Ink Black Heart: The Silkworm Parallels

As Beatrice Groves wrote in her Ink Black Heart predictions post, we have reason to think there will be parallels and echoes of Silkworm in Strike6:

Ink Black Heart contains a similar sounding (and similarly unsexed) pseudonym ‘Anomie’, but the main reason for expecting this topic is the Parallel Series and Ring theories: the idea that the structure of the originally-planned seven Strike books, like the Harry Potter books, are composed in a ring. If this is correct, then Ink Black Heart will echo Silkworm a theory which has already had a major predictive bullseye in assuming that we’d see an important text-within-a-text in Ink Black Heart (something we predicted back in December). Even more strikingly this text-within-the-text shares its name with Rowling’s novel (just as Bombyx Mori did – as the Latin name for Silkworm) and its author (just as in Silkworm) is the murder victim.

Please share the Strike2-Strike6 echoes you have found in the comment thread below!


  1. Kelly Loomis says

    The most obvious one is the story within a story as Beatrice has written. The Ink Black Heart cartoon, while being in video form, has a whole set of characters which Rowling has developed. Her genius in coming up with another whole story, to me, shows her amazing talent. The conflict between the two main creators and those who were “let go” from the franchise remind me of the Silkworm’s Bombyx Mori author dilemma, tension and mystery. I am not that far into the book, but that much is clear. I wonder, however, if this obvious dissatisfaction and anger is a misdirect from Rowling. Those who are mad at the creators are too convenient for being the murderer. I predict it may be someone associated with the franchise or authors that doesn’t seem to have a beef with them.

  2. The prominence of another half-sibling. In The Silkworm it was Al Rokeby, in The Ink Black Heart it is Prudence Donleavy. Although we do not see Prudence on-page, and she was not involved in solving the case they way that Al was, Strike seems to have matured in the way he thinks about his Rokeby connections and I’m interested to see if we get to meet her and learn any more about this part of Strike’s history in Book 7.

  3. I also think there are interesting parallels with Elizabeth Tassel and Katya Upton, something about the unfulfilled nature of their own lives and what the text-within-a-text (and its creator/s) meant to them personally. We know that Liz is professionally frustrated and has an empty life, she pours all her bitterness and hatred into Bombyx Mori; Katya found the Collective in an attempt to do something for herself and appears to have poured all of her love into the relationship with the creators (Blay in particular). I need to re-read and pay more attention with Katya’s interactions with her own children, but something that struck me on first read was her brushing off her son’s need for transport to a medical appointment by saying he could take the bus because she would need to be at the hospital with Blay. Of course, Blay may well have been a more appealing recipient of Katya’s attention than Gus!

    And of course, the questions about the “real” author of the central creative piece of work. In The Silkworm, many characters detect another voice present in Bombyx Mori (although this is always framed as a negative – they are suspicious and looking for Quine’s “accomplice” in writing such a slanderous piece of work). In The Ink Black Heart, many characters are keen to claim that they are the “true” creative owners of the cartoon – whether because like Kea they believe that they provided the inspiration for the material, or like Anomie they have a sort of true and pure vision of what the work really means. The original voice actors also have a sense of ownership of the creation, and some of the mods/fans feel that they shaped the success of the cartoon.

  4. There is less text-within-a-text parallelism with Bombyx Mori than I had expected. Presumably Robin has been watching all of the cartoon as she swots for the moderator exam that never happens, but until then the only time it seems either of our detectives has actually engaged with the text-with-a-text is the few minutes of the cartoon that Robin watches early on. However there’s at least one very strong callback to Bombyx in IBH: the pseudonyms of the Drek’s Game mods parallel Vainglorious, Succuba etc within Bombyx Mori.

    Beyond that, I noticed a roadtrip to meet an unpleasant man whose locomotion is impaired and Strike falling at a bad time for the investigation (missing his chance to catch the mysterious tall figure in Silkworm and breaking up the cosy chat he was eavesdropping on in IBH).

    And of course there’s the Silkworm parallel that’s been clear since the synopsis was revealed: “frantic, dishevelled Edie Ledwell” parallels dishevelled Leonora Quine, both of whom showed up withut an appointment asking the agency to find somebody!

  5. Louise Freeman says

    1) Robin’s gentle way of dealing with Rachel, Zoe and Flavia reminded me of her interview with Orlando.

    2) I was disappointed not to see Robin show off her advanced driving skills again, but we definitely got vehicle-accident related heroics after Comicon.

    3) “There’s a twelve-year-old girl..” Robin then jumps out of a car to go give assistance, leaving Strike behind, with no prosthetic and on crutches. This reminded me of “There’s a kid in that Civic” as Robin jumps out of the car on the icy highway.

    4) the “Merry Christmas, Partner” at the end of SW is echoed by the unveiling of the new window glass at the end of IBH.

  6. Louise Freeman says

    5) Strike needs someone to get him into a private club, and is uncomfortable contacting that person.

    6) We are told Strike goes to St.Mawes for Christmas, but do not see it.

    7) Helpful neighbors. (Edna in SW, the ones who come to help subdue Gus in IBH).

  7. This might be a stretch, but: the copy of Bombyx Mori in Roper Chard is Paperwhite the moderator.

    Much is made of how Bombyx Mori was supposed to be kept under lock and key but half the agency reads it due to knowing Jerry Waldegrave’s safe code. It gets photocopied and shared further abroad including to Strike. Paperwhite’s ‘pics’ are supposed to be shared with just one person, Morehouse, but then we learn Anomie has one, and then we learn he sent a copy to Vilepechora and to all the males in the group, and then Fiendy1 shares it with our detectives who use it to gain vital information.

    What is that vital information? Paperwhite is a falsehood created by the murderer. There is a real woman in a photograph, but her existence is simply a tool to give credence to a fake woman. Similarly, there is a real Bombyx Mori manuscript and its existence is known. But it is concealed and knowledge of its existencce is used as a tool to give credence to a false Bombyx Mori manuscript.

  8. Louise Freeman says

    EE: I love that one! And the manuscript was even typed on white paper!

    I’m going to add: The spouse (or live-in partner) is arrested for the crime, but is innocent of it.

  9. I’m astonished — and delighted — that my favorite parallel between Silkworm and Ink Black Heart has thus far gone unmentioned on this thread.

    In the Silkworm, Strike meets with pompous ass Michael Fancourt, Vainglorious and our link with Chamber’s Gilderoy Lockhart, in London’s Groucho Club. Fancourt makes the mistake of putting Strike down with a quotation about a poor soldier from Ben Johnson. Strike floors him by quoting four much more apt lines in Latin from Catullus 77 and translating them effortlessly. Fancourt the Pedant guessed the passage was from Ovid — whoops! — and is “astonished” by Strike’s erudition (401).

    In Ink Black Heart, Strike at last explains how and why he learned Latin — he was self-taught and he learned what he did in order to put patronizing idiots who assume he had no gentleman’s education in their place, exactly what he did to Fancourt in Strike2. “There’s nothing like Latin for slapping the fuck out of people who think they’re better than you.” He also used his self-defense classics to earn a GCSE certificate, the equivalent of an AP certification in the US (sort of), which must have helped in running his Oxford admissions gauntlet, and to bed Charlotte Campbell, lover of Catullus poetry and budding Oxford classicist (829-830).

    See Beatrice Groves: Rowling and Catullus for more on Catullus in the Strike novels. We had to wait a long time for this explanation — and it came right where we should have expected it, in parallel with the revelation of how good his Latin was.

  10. Louise Freeman says

    The Silkworm is the only other time Strike and Robin have intentionally worked together to capture the killer. In CC it was Strike alone, with Robin arriving, and probably saving Bristow’s life rather than Strike. In CoE, Strike got Laing while Robin was in Masham. In LW, Robin was abducted and Strike rescued her. In TB, Strike confronted Janice while Robin was recovering the body.

  11. The writers’ house on Talgarth Road, previously owned by Joe North, and the North Grove artist collective

    A hermaphroditic worm character is present in the titular work of art in both novels

  12. Great catches!

  13. Louise Freeman says

    An innocent spouse/partner is initially arrested for the murder, but proved not to have done it and released.

    The detectives visit a witness/suspect with mobility issues at his expensive vacation home (Daniel Chard/Inigo).

    Key evidence/information that a “child” (or child-like adult) has secretly gathered/witnessed and hidden is crucial to solving the case (Orlando’s Cheeky Monkey treasures, Flavia witnessing the letter switch).

    Strike visits a recuperating Robin at the end of SW, Robin visits a recuperating Strike at the end of IBH. Both bring the patient a card from the “child” who hid the evidence.

  14. Seems to be the day for brilliant Silkworm/IBH parallels! Great finds, Louise!

  15. For me the biggest parallel between IBH and The Silkworm, beyond the Drek’s Game text within the text-in-hand being a derived text by the murderer from the original text by the victim, is the epigraphs. The use of Jacobean Revenge Drama lines used from various plays and playwrights in The Silkworm which is a postmodern Jacobean Revenge Drama depicting Liz Tassel’s slaughter of her blackmailer is beautifully echoed or paralleled in the verses chosen from Victorian women poets writing about the spiritual heart and from Gray’s anatomy about the “central organ” of the biological person. The hero of the original text, Ink Black Heart, is Harty, the surviving heart of a dead person, which is to say, his or her spiritual essence seeking to be good though it is “ink black” or fallen into darkness.

    The Strike6 epigraphs — and the principals and their efforts at transformation — are all about this quality of heart, its darkness, and, specifically with respect to the ‘eye of the heart,’ about human blindness to our interior life. Hence the importance of the M. E. Coleridge verse that opens the entire book, that the darkness most to be dreaded is that of “blindness,” which with respect to spiritual reality can be called “doubt,” the title of that poem.

    As Strike concludes at the finish of the Coda, all the deaths in the book could have been avoided if only people “would have opened their fucking eyes” to the reality before them — and that he himself has to “open his eyes” at last to his love for Robin, which in the series’ psychomachian allegory, is his soul’s longing for perfection and completion in the Spirit. The Victorian women poets and Gray’s anatomy epigraphs highlight this powerfully and at least as effectively as the Silkworm Jacobean Revenge Drama lines.

    Which is not to mention that these epigraphs in both books are genre selections, something not seen in any other of the Strike novels: Cuckoo is from the Classical period but across genres, Career is all from one rock band, and Strikes four and five were each from one text, Rosmersholm and Faerie Queene. Rowling-Galbraith is clearly linking the two books in her use of epigraphs both in the way they work inside the books and the manner in and sources from which she chose them.

  16. Beatrice Groves says

    Great John! I too found the epigraphs the most cogent link (alongside the twinned texts) and you put it beautifully.

    Love that shared child’s card Louise!

  17. I would say The Silkworm and The Ink Black Heart have much the same writing tone. It is very focused on Strike, so much so that Robin is not mentioned until well into the 4th chapter.

    A second thing I noticed is how similar his relationship with Nina evolves. She is the Madeline of The Silkworm. He even describes the process of disengaging with her on his terms as “detaching himself…from Nina Lacelles’s hopeful clutches.” This coupled with the fact that he describes her body as “slim, boyish”. They are physically alike as well as emotionally alike, both are hopeful that they will have a stronger relationship with the relationship averse Strike.

    Nina also confronts Strike at the party for Roper Chard, in that instance she, like Madeline, mentions Strike using her for his own gains. What I find interesting is that Strike admits to himself to using Nina-not only for information but as a way to get over Charlotte and her recent marriage. This is the charge leveled at Strike by Madeline, that she too is being used by Strike to make Charlotte jealous. While it is not true, Madeline does serve as a distraction for Strike, this time to help him not focus on his rejection from Robin.

  18. Louise Freeman says


    Just curious, why do you think IBH is Strike-centric? Robin gets a lot of attention in this book, particularly as she gets to be the physical heroine in so many ways (train rescue, saving Flavia and Katya). I thought this was much more her book, compared to TB.

  19. Great question. I think it is Strike centric because of the tone and impersonality of the writing. I guess I see Strike as someone who a bit of an island. He does not easily let people in, and definitely is not as forthcoming with his emotions as Robin. He does not obsess over the details of what he writes, how he communicates what he wants or needs, and how he shows affection. He is quite gruff. I feel like the overall tone of this book was markedly more detached than some of the others in the series.

    For example, in Troubled Blood we got whole Chapters of Strike trying to adjust to those around him comforting him about Joan. We got several emotional beats and moments that were deep and meaningful from his conversation in the pub with Dave Polworth, to his mental discomfort about being “too large” in Joan’s too small dining room. Everything that was observed was also something that was commented on, and that Strike had his own opinion on. Even down to the flowers in a sitting room, the too loud toilet, and the fluffy ragdoll cat. There was a lyrical quality to the book that was missing from this most recent tale.

    After reading Career of Evil, I started seeing the books as told to the author by one of the two detectives. I guess it is my own personal interpretation, but it has stuck. The Cuckoo’s Calling and series begins with Robin, she is actually the first of the pair that we meet and when we meet her, she is in her head reflecting on her recent engagement. To me that book always felt like Robin’s book. While it was about Strike, tonally it felt like Robin’s interpretation of events. I have always interpreted The Cuckoo’s Calling as Robin’s. It just felt a little more personal, more like if Robin had been the one to guide the author through the writing process. The Silkworm reads to me more as Strike’s book, and Career of Evil felt like it was back to being Robin’s book again.

    The Ink Black Heart felt like it did not dive as much into an emotional center. While Strike does confront his emotions about Robin, it just did not read to me in the same way as other books in the series that I personally think of as “Robin’s Tone”. The book felt like everything was exactly to the point. Nothing was explored, in great detail, about the emotions of both characters. My main reason for saying this is because if it had been a Robin book, I would have expected there to be pages and pages of her own reflection on what happened with Pez. As we saw this Troubled Blood with the interactions between Robin & Saul Morris. There is a little with Strike’s reaction to the recording, but Robin does not do any sort of reflection on this event or on many other important events that happen to her throughout the book. This could be a fault of the author, not choosing to explore those things, but I like to think of it as the characters are choosing not to tell that side of the story.

    I guess I think of it like Robin hair vs Strike’s hair. Robin’s hair has so many descriptors for it, at times it is luminous, golden, red-tinged, glimmering, etc.., whereas Strikes is pube-like or coarse. That’s how I feel about the “Robin Books” they feel like something extra has been let through, a little more color and a few more shades of grey exist in the world when it is a “Robin Book” rather than a “Strike Book”. His books are the simple color wheel, the hues are all there but the chroma and tones are gone. There is no extra thing that makes you emotionally connect. I find Strike books are all concerned with the business of telling a story, rather than composing a tale.

    I agree with you 100% that Robin has some amazing physical moments in this book, but even those moments are told plainly. Given the horrible things that Gus was saying while trying to kill Robin during her rescue of Flavia and Katya, in a Robin book I would expect some reflection some paus on how this brought back old memories of her horrible assault. That’s not to say the story and rescue are not engaging, I was glued to my book, but I did not feel as emotionally connected to these actions as I had with other discoveries made in other stories.

    Does that make any sense? I don’t know, I guess it is a gut feeling. It’s why I so connect with a parallel between IBH and The Silkworm. The Silkworm for me feels in writing like a Strike book and so does IBH so I feel the connection because of the writing choices of the author. It is a writing choice to dive into psyche or to stay outside, I guess IBH was a story about a heart, and for me it felt as though it was written by a semi-detached heart.

  20. -Two annoying pregnant couples, Grant and Heather Ledwell and Richard and Helen Anstis. Grant withheld evidence, a note supposedly by Blay that was actually written by Anomie and Anstis refused to regard evidence Strike had collected as relevant to Quine’s murder.
    -In Silkworm Quine writes about male genitalia in his novels and in IBH Robin takes an art class drawing the nude Pez, who also painted a huge penis in a bedroom at the collective and Ilsa mentions how men are about penises when talking about her sonogram.
    – Robin and Strike play good cop bad cop with Pippa and again with Grant and Heather Ledwell.

  21. You’re on a roll, Sandy!

  22. Thanks John, here’s one more:
    Strike telling himself “it’s one date…Anything could go wrong” reminded me of him thinking he’ll have “to get another temp” (during Robin’s surveillance course) and Robin answering “I hope she’s rubbish,” to which Strike reassured her “Lightning doesn’t strike twice.”

  23. Here’s a strong connection; apologies if it has already been mentioned on this list or elsewhere and I have missed it:

    In The Silkworm, Strike meets Matt at last and is not impressed, at least not positively impressed. When Robin blindsides him in a later chapter (11) with ” What did you think of Matt?” he says simply “Nice bloke” and changes the subject.

    “He refrained from elaboration. She was no fool; he had been impressed before now by her instinct for the lie, the false note. Nevertheless, he could not help hurrying them on to a different subject.”

    After learning from Robin that she is going on a date with Ryan Murphy in the last chapter of Ink Black Heart, he can only comment after a little struggle, “Well… he seems like a decent bloke” (1011).

    She replies with a curt “Good to know you think so” on her way out the door, which is as much as saying, “I wasn’t seeking your approval — as I was back in The Silkworm with my flubberworm fiancee.”

    Definitely parallel and as certainly a marker of how much their relationship has changed.

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