scenes, either The Victory pub, the missing woman’s daughter’s home in Falmouth, or to St Mawes for Aunt Joan’s funeral, for a story wrap, a.k.a, the Dumbledore Denouement and return to King’s Cross. If the book is a ring — and if it isn’t, that will be a first for Rowling — then the story turn will be in Part Four, and, per Strike formula, the murderer will make an appearance or be highlighted in the central chapter, either the half-way point of Part Four, chapter 40, or the central of the seventy three chapter book, chapter 36 or 37.

My second thought is that Rowling has intentionally highlighted the seven chapters of Part One by releasing them early for her serious readers to reflect on as a key that unlocks or at least reflects what follows. Just as Casual Vacancy‘s first part of seven was seven days which roughly correspond with the subsequent parts of the book, I think we need to consider at least the possibility as we read the first seven chapters of Troubled Blood that in them is concealed a picture of the parts to follow. Especially chapter four; is the murderer discussed or mentioned in the central chapter of Part One? The puzzle quality of Rowling’s formal artistry suggests it is worth a close reading.

The Dedication:

Nice, no? If like me you had never heard of the WEA, here is the Wikipedia delineation of the Workers Education Association:

The WEA is divided into nine regions in England, a Scottish Association and over 500 local branches. It creates and delivers about 9,000 courses each year in response to local need across England and Scotland, often in partnership with community groups and local charities. These courses provide learning opportunities for around 65,000 people per year, taught by over 2,000 professional tutors (most of whom work for the WEA part-time).

Anyone have an idea concerning what courses Mrs Murray may be teaching at the WEA?

The Seven Chapters: Here are my thumbnail sketches of the seven chapters in the AppleBooks preview of Troubled Blood.

Chapter One: The book opens in The Victory pub in Strike’s hometown of St Mawes, Cornwall. He is having a beer with his best mate from childhood, Dave Polworth, on the occasion of Dave’s 39th birthday. It begins with an uncomfortably political conversation about identity and politics — Dave is inflamed with the idea of Cornish independence from the UK — which leads, when Dave leaves the table for another round of drinks (Doom Bar Ale, one hopes), to Strike reflecting on Aunt Joan’s cancer, the reason he is in Cornwall, the history of his relationship with Dave Polworth, Dave’s job and marital situation, and Strike’s confused feelings for Robin Ellacott-Cunliffe.

The chapter ends with a quotation from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Part 3, chapter 21, a passage that inspired Dave Polworth to propose marriage to Penny years ago, after hearing it quoted by a stray lover of Russian literature in The Victory. The drunk sage quotes a paraphrase of the highlighted section below:

“And here’s my opinion for you. Women are the chief stumbling block in a man’s career. It’s hard to love a woman and do anything. There’s only one way of having love conveniently without its being a hindrance–that’s marriage. How, how am I to tell you what I mean?” said Serpuhovskoy, who liked similes. “Wait a minute, wait a minute! Yes, just as you can only carry a fardeau[burden] and do something with your hands, when the fardeau is tied on your back, and that’s marriage. And that’s what I felt when I was married. My hands were suddenly set free. But to drag that fardeau about with you without marriage, your hands will always be so full that you can do nothing. Look at Mazankov, at Krupov. They’ve ruined their careers for the sake of women.”

“What women!” said Vronsky, recalling the Frenchwoman and the actress with whom the two men he had mentioned were connected.

“The firmer the woman’s footing in society, the worse it is. That’s much the same as–not merely carrying the fardeau in your arms–but tearing it away from someone else.”

“You have never loved,” Vronsky said softly, looking straight before him and thinking of Anna.

“Perhaps. But you remember what I’ve said to you. And another thing, women are all more materialistic than men. We make something immense out of love, but they are always terre-a-terre.”

Vronsky takes his advice (sort of) and in the conclusion of the novel’s seventh part (it has eight parts), Anna, his beloved, commits suicide by throwing herself under a train. Suicide is a big deal in Cormoran Strike and I have to think this quotation suggests we will learn in the finish that the wife and mother who disappeared committed suicide because of an affair of the heart or, per Strike formula, her disappearance and murder was staged as a suicide. I suspect, too, we will learn in the epilogue that Penny Polworth has finally left the vulgar husband who only married her to make having sex a sure and easy thing.

Chapter Two: Dave goes home to Penny and Strike makes his way out of The Victory and back to Uncle Ted’s home (we learned in the opening exchange of chapter 1 that Ted’s surname is ‘Nancarrow’). He pauses at the seawall before setting out in order to reflect on life at Ted’s with sister Lucy and her three boys and especially his nephew Luke. He ruminates again on his relationship with Robin and everyone’s determination to see them as a married couple. Strike’s reflections are interrupted by two women he saw ogling him inside The Victory, Anna Bamborough and Dr Kim Sullivan. They are tourists from Falmouth on a visit to the Cornish beach resort. Recognizing Strike as the famous detective he is, Anna asks him if he would consider investigating the case of her mother, Margot, who disappeared without trace in 1974 from her home in Cornwall. Strike is intrigued despite Anna’s confession that a medium’s contact with her mother inspired her to speak with him (that and a few drinks). He makes an appointment to meet them the next day at their home in Falmouth.

We get two vignettes or visual asides in this chapter that may play out in future chapters, perhaps Troubled Blood’s second part. The first is Strike’s seeing a seal looking at him from beneath the surface of the dark waters on the other side of the seawall. The second is a group of drunk young men that Strike at first thinks are on their way to catch a ferry that has left long ago. They are picked up, however, by a launch that was waiting for them.

Chapter Three: The scene shifts to Torquay, Devon, relatively closer to Cornwall than London (it is only 18 miles from Exeter where Rowling went to University). Robin is watching a suspect nicknamed Tufty who is having dinner with his family at a pizza restaurant. She is exhausted because she has worked several weeks straight due to Strike’s being called to Cornwall and because Tufty was supposed to have flown back to Glasgow not drive to Torquay. Her surveillance, though, has reaped rich fruit; she has learned that Tufty is a serial bigamist with two wives and families and a mistress, all of whom, Robin believes, are mirror images of the other albeit twenty years apart. Strike calls her to talk about the Bamborough cold case and they talk while she waits for the Campion family in Devon to reappear and be captured on film for her client.

Before the call, we learn in Robin’s thoughts about her separation from Matthew — we are a year removed from the action of Lethal White and the Cunliffe’s have agreed on a two-year separation to be followed by a no-fault divorce — her lecherous man troubles with Saul Morris, the firm’s latest sub-contractor, Charlotte Campbell-Ross’s phone call to the office about something she has for Strike, and about Nick and Ilsa’s not very subtle pushes for her to pursue a romance with and marriage to Cormoran. In her conversation with Strike, we get their back and forth about the new office manager as well as their plan to meet in Falmouth to learn more about the Bamborough case.

I think the “triple life” case Robin has resolved with the three look-alike women will be important in the third part of the novel. That she is in Torquay, the birthplace and childhood home of Agatha Christie, and investigating a faithless Campion, the surname of Margery Allingham’s detective, are both heavy markers beyond hat-tipping that the Affair in Devon is a big clue to coming events. I hope Serious Strikers familiar with UK divorce law will explain the Cunliffe couple’s decision for a divorce that takes two years to be finalized, especially if there are consequences for affairs in that period of separation. Saul Morris is one creepy dude, a little too reminiscent of Matthew.

Chapter Four: I have not been typing out and tracking down the Faerie Queen passages that open each of the seven chapters from Part One in this preview. They seem, as with the Rosmersholm chapter epigraphs in Lethal White, not to be rich literary allusion deserving a chase and exegesis but just markers of what the chapter at hand will be about. I look forward to being corrected on this count by Elizabeth Baird-Hardy and Beatrice Groves, the Spenser mavens in the Serious Striker stable of sages. Chapter four’s epigraph, though, is worth copying out: “Begotten by two fathers of one mother,/ Though of contrarie natures each to other….” As you might expect, the chapter largely turns on a confrontation between Strike and his half-sister Lucy. It isn’t pretty.

The central chapter of the seven chapter preview begins in Uncle Ted’s sitting room, the space given Strike as his bedroom in the crowded Nancarrow home. Strike does a Google search for the Bamborough missing person case to learn something of an overview of the case he will learn about later that day in Falmouth; he orders a book about a psychopathic mass murderer named Dennis Creed who many suspect killed Margot (Creed is still alive but in a mental hospital for his many crimes). Strike retreats in his boxers to the small garden outside for a smoke and to collect his thoughts for the coming day. He is joined there by Lucy, who insists on his getting dressed lest he catch cold, and they talk about their biological mother, Leda Strike, their adoptive mother, Joan Nancarrow, and their respective loyalties to each.

In a nutshell, Lucy tells Strike that Leda was his choice for his mother and she, at least from the age of fourteen, chose Aunt Joan. Strike is more than a little peeved by her setting him up as not being a good son to Aunt Joan and for his supposed greater loyalty to Leda. Lucy brings out the brutal truth-teller in Cormoran when she complains that he is unfair and negligent in spending more time and getting gifts for Jack alone rather than his other nephews, Luke and Adam. “Adam’s a whiny little prick and Luke’s a complete arsehole” is his summary retort. Ouch. The rest of the chapter is Strike’s bumbling exit from the family home.

If the murderer is revealed in Part Four’s center as the killer has been in the middle of the first four Strike novels, and, if Part One, chapter four, is a key of some sort to Part Four, there should be a pointer embedded here about the murderer or person responsible for the Bamborough disappearance. The only people discussed in this chapter who were alive and adults in 1974 were Dennis Creed, the principal suspect (a fact which makes it highly unlikely he is the bad guy, right?), Ted and Joan Nancarrow, and Leda Strike. Leda Strike also disappeared from Cornwall that year or the year before so there is a thematic if only Dickensian connection between Leda and Margot. Lucy’s fight with Cormoran about the relative merits of Joan and Leda, if the chapter is a key to Part Four and its story turn, suggests that a disagreement between Joan and Leda was responsible for at least one of the disappearances. Strike remembers one such disagreement in chapter one’s pub and chapter four’s garden when Leda was angry about her children being put in school without her permission.

I was struck less by these clues and possibilities, real stretches obviously, than by the repeated notes of a connection between Leda Strike and Cormoran’s smoking. Strike all but says Leda is present with him as a ghost when he lights up a cigarette. “Have you tried smoking yet, Cormy?” she’d once asked vaguely, out of a haze of blue smoke of her creation. “It isn’t good for you, but God, I love it.” Then during his exchange with Lucy about Joan and Leda, he thinks:

Lower back throbbing, eyes stinging with tiredness, Strike stood [next to Lucy] smoking in silence. He knew that Lucy would like to have excised Leda from her memory, and sometimes, remembering a few of the things Leda had put them through, he sympathized. This morning, though, the wraith of Leda seemed to drift on his cigarette smoke around him. He could hear her saying to Lucy, “Go on and have a good cry, darling, it always helps,” and “Give your old mum a fag, Cormy.” He couldn’t hate her.

Joan’s seemingly non sequitur of a farewell to Strike as he departs, “I wish you’d stop smoking,” she said sadly, has an extra poignancy because of the cigarette link between Leda and her son. She wants him to choose her over his biological mother as Lucy has.

Rowling like Nabokov populates her books with ghosts, seen and unseen; see W. W. Rowe’s Nabokov’s Spectral Dimension for a book-length treatment of this subject and Brian Boyd’s brilliant Nabokov’s Pale Fire for the importance of ghosts in VVN’s best work. I think we’re meant to pay special attention, consequently, in Troubled Blood to revelations Strike experiences while smoking, especially if they involve events or persons Leda may have known. Strike’s mysterious openness to taking the Bamborough case may have been because he was smoking when the two women approached him in chapter two. He is going to learn something about Leda in this investigation that will lead to his solving the cold case of her seeming suicide that haunts the series. And Leda is present in spirit to get him there.

Chapter Five: This is far and away the shortest chapter of the seven chapter set at only five pages and its inclusion is one reason to think the first seven chapters in some fashion are markers of the book’s seven parts. The contents of the chapter could easily have been rolled into the next one, so its existence suggests a need to ‘get to’ seven.

Chapter Five is the story of Robin’s travel to and meeting Strike at a Falmouth restaurant before they travel together to the home of Dr Sullivan and Anne Bamborough. Strike is in no little pain during their conversation; he fell down, as he thought he might, getting on to the ferry at St Mawes and has injured his leg where it meets his prosthesis. He keeps the fall to himself, however, so Robin is left to wonder why he is so cranky. She uses the loo and takes headache medicine, a discomfort Strike attributes to the unpleasant children (“Bloody kids”) at the table next to theirs, a family loud enough that it is difficult for Robin and Cormoran to talk.

My only thoughts about this chapter turn on the place of their meeting, The Palacio Lounge on The Moor in Falmouth. The brevity and seeming inconsequential nature of this interlude makes me wonder (hope?) that we will return to the Lounge in Part Five or that a Moor will play a part in the occult elements of Troubled Blood. But, yes, I’m really reaching here, I know.

Chapter Six: Cormoran and Robin have an “exploratory meeting” with Dr Kim Sullivan, psychologist, and Anne Bamborough, architect, in their beautiful home in Falmouth. The chapter includes all the details of the cold case Anne remembers, Kim hovers around her wife protectively both as spouse and psychologist concerned about a patient, and Robin and Cormoran ask the appropriate questions and explain what hiring the C. B. Strike Agency to investigate Margot Bamborough’s disappearance will involve. The chapter ends with the departure of the two from the home.

Five quick notes: (1) The lesbian couple have two “ragdoll” cats named Cagney and Lacey. Cagney “loves men,” which Dr Sullivan finds ironic, and Lacey “hates everyone.” Cagney and Lacey was a television program about two women detectives in New York City, a police procedural that was a hit of teevee programming for its six year run. I’ll let you connect the dots about two professional women naming their cats for the most famous female buddy characters on the telly. Are they snapshots of the Sullivan and Bamborough characters?

(2) We learn about the meeting with a medium to discover more about Margot’s disappearance. The two women are embarrassed that Anna did this but share details of the visit and reading per Strike’s questions. The medium’s home was decorated with an angel motif and said that the ghost of Anna’s mother was watching over her; a “leading” would happen soon, which comment led the slightly drunk Anna to reach out to Strike outside The Victory. Again, ghosts.

(3) Margot Bamborough Phipps disappeared on her way to a pub date with her best friend, Oonagh Kennedy. After Anna Phipps learns about her biological mother’s disappearance via a cruel school child’s taunt, she reaches out to Oonagh and learns wonderful things about her mother. Roy Phipps, dear old dad, intervenes to protect Anna from Oonagh (dad has real issues) and Anna is unable to locate her after she is on her own. Look for a lot about Oonagh in this book that has important connections with Spenser’s Faerie Queene; Una is a principal character in the epic poem’s Book I:

Book I is centred on the virtue of holiness as embodied in the Redcrosse Knight. Largely self-contained, Book I can be understood to be its own miniature epic. The Redcrosse Knight and his lady Una travel together as he fights the monster Errour, then separately after the wizard Archimago tricks the Redcrosse Knight into thinking that Una is unchaste using a false dream. After he leaves, the Redcrosse Knight meets Duessa, who feigns distress in order to entrap him. Duessa leads the Redcrosse Knight to captivity by the giant Orgoglio. Meanwhile, Una overcomes peril, meets Arthur, and finally finds the Redcrosse Knight and rescues him from his capture, from Duessa, and from Despair. Una and Arthur help the Redcrosse Knight recover in the House of Holiness, with the House’s ruler Caelia and her three daughters joining them; there the Redcrosse Knight sees a vision of his future. He then returns Una to her parents’ castle and rescues them from a dragon, and the two are betrothed after resisting Archimago one last time.

In a book with occult elements, the character named for ‘The One’ or ‘Unity’ is of over sized importance. It is also a variation for ‘Agnes,’ believe it or not, the word for ‘Lamb.’ I’m looking forward to Cormoran’s meeting with Oonagh Kennedy.

(4) There are notes from Chamber of Secrets and The Silkworm in this chapter I am obliged to note however much they skew the ring connections I want to be seeing with Order of the Phoenix and Career of Evil. First, young Anna keeps her secret stache of Mum photos hidden in a rabbit pajama case akin to Orlando’s in The Silkworm. Next, the young girl has dreams of her headless mother visiting her at night after she learns about Dennis Creed’s MO dismemberment. That has pretty strong resonance for Potter-philes with the Headless Hunt chapter in Chamber of Secrets at Nearly Headless Nick’s Deathday Party. Make of that what you will! (Please do make a connection between the bunny pajama case and Margot and Oonagh having been Playboy ‘Bunny Girls.’)

(5) Anna mentions that the chief investigator on the case is a policeman named Bill Talbot and that he was all but convinced that Creed murdered Margot. We have the essential ‘Mistaken Copper’ and ‘Wrongly Suspected Fall Guy’ here in spades. The only thing truly surprising at the finish would be if Talbot were correct and Creed is the killer. Everything we learn about Roy Phipps, though, Anna’s father and Margot’s husband, suggests we are meant to think he is the bad guy and knows a lot more about his first wife’s disappearance than he has told the police or his daughter. I think we can eliminate him on this basis, too, from our list of probable murderers, even given Rowling’s daddy issues. He’s too obvious.

The meeting with Talbot and the second Mr and Mrs Phipps should be keepers, though. Especially those that happen in Part Six of Troubled Blood.

Chapter Seven: This was my favorite part of the seven chapter preview; it’s all Robin and Cormoran talking about cases and these conversations are golden, no?

It is in three parts: the Land Rover trip to a Cornwall Subway sandwich station highway stop, conversation at the Subway, and then their talk after Strike’s three hour nap in the car.

On the first leg, they talk about life at the office and argue as partners about Saul Morris and Patricia Chauncey, the new office manager. Robin keeps quiet about Morris’ improper advances and Strike fumes about Chauncey and how much he wants to get rid of her. We get a review of their active cases here: Tufty, the Campion case Robin has closed, Two-Times, Twinkle-Toes, Postcard, and Shifty. ‘Two-Times’ we met in Career of Evil so it’s great to see him back, ‘Postcard’ is a teevee meteorologist being teased by postcards from a stranger in his mailbox, and ‘Twinkle-toes’ refers to the case of a father of a double-divorcee with a super-sized trust fund who has hired the agency to investigate her much younger new lover, a dancer. 

With the Shifty case, though, we finally get the inter-office case Rowling gave us the schematic to three years ago in a picture at the Galbraith website. Check out the picture below and discussion at HogwartsProfessor here. This will require a second look now, of course, and we’ll learn if this is the Radford job Strike lost in Career Of Evil as we supposed in the run-up to Lethal White (extremely unlikely, I know, given the passage of years).

In the stop at the sandwich shop on the highway, Strike shares with Robin his conversation with Lucy that morning in the St Mawes garden. She responds appropriately — and quite obviously, forgive me, in love with the madness and humor of her best friend and business partner.

Back on the highway, Strike falls asleep when Robin begins to explain to him the importance of Social Identity Theory for detective work. He asks her to continue when he wake up and she shares these gems:

     “You fell asleep around the time I was telling you my fascinating application of social identity theory to detective practice.”

     “Which is?” he said, trying to make up in politeness now what he had lost earlier.

     Robin, who knew perfectly well that this was why he had asked the question, said, “In essence, we tend to sort each other and ourselves into groupings, and that usually leads to an overestimation of similarities between members of a group, and an underestimation of the similarities between insiders and outsiders.”

     “So you’re saying all Cornishmen aren’t rugged salt-of-the-earthers and all Englishmen aren’t pompous arseholes?… Sounds unlikely but I’ll run it by Polworth next time we meet.”

Between Dr Kim Sullivan, psychologist, and Robin’s reading in Social Identity Theory, Troubled Blood promises more than a share of psychological reflections. About which, “Three Cheers!” I love it as it is and I am already excited about reading Louise Freeman’s posts that tell us what we need to know to appreciate this. The ring-charting reader will note that chapter one begins with Dave Polworth as a case study of Social Identity bigotry and chapter seven, the close of Part One, with an explanation of it, a Part latch, making a ring of sorts within the larger ring. The review of the conversation with Leda in chapter four, the Part One central chapter, and Lucy’s dragging in Cormoran meeting with Dave Polworth, gives us the Part One axis. Anyone care to find the parallels between chapters two and six, three and five?

In the remainder of their car ride, Cormoran and Robin discuss the Bamborough cold case and what Strike knows about it from his Google searches. We learn that Margot disappeared in Clerkenwell not Cornwall, for instance, and Creed was living in Paradise Park, Islington (this somehow resonates with the medium saying to Anna that her mother rests in a “holy place,” a connection I hope UK friends will explain). Serious Strikers will sigh with relief that at last we have some kind of explanation for the St John’s Gate in Clerkenwell Twitter header from November 2018 (hat tip to Nick Jeffery for his identifying that back in the day). Could Margot have been picked up by the Clerkenwell Crime Syndicate? Time to review Joanne Gray’s speculations in this regard.

Strike says to Robin that Clerkenwell “that whole area’s got some kind of religious connection. Monks or something.” Expect a trip to St John’s Gate, maybe in one of the two Part Seven chapter epilogues (the other will have to be at The Victory with Polworth, no?). Strike is thoroughly skeptical and empiricist here about mediums and those he feels prey on the vulnerable with other-worldly contacts; that he is smoking at the time seems to have no effect on his nay-saying. Sorry, Leda!

The chapter concludes with a phone call from Dr Kim in which she agrees to hire the Strike agency for a one year period to investigate Anna’s mother’s disappearance. She and Anna, though, request that Robin and Cormoran not contact the Roy Phipps family because he is unwell, the step-mother won’t want to upset him, and Anna feels if he finds out there will be no hope of their reconciliation. In this call we have both the Cold Case story beginning made official — we’ll have to wait for Robin’s placement in the Shifty Case office as PA — and the necessary road block to their learning from Roy from the start the critical information it will take them most of the book to learn. Oh, well!

I look forward to reading your thoughts about the places I noted above where I drew a blank, about the possibility that Rowling leaked the first seven chapters of Galbraith’s latest book to give us a ringed-key to the seven part ring of Troubled Blood, and for your thinking about the seven chapters, especially with respect to Faerie Queene, Crowley, Anna Karenina, Clerkenwell, cigarette-ghosts, and the twin stories of Robin as PA and Strike with the cold case. And is Saul Morris an agent of Matthew?

Let the conversation begin!



  1. Excuse me whilst I cast some runes for a minute.

    “Enter the Apostle’s Gate, and follow the bread crumbs that lead to the House of Pride”.

    There’s one story location/plot element we haven’t heard from or about yet. Its right there, on the book’s cover art. It’s really more of a prop than a setting, yet it’s a real one, and comes from a very specific place. So far, I haven’t heard a thing about the Astrological Zodiac Clock that resides at Hampton Court (as well as on the cover of a book now). However, the fact is that it’s the first sight that greets the reader, even before they turn to page. Technically, that places both a story prop, plot element, and setting all at the attentive readers fingertips from the very start. It may not be mentioned in any of the chapters just cited. Even if that’s the case, however, that fact that it gets marquee billing probably means the author wants us to know it’s still there, waiting in the wings for its turn on-stage.

    The fact that Clerkenwell is the place where Margot vanished, to me, signals that there is at least some kind of connection between the Gate and the Court. It’s true there is a very specific connection in real life history between these two settings. My question is what kind of clue could Red Cap “Crosse” and Britomart find that would get them to keep their date with spotting that clock as they arrive at Hampton Palace? The best I can suggest is to look for them to turn up a clue that leads them right to the royal gates. I suspect this will come as something of an out of left field shock for the super sleuths.

    “Beware the Grave Digger”.

    I think Mr. Granger is right in us having to look up Joanne Gray’s Syndicate Theory once more. It leads me to ask if we can expect Digger Malley to play a part in today’s plot?
    There are a few more thoughts I have about the plot. However, most of them are repeats of earlier ideas of mine, and I wish to know a bit more before finding out if there’s any merit in them. My hope is that a crime committed in Harringay means not just a place for Digger, but also a hopeful return of the Heroin Dark Lord theory.

    I do know I’m anxious to find out what happens next. The game’s afoot!

  2. Louise Freeman says

    In addition to Two-times (who really should be Three- or Four-times by now) there is Strike apologizing for not being able to share driving the Land Rover, which only happened in Career of Evil. Another connection to Book 2 is Dave Polworth, who dove for the typewriter (and seemed a lot nicer as the childhood friend who got mauled by a shark than he does here).

    I absolutely think that Saul Morris is a PI hired by the Flobberworm to dig up dirt on Robin— or maybe just to find out if any of Strike’s people are tailing him. I have a funny feeling by the end of this Robin’s connections to people who make their living collecting evidence to be used in divorce cases will come in handy. It is also possible that Ms. Chaucey is up to no good, or perhaps will emerge as the Dolores Umbridge of this Book Five.

    I wonder if Strike’s three hour nap, only to pick up the conversation right where he left off is a foreshadowing of him being out of action in some way towards the end of the book, leaving Robin to solve the mystery without him, for a change.

    I am thinking Margot’s disappearance may relate to a lesbian love affair— and perhaps the “meanest woman I ever met” had something to do with it.

    As for grave diggers— that is also what Whittaker claimed to be.

    Did anyone catch that Lucy and Strike’s relative ages appear to have shifted? They have always been described as 2 years apart, but here is says Strike was 4 1/2 when Leda first left “newborn” Lucy and him with Joan and Ted. This also suggests Strike lived his first four years with Leda, whereas Lucy did not, which could help explain the difference in bonding, along with Leda (and Strike’s) failure to protect Lucy from Whittaker’s sexual abuse.

    As for the nephews— Luke’s behavior does not speak well of Lucy’s effectiveness as a parent– and the kid is damn lucky he got away with a “quiet telling off.”

  3. Nick Jeffery says

    Paradise Park is located withing the Holloway area of Islington. It is a play park, not a residential location, however it’s eastern boundary is set by Paradise Passage a pedestrian alley that has terraced housing, from which perhaps it gets its name. Before it was a park it housed stables, and from 1860 – 1871 was the location of the forerunner of Battersea Dogs Home. Other than Paradise being the ultimate destination of the faithful, I can’t find any holy or religious significance.

  4. Nick Jeffery says

    To get a divorce in England and Wales you need to satisfy one of the following conditions that will allow a “decree nisi”. A decree nisi is a document from a court that states you may get legally divorced.
    i. Adultery. Obviously this has occurred but potentially Matt may not wish the true details to become public. If Matt consents to the divorce then they could claim an invented infidelity, this is a popular method to get a quick divorce.
    ii. Unreasonable behaviour. This can include violence, verbal abuse, drunkenness, drug taking or withholding money from shared expenses. Again if Matt chooses not to contest it this could be a quick alternative to having the adultery public. The court would need to be satisfied that the behaviour occurred however and this information could become public.
    iii. Desertion. After 2 years, with or without parties agreeing.
    iv. Separation. After 2 years if both parties agree.
    v. Separation. After 5 years with or without parties agreeing.

    The two year period suggests they are getting a “no fault divorce” using criteria iv.

    Once a decree nisi is received then the financial affairs must be settled. If these are not contested then a “decree absolute” can be applied for 6 weeks after the decree nisi. If the financial settlement cannot be agreed then this will need to be settled in court. The settlement would be based on a fair division of all marital assets. This fair division could include future earnings and pensions if it could be determined that one party depended in the marriage on the financial support of the other. There would be no allowance mistreatment in the marriage.

  5. You paraphrased the medium as saying that “her mother rests in a ‘holy place,’” which reminded me that the original says her mother “lies” in a holy place. This made me wonder if the medium is like Sybil Trelawney: a quack who accidentally speaks the truth. Saying “She lies in a holy place” might be psychic-speak for telling falsehoods in a place with holes. (JKR enjoyed using “holy” as a pun when Fred and George Weasley discuss ear-related humor.) I also wonder why the word “leading” was used instead of the more commonplace “lead.” Unless this is a Britishism I’m unaware of, the word choice stand out in a way that does not seem accidental.

  6. Anyone care to find the parallels between chapters two and six, three and five?

    No takers on that challenge above, alas. Please note that the seven part preview is almost a perfect ring composition.

    Anna and Kim are present but silent at The Victory in chapter one; they are not present and vocal in chapter seven, in which phone conversation the investigation into Margot Bamborough’s disappearance is made official. Chapter one’s uncomfortable conversation with Dave Polworth is matched by Robin and Strike’s brief discussion of Social Identity issues and Strike’s allusion to Polworth in this regard. Ring Latch of story start and finish — check.

    The one-four-seven story axis for the preview is Aunt Joan’s cancer with its attendant family issues and revelations. Strike thinks about Joan and her cancer in chapter one, chapter four is in her home and the Big Event is Strike’s unpleasant but revealing conversation with his biological half-sister in the Nancarrow garden, and Strike relates this conversation to Robin in the Subway interlude in chapter seven, its central part. Polworth also rates a mention in the garden conflict so he constitutes a parallel one-four-seven axis if relatively minor.

    Chapters two and six are Strike’s first contact with Anna and Kim and his subsequent and much longer meeting with the couple at their home.

    Chapters three and five are Robin and Cormoran’s phone conversation and meet-up at the place discussed in that conversation, respectively. The brevity of chapter five and its stand-alone existence when it easily could have been rolled into chapter six or eliminated points to its being a ring-element or place-holder.

    Latch, axis, and turtleback transverse lines across the story axis in reverse imagery; it’s all there.

  7. Your discussion of ghosts is interesting because Hampton Court Palace has as one of its resident ghosts Jane Seymour who died after giving birth on October 12. Rowling could be playing with dates. Anna’s mother, who was a doctor, disappeared October 11. Could she have been called away or taken to help with a birth that might have occurred on the 12th? She may have had some interesting friends from her days as a Playboy Bunny.

    Also, is there any connection between the inner monologue Robin had on her 29th birthday (October 9) and the case? Rowling referred to it in a tweet. The dates are very close together. It wouldn’t be surprising if Robin has thoughts about aging and motherhood, which appears to be taking center stage in TB. Does the case drive the inner monologue or will the monologue somehow have an impact on the case?

    Finally, I hadn’t given any thought to the significance of smoking. But one passage from TB caught my attention. The first chapters have Strike thinking about his first long stay in Cornwall with his aunt and uncle. Chapter 4 reveals his mother left him there long enough for him to start a friendship with Dave Polworth before coming back and taking him away. Strike’s response to this memory was “Don’t think about it, Strike told himself, and he lit a second cigarette from the tip of his first.” He was forced to think about his mother in Career of Evil, but normally avoids it, trying to ignore the hurt much as he does the pain in his leg. I don’t think he’ll be able to avoid dealing with the hurt for much longer.

  8. Meaningful name running bit, the names associated with the case all relate to Freud or early psychiatric treatment:
    Anna-after Anna Freud, daughter and successor as psychologist to Sigmund
    Phipps-after the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, early 20th century psychiatric hospital
    Sullivan-after Henry Stack Sullivan, early Neo-Freudian, central to his thought was the development of personality/identity has a strong social component.
    Anybody got an idea on “Kim”?
    I expect Freudian interpretations of certain elements (e.g. beheadings) will prove important. We already see a strong focus on childhood development as strongly related to the influence of the mother.

    Name running bit:
    Anna Karenina, Anna Phipps. Going forward I anticipate characters will be showing up with names that sound like Anna (e.g. Oonagh) or that include “-anna-” as a component.

    Thematic running bit:
    Identity development as arising from wider social contexts, as seen in the Sullivan reference, the opening discussion of Cornish identity, etc.

  9. Very interesting!

    A bit off the subject, but I’d love to hear Dr. Freeman’s opinion on Kim, the psychologist, marrying Anna, who has been through so much trauma. I could see Kim being better equipped to deal with complications of Anna going through so much trauma. But also, maybe a little bit less naive about Anna’s understandable lack of closer and questions. Not to mention how dysfunctional Anna’s family is on top of all the trauma.

    Unless they caused it… The situation with Anna’s father and his third cousin turned second wife, Cynthia, is very odd.

  10. Louise Freeman says

    Actually, there is no real “ick” factor in third cousin– aka people who share a common set of great-grandparents. In factor, historically, there seem to be some fertility *benefits* of third- and fourth-cousin marriages, compared to either closer or more distant relations.,other%20could%20have%20genetic%20incompatibilities.
    As for trauma– I think few professionals would have advocated lying to a child about their parentage for 11 years, and it clearly it caused trust issues that disrupted the relationship long-term. While I would hope that Anna’s wife Kim would be well-equipped to understand and support her, she would be ethically prohibited from actually treating her. One of the fundamental rules of psychology is that you cannot treat anyone with whom you have a relationship.

  11. Thank you so much for all the information! That’s all really interesting.

    With Anna’s dad and step-mom, it’s not so much that they are cousins, but the age difference, if Cynthia was fairly young (say college age), the timelinr of their relationship, and especially that Roy’s wife possibly conveniently disappeared.

    I love all of Rowlings layers, but too priority for the first read through is looking for a murderer (really the only the first read through unless blessed with some time and a spotty memory.)

  12. I only just finished my first read of the book last night, but my notes for chapters 1-7, with respect to literary alchemy, follow.

    1. Opposites/contraries versus ‘twins’
    Some examples of opposites are ‘Leda, a woman as different from Joan as the moon to the sun’ (Ch. 2, p. 31). Others are Strike v Polworth, Robin v Charlotte, and there’s another one which turns out to be a huge spoiler. Some examples of ‘twins’ are actual twins in the books (such as Charlotte’s, for example), but also Tufty and his children, Tufty’s ‘wives’ and mistress. Not much else can be said on this here without spoiling other chapters.

    2. Death/the underworld
    By taking on Anna’s case in Falmouth, Strike enters the underworld. I found Chapter 5 (and much later its chiastic mirror chapter) to be figurative (and literal) trips into and out of the underworld. It begins with Strike taking a ferry trip, during which he needs the boatman’s hand. Not only is Joan dying, but most of the characters are dead – consider the dead witnesses, for example (Ch. 5, p. 44). However, when Strike emerges from his first trip below, he’s ‘limping after Robin towards the sunlight’ (p. 42). This is huge foreshadowing for an important albedo-reaching sequence later on.

    3. Ageism
    I can’t do it justice without involving later chapters.

    4. Displacement
    In Chapter 1, Strike muses that he ‘had an odd double impression of being exactly where he belonged, and where he’d never belonged, of intense familiarity and of separateness’ (p. 5). This is a running theme for both him and Robin throughout, though Robin experiences it as being told she’s ‘travelling in a different direction to the rest of us’ (it’s a recurring quote, but see p. 329, for example). So both are experiences feelings of belonging and otherness, as well as ‘divided loyalties’ (Ch. 4, p. 38) which the two of them need to resolve in themselves and together in order to reach the albedo (silver motif) stage of Troubled Blood and thus their true selves (I’ll say no more here to prevent potential spoilers).


    Motifs (they are interrelated, and tie into the above themes):
    1. Blue/Pre-Albedo
    This is a big one that interests me to no end, and ties directly into the displacement theme above, as well as the ongoing ‘quarrelling couple’ of Strike and Robin.

    I suspected that Rowling was employing Jungian alchemy or ‘depth psychology’ from the start, because of all the blue, but only became certain of it when it was outright stated later on in the book (I’m not sure if it would be considered a spoiler to put the chapter and page number here, so am omitting it). I think it makes sense to do so (that is, Jungian instead of traditional alchemy), because then the literary alchemy is contextual – that is, it fits historically within a twentieth century setting, which is where the majority of the story takes place (even if in memories).

    Anyway, here’s a little of what James Hillman has to say on blue (I would not read everything he has to say on it if you have not finished the book, because it could be a spoiler) as representative of the pre-albedo stage of the work in his Alchemical Psychology:

    ‘TRANSITIONS from black to white sometimes go through a series of other colors … Either way, blue has an affinity with both black and white, both nigredo and albedo. Even more, however, blue is a condition of soul not in transition, not in movement, but all its own, multiple, complex, many-shaded. [3] Soul vanishes as a weighted, leaden substance, burdening my personal interior and appears as a shadowy resonance, an undertone … Wallace Stevens says in his extraordinary poem on this theme, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”: “Things as they are / Are changed upon the blue guitar.”  … The mind begins to become psychological, discovering soul as a second layer (if not the very first), which gives metaphorical depth and psychic value to things as they are. Hence blue becomes necessary to our explorations of white, silver, and the albedo. To do them justice we must first have gained a blue eye.’ (Hillman, James. Alchemical Psychology [Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman Book 5]. Spring Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition).

    2. Water
    Best left for a whole-book analysis to avoid spoilers.

    3. Heads/Memory
    The first head, funnily enough, appears in Chapter 1 when Polworth mentions getting a ‘blowie’. And they just pile on from there; however, alchemically, this needs looking into thus: ‘head’ (the alembic) and ‘decapitation’ (what is happening in the alembic) symbolism with respect to memory.

    I also noted that the first 7 chapters are out of sync with the seasons, but had not the time to look into this further.

    Hopefully there are no spoilers here. Thanks for your time.

  13. I wondered, and didn’t figure it out, about the seal Strike barely notices in the second chapter, just before Anna and Kim talk to him.

    “Something gleamed in the water—sleek silver and a pair of soot-black eyes: a seal was turning lazily just below Strike. He watched its revolutions in the water, wondering whether it could see him and, for reasons he couldn’t have explained, his thoughts slid toward his partner in the detective agency.”
    – and a little later~
    “She disappeared,” Anna went on. “Margot Bamborough’s her name. She was a GP. She finished work one evening, walked out of her practice and nobody’s seen her since.” “Have you contacted the police?” asked Strike. Anna gave an odd little laugh. “Oh yes—I mean, they knew—they investigated. But they never found anything. She disappeared,” said Anna, “in 1974.” The dark water lapped the stone and Strike thought he could hear the seal clearing its damp nostrils.”

    It’s come to my attention through reading elsewhere that there is a whole Scottish mythology about Skelkies, rather like shape-shifting seal folk. Shadows of HP!!!

    Much later in the book, the last chapter, in fact, there’s another set of references to something similar when Robin is with the Tarot cards:

    “The drawer of the bedside table was slightly open and, looking down, Robin glimpsed the Thoth tarot pack, sitting inside. For a moment, she hesitated; then, under the smiling eyes of the balloon donkey she’d installed in the corner of her bedroom, she checked the time on her phone. It was still early to leave the house, if she wanted to meet Strike in Marlborough Street at five. Setting down her bag, she took out the tarot pack, sat down on her bed and began shuffling the cards before turning the first card over and laying it down in front of her.”
    ~ and minutes later~
    “Robin took a deep breath, then returned all the cards to their pack and the pack to her bedside drawer. As she stood and picked up her raincoat, the balloon donkey swayed slightly on its ribbon.”

    I just love the addition of these to the books and wanted to share them with someone else who might like to think about it.

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