Troubled Blood, Part Four: Top Ten Take-Aways from the Center, Chapters 31- 48

As explained Tuesday, I will be reading and writing about one of the seven Parts of the just published Troubled Blood every day this week. For Part One’s seven chapters, go here. Part Two’s seven chapters and my Top Ten Take-Aways can be found here. Part Three’s epic post? It’s right here. Thank you in advance for not posting in the comment thread about Parts not yet discussed in this series; feel free, of course, to join in the discussion if you have read no further than Part Four, Chapter Forty Eight!

True confession: today’s post about Part Four is the reason I have been doing the in-depth look at Troubled Blood one Part at a time, in sequence, before even reading to the end of the book. It’s a test of a theory I’ve played with while reading every Strike novel since The Silkworm. I stopped at the half-way point of Strike 2 to make a blog post predicting who the murderer of Owen Quine was based on the character who had appeared near the start and at the middle of that book. I did this because the Bad Guy of Cuckoo’s Calling had been in the first, middle, and last chapters so I suspected this was structural tick of the author. Long story short, I was right in my guess. Career of Evil and Lethal White baddies have also hidden themselves in the central chapters of those books a la an Alfred Hitchcock cameo.

I’m hopeful that a very careful reading of the first half of Troubled Blood with an especially close look at its central Part, the fourth of seven, will reveal the solution to the mystery ‘What Happened to Margot Bamborough?’ that Rowling-Galbraith will spell out at the end of Part Six and in Part Seven. I’ll share my best guesses on that subject in my ten take-aways on chapters thirty-one to forty-eight. Frankly, I’m excited about the credible solution the text and the embedded texts reveal, not to mention what can be deduced from the echoes of other Strike and Potter novels.

Right or wrong about such guesswork, of course, I lose. If I’m right, I will be unable to prove to any credible standard that I didn’t read the ending before writing what I have. If I’m wrong, well, I’ll seem a first-class idiot then, won’t I? At least my error will make believable my claim not to have peeked at the published finish.

The effort won’t have been pointless, however, whether I am right or wrong in my guess at the half-way mark. I’ve had to read most chapters three times to properly chart each Part, which effort involved reading the Part straight through, then charting it, and then returning to the text to write up these posts. For a book this long, I doubt very much I would have done for several months if ever what I’ve managed thus far in a few days; charting is a laborious task and once the finish is known a detailed ‘hard look’ is anything but inviting. As it stands, I have charted the first four parts, discovered each is a ring, and had time to look relatively closely at the embedded texts an all-night-and-day straight-through reading does not allow.

Am I the only person in the world who has taken a week off work to read Troubled Blood? I have to doubt there are more than a few of us. That being said, I rush to add that the work deserves all the time and attention anyone gives it. It is by far the most complex, crowded, and challenging novel to date from J. K. Rowling. The structure, symbolism, and narrative control are singly and taken together mind-boggling. Which is not to mention the number of characters in play in this year’s mystery, the office’s various cases, and the suddenly brilliantly vibrant back story with Charlotte, Rokeby, and the Masham and Cornwall crews all taking turns at center stage.

I was charting Part Four’s eighteen chapters, the longest Part of the book, and realized it has one more chapter than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Charting Stone, believe me, was a lot more straight-on than this single portion!

After the jump, the Ten Take-Aways for Part Four: three ring points, four wild and crazy ideas (Robin the Gypsy, Long Itchington’s “accent light,” Talbot’s Celtic Cross, and the Embedded Text of Astrology 14), and three more ‘larger wheels’ structural points, as in what the end of Troubled Blood suggested in Part Four says about the death of Leda Strike. See you on the far side! [Read more…]

Troubled Blood  and Spenser–Part Four Thoughts

The Faerie Queene - WikipediaApologies for the late post today! With these hefty readings, I’m falling behind nearly as much as my students, but I dare say I’m having more fun with my reading than they are with theirs! I hope you’re enjoying the threads we’ve thus far discovered that tie Troubled Blood to its literary inspiration, Edmund Spenser’s epic Faerie Queene. If you have not been following along with our multi-faceted coverage of the new Cormoran Strike novel, I hope you’ll catch up, and then I hope you’ll come with me after the jump as we enter the next season, both literally and figuratively, in the latest installments of the adventures of our modern-day knights Artegall and Britomart, Strike and Robin.

As we are all racing toward what is sure to be a thrilling conclusion, it is sometimes hard to slow down long enough to process the artistry being exhibited by Rowling/Galbraith, but as we reach the end of Part 4, here are the four most interesting Spenser connections that both show the depth of our story’s connections to The Faerie Queene and may offer us clues for the journey ahead.

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Troubled Blood Compilation #5: Flints, Errors and Head-scratchers. Spoiler Alert

When J.K. Rowling kept Marcus Flint around for an 8th year in Hogwarts, the term “flint” was adopted as a word for an error or continuity mistake in the Harry Potter series.  Some, such as James and Lily emerging from Voldy’s Wand in the wrong order, were even corrected in later editions.

The Cormoran Strike series, sadly, is not immune from this tendency. We have, for instance, heard Strike muse about having both eight and seven half-siblings. Ciara Porter of Cuckoo’s Calling mysteriously changed her surname to Parker by Lethal White.  And so on…  

I’m starting this post for readers to make note of any errors they spot when reading and re-reading Troubled Blood.  I’ll start my list after the jump; please be aware there could be spoilers there or in the comments section.

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Strike and Spenser Part 3-Names, Beasts, and Stars (and more!)

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know we are traveling on a day-by-day first-read-through journey of Troubled Blood, and I am your tour guide for the Spenserian bits of the trip, pointing out interesting Faerie Queene­-related scenery as we go past it. Of course, the weeks, months, and (likely) years to come will yield much more exciting discoveries, as our author, under whichever name she chooses, Alumnus Donates Rare 1611 Edition of “The Faerie Queene” | Bluff Stuffwrites book series that hold up under multiple reads, with new treasures revealed each time.

Join me today for thoughts on Part 3, the Winter section, with Discontent aplenty and some great Spenser connections! Spoilers after the jump, brave travelers, so if you’ve made it past page 344, keep reading below!

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Troubled Blood, Part Three: Top Ten Take-Aways from Chapters 15 to 30

As explained Tuesday, I will be reading and writing about one of the seven Parts of the just published Troubled Blood every day this week. For Part One’s seven chapters, go here. Part Two’s seven chapters and my Top Ten Take-Aways can be found here. Thank you in advance for not posting in the comment thread about Parts not yet discussed in this series; feel free, of course, to join in the discussion if you have read no further than Part Three, Chapter Thirty!

It’s already time for a review. In Part One’s seven chapters we have a ring that turns around Cornwall, the status of Strike Detective Agency partners a year after the conclusion of Lethal White, and the re-opening of the Margot Bamborough missing person case from 1974. Writers call this “throat clearing” and Rowling-Galbraith succeeds in simultaneously and seamlessly catching us up with old friends and turning us on to the new story being introduced. Still, it’s Prologue rather than Mind Blowing Inciting Incident (think Katniss Everdeen’s decision in District 12’s Reaping for that kind of start). The Part Seven epilogue, if you’ll forgive me for assuming Troubled Blood is a ring composition, is only two chapters long because it won’t have to ‘catch us up’ as its corresponding prologue had to but just ‘sum it all up.’

Part Two’s seven chapters, also a ring within the larger ring, are our deep dives into the Margot Bamborough case. In Strike’s interview with Dr Gupta and during the Peg-Legged PI’s walk through Clerkenwell with Robin in which he shares what he has learned from the Met file we learn at least something about almost all the players in the drama to be performed:

  • The Clerkenwell Cast features Gupta, Brenner, and Bamborough, the doctors at 29 Clerkenwell’s practice, Janice Beattie, the RN, Gloria, Irene, and Dorothy (and son) the receptionists and secretary, Wilma Bayliss the cleaning woman, and Steve Douthwaite, former patient;
  • The Day of Disappearance extras include Theo, the “gypsy-ish” last patient, Amanda White, the witness of a woman at the window, Ruby Elliot who witnesses Fiona Fleury and her mother at the Phone Box, the van driver on the scene, and Willy Lomax, our witness for a woman entering St James church
  • The Demon of Paradise Park embedded text introduces us to Dennis Creed, psychopathic murderer, Violet Cooper, his ennabling landlord, and the beginning of his nightmare victim list;
  • Margot Bamborough’s Other Life feature her best Bunny buddy, Oonaugh Kennedy, her old boyfriend, Paul Satchwell, her husband Roy Phipps, a hematologist, the nasty mother-in-law, Cynthia Phipps, the au paire third cousin become second wife to Roy, Anne, Roy and Margot’s daughter, and Dr Kim Sullivan, Anne’s wife; and
  • The Strike Agency and Metropolitan Police add the new characters of Pat the grumpy but professional receptionist in the Denmark Street office, Saul Morris, our detective replacement for Matthew Cunliffe as ‘dickhead male idiot’ in Robin’s life, and the policeman Layboun who graciously provides Strike with the hefty police file. That file includes the work of DI’s Talbot and Lawson, whose notes on the case and their contrasting personalities are a big backdrop to Strike’s revisiting Margot’s disappearance, especially Talbot’s occult focus and incipient madness. Cases the Agency are working and their principals — Tufty, Twinkletoes, Shifty, Two-Timer, and Postcards — are so much fascinating filler.

This is leaving out the cast members with whom we are already familiar and whom we have to think are not going to solve the Bamborough cold case. As important as the Cornwall players are, the Nancarrows and Polworths especially, the Strike family entourage, from Lucy, Gregg, and their three boys to his late mother Leda (ghost in the smoke!), his father Jonny Rokeby and Strike’s various half-siblings, and mad Charlotte Campbell-Ross, super-model ex, and Robin’s roommate Max, her once husband Matt (now with Sarah Shadlock), and the family in Masham, and Strike’s friends Ilsa and Nick, not to mention Shanker, they are all actors in the Strike Theater Company, not this year’s Featured Players. Except, of course, in the overarching dramas about ‘Who Killed Leda Strike?’ and ‘When Will Robin and Cormoran become Wife and Man?’ in which background play, which more often than not takes the front of the stage, they are the stars.

We meet all the new dramatis personae and are re-acquainted with all the stock players by the end of Part Two. I think Rowling-Galbraith crowds the stage intentionally right up front so the game is fair; she won’t be introducing anyone ex machina later in the story but her attentive reader is responsible for keeping a scorecard with the revelations to come for everyone involved. If you struggle with this (and, frankly, who doesn’t?) and you’re reading one Part per day rather than straight through on a binge, a good idea is to write out the suspects and side-players on a list which you can update as clues and information are dropped.

A lot of work, I know! Let’s get to Part Three, today’s Troubled Blood portion on the plate. Unlike the first two Parts, Three has more than seven chapters; it has sixteen, a relatively giant step up in content and degree of difficulty in charting. This is just a warm up, though, for the even more mammoth Part Four and its eighteen chapters (Parts Five and Six are eleven and twelve chapters, respectively). My first three points will be about whether Part Three is, as were the first two Parts, a ring within the larger ring of the novel. Having charted the chapters, I’ll take a relatively deep dive into the astrological chart and Celtic Cross Tarot card spread from Talbot’s True Book, note some correspondences and echoing with previous Rowling-Galbraith work I think may be meaningful, take a look at this Part’s fresh embedded text, and guess about what Part Five might include if it answers questions raised by or has pieces in parallel with Part Three. After the jump!

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