The Ink Black Heart: Random Comments and What I Liked.

This post is going to be a bit of a dumping ground for a few comments too brief to be worthy of their own posts.  Just a few notes about some of my favorite bits of The Ink Black Heart.

  1. Pat!  I thought she was amazing in this book and I am so glad Strike is finally liking and appreciating the quality of her work. Her shining moment was, of course, her detection of the package bomb and having the presence of mind to get away from it and seek safety behind Strike’s door. The remark about her uncle dying in an IRA bombing helped to remind us that the Troubles weren’t that long ago. I wonder if people like Pat, who were school age at the worst of the violence, were taught how to recognize bombs and what to do if they suspected one— the 1970’s equivalent to today’s active shooter drills in schools. Can any of our UK readers share any insights? And, we’ll have to add fruitcake to the menu of items to serve at our next Strike themed party (Doom Bar, red wine, creosote-colored tea, beef casserole, take-out curry, coffee-walnut cake and lots of chocolates).   Note to self: seek out good British fruitcake recipe.
  2. Flavia! The best kid to come along since Jack—  I’d be open to some matchmaking. You both love her for her intellect and curiosity while at the same time feel terrible for her with that awful family she’s stuck with.  I can only hope that, with Daddy Dearest dead and her cynophobic brother off to jail, she’ll get that puppy. I think she’s earned it.
  3. Robin’s new flat!  Like her, I’ll miss Wolfgang and I wish we had had a few more good talking scenes with Max before she moved, but I am glad she’s got her own digs at last. And Strike’s willingness to sleep on her sofa-bed?  Oh. yeah!  I can’t help but wonder what he looked like in those pajamas.  I am visualizing blue stripes like Uncle Vernon’s.
  4. New staff (not Nutley)!  Midge seems both confident and competent. I had expressed hope that she would arrive with a sexual orientation or relationship status that precluded any attraction between her and Strike, and I got my wish. I also like Dev and his alter-ego, Mr. Massoumi.  I knew I’d like him once we saw he was too decent to work for Mitch Patterson, who, I strongly suspect , hired Morris to replace him. If so, Strike and Ellacott got the better half of that deal.
  5. The blessed event!  I am very happy for Nick and Ilsa, but it appears that their marriage did indeed get permanently damaged by Nick’s reprehensible reaction to the last miscarriage.
  6. The missed kiss!  I may be in the minority here, but I’m glad the kiss didn’t happen. Both were drunk, and Robin was a lot more impaired than Strike. It would have felt wrong for him to initiate something then, especially if it went further than kissing, and I think they would have regretted it.
  7. Henry!  Not so much the kid himself, but the fact that Strike, contrary to his own expectations, could talk to him, and actually seemed to get on pretty well, or at least as well as any teenager is likely to get on with Mummy’s boyfriend.
  8. The anti-Kairos moment!  I was so glad Strike realized, once and for all, that any residual affection for Milady Berzerko is gone; and, interestingly, it was her indifference to her children that finally seems to have snapped the last thread. Between this, Jack and Henry, we are getting indications that Strike could be a successful Daddy some day, after all. I am just really hoping it is not with Madeline.

That’s all for now. I hope to hear what other people especially liked.



  1. I agree with just about all your points. However, I have wanted Robin and Strike to remain platonic friends all along. If they ever get together then all the folks (from Matthew and so many more) who have believed them to be “cheating” or in some other way in a relationship will feel justified in their beliefs. And I do believe that a strong platonic friendship can exist. I long wanted Harry and Harmonie to be an example, and thus hated anything that weakened this aspect of the HP books. Then, in the first couple of Robert Galbraith books I thought we had a good example, and it is being undermined.

  2. Louise Freeman says

    Jeri: Thanks for your comment. I share your love for good man-women platonic relationships; I loved Harry and Hermione’s and I think we need more of them in books and movies. The ones we do see are often those where sexual orientation is a built-in barrier to romance (e.g. straight woman is good buds with gay man). Back in the day (see this post I made right after the Silkworm: I wished the same for our heroes. I was even hoping, at that point, that Matthew would transform into someone worthy of Robin. That obviously did not happen. Now, I think there is too much sexual chemistry between them for “best friends” to work out.

  3. Louise & Jerri C.

    I really enjoyed both your comments. I initially wanted Robin & Strike to be platonic friends, but somewhere around the third book, I realized that perhaps as this is meant to be a more adult series JKR/Galbraith is trying to write the relationship and all of its beats that could not be written in her previous series for the YA market.

    Additionally, so many of the important moments in the series are about how men and women relate to each other through their partnering/romantic/sexual relationships. In light of this last book, where a lot of the text was devoted to how men/women interact with each other both in the real world and online, I wonder if the power imbalances, partner dynamics, and transitions from friends/lovers is a larger part of the overall story to be told. This could be why the Robin/Strike storyline has evolved so slowly.

    Finally, I want to recommend you watch the American TV show Elementary. The relationship between Sherlock (Male) and Watson (Female) is purely platonic and is perhaps my favorite depiction of a platonic relationship between men and women. The writers in that show pulled it off, in part because there was never a “Green Dress” moment for Watson/Sherlock. The two detectives in Elementary are true partners and best friends, they also have chemistry, but it is not charged romantic chemistry.

    I think the sexual chemistry began between Strike & Robin immediately. Strike looked at Robin as a seductive/sexual being from her first appearance. However, Robin did not see Strike in that way until the middle of Career of Evil when she has her break from Matthew. It is midway through this book when she starts to see him as someone other than her boss, but as a friend and someone who could be a romantic partner.

    I think this also speaks to the one-sided nature of men/women. It can clearly parallel what Gus was like in The Ink Black Heart towards Darcy. Gus, in contrast to Strike, saw Darcy’s kindness and beauty as an invitation to a romantic/sexual relationship. Unlike Strike, when Gus found out Darcy was at the party with a boyfriend, the young man became enraged, petty, and abusive. Strike in contrast saw Robin first as a someone quite beautiful, even mentally describing her as wearing a “snugly, seductively fitting cream sweater.” (TCC-Ch. 3) Unlike Gus, Strike made an effort to NOT look at Robin.

    Today, I firmly agree with Louise, there is too much chemistry, built up by both individuals over 5 years to continue on without some form of romantic relationship in the future. I would love to see JKR/Galbraith write a platonic relationship and I think there is a need for this type of story in the world. I do not think these characters will have one.

    I do think it would be interesting for a platonic relationship to be written as a focus of one of the investigations in the series. This is something that could be written between two future individuals involved in a larger investigation in a subsequent book. I think have the detectives explore a platonic male-female relationship would serve as an excellent catalyst for Robin/Strike to both acknowledge their feelings about each other and really reexamine what they both mean when they say they are “best friends”. Is it really a platonic friendship or is the unspoken undercurrent of attraction pushing them to be something other than platonic partners.

  4. Louise, I wanted to take a moment to respond to your post independent of the Strike/Robin relationship conversation ongoing in discussions.

    I too was struck by presence of children in this book from Flavia, Jack, and Henry, there seem to be a lot of children circling the agency. What I find most surprising in all of the discussion about a Strike baby, is that we also need to remember it is important to look back at Robin and how much she does not want children. Children do not spring up from the ether, there must be a woman involved in the process. And, for all the discussion of Strike as a father, what happens if that’s not what Robin wants for herself? Robin seems happy to be an Aunt, but upon her visit for the holidays last year she walked out on her family and did not engage with the baby. At the end of Chapter 28 in TB, Robin describes her time with her family and new niece as “exhausted misery.” That does not sound like someone who is going to change their mind about children.

    I personally, like the idea of Strike & Robin becoming mentors to a young person. They are constantly lamenting the inconsistencies of their subcontractors (Barclay and Midge). Strike is clearly a competent teacher-look at how far Robin has come along as a detective.

    I think it is interesting that Strike, upon hearing that Flavia wanted to be a detective, first said that the agency should offer her an internship. This feels like foreshadowing to me, where perhaps Jack, now that he is getting older, will start stopping by to see Strike and perhaps become involved in the agency.

    Perhaps that is one place the series will go, to providing internship opportunities. By now it must be one of the most well-known private agencies in London, it would only make sense that some young college or high school students interested in investigation would come knocking on their door for help or guidance.

    Finally, Louise-this recipe by Mary Berry is the BEST English Fruitcake recipe. I make it to give away every year because I am asked for it from my relatives EVERY year. And as MB is the Julia Child of the UK, Pat would know it and as it is an easy recipe could make it for strike with some regularity.

  5. Louise Freeman says

    Thank you for the comments and recipe, Robyn. I must say, as many times as our heroes have been knifed/concussed/poisoned/abducted/held at gunpoint, I don’t see an minor’s parents ever giving permission for an underage internship. Previously, they could have limited the trainee’s activities to the office and kept them safe, but now that they’ve been bombed…. Between that and severed leg, you couldn’t even give them an easy task like opening the mail.

    I don’t see Lucy letting Jack visit the office anytime soon.

  6. I don’t think I agree with you about a parent “letting” their child work with Strike/Robin. Yes, it is dangerous, but there are so many other careers that are just as dangerous.

    Also, I would point out that the British Education system is quite different than the American system. In Year 10/11 students start to do internships, work shadowing, and work placement in businesses, government agencies, and organizations across the UK. Many get credit for it in their schools.

    Perhaps because of the great differences in the education system I can see someone working at the office by reaching out to setup something like this with the agency. I know that students are able to work at the London Metropolitan Police Department as 15–17-year old’s during Year 10 and Year 11 through the Work Placement Program. You must only be 16 to apply to work at The Met as a non-police staffer and must be 17 to apply for the police officer track with appointment at 18. At 17 and 3/4 you can join the UK Armed Forces.

    While I agree that a parent might not like their children doing that, I also think a parent that would be willing to let their kid apply to the London Met at 15/16 for a job, to shadow, or for an internship would not object to the Strike/Ellicott agency any more than they would another organization.

    But I concede that you may be right. Lucy probably would not let 12-year-old Jack hang out at the office. She would want him to be anywhere else, but as he ages, she will have less control over what he does. Strike also mentions that he texts with his nephew, which means that he has some degree of internet independence. Perhaps this is how they connect, Robin and Strike both mention that their business is not setup for cyber-investigation.

    While Twitter/Instagram ruled this book, the next book may look at another aspect of the internet media circus. This is where a teen can/could be an asset in helping to dive into a future case. I could see Jack sneaking off to a pub to hang out with his taciturn uncle in defiance of all his mother says. Strike mentions that he had days out with Jack alone, so whatever angst there may be about being at the office, it did not mean that Lucy kept Jack from hanging around with Strike-no matter how dangerous being around his uncle could be.

  7. Louise Freeman says

    Thanks, Robyn, it is good to know about the professional experience students can get in the UK. Just curious, what did you mean by ” They are constantly lamenting the inconsistencies of their subcontractors (Barclay and Midge).” You mean Barclay and Midge are the ones doing complaining, not being complained about, right?

  8. Louise, probably a typo. I think I meant to say that “They are constantly lamenting the inconsistencies of their subcontractors (EXCEPT Barclay and Midge).”

    Although it works both your way as well. Barclay has become significantly more outspoken about the horrible other subcontractors over the past couple of years/books. Then again it is justified EVERY single time.

  9. This seems like a good place to mention “random thoughts on the book” that aren’t Flints or intra- (or inter-!) series parallels.

    First of all, I was struck by how impersonal the book was for Strike compared to TB. The blurb mentioned “a complex network of family interests” that Strike was supposed to navigate, but, beyond the couple of mentions of Prudence and the relatively lighter role played by Charlotte (lighter compared to TB), there’s very little family conflict for Strike to navigate at all. A passing mention of a visit from Ted, a passing mention of Robin meeting Dave Polworth, a passing mention of the conflict remaining in Nick and Ilsa’s marriage – none of it generates any kind of tension in the book. After all the hefty stuff happening in TB, I thought that was anticlimactic.

    Also the “new and horrifying ways” in which being a target for far right terrorists threatens Strike’s business end up being a lot less horrifying than I thought they’d be. In CoE, a leg being sent to the office threatens to bankrupt the agency until Strike recovers everything by catching a serial killer. This time, a parcel bomb half destroys the building they’re in but no one dies, no one gets even a little bit hurt, there’s no mention of clients deserting the agency (in fact the only person who deserts them is the unwanted Nutley), they don’t get evicted, and they manage to rebuild and refurbish the office apparently rather smoothly.

    I thought the format of the investigation seemed to follow that of TB. So much so that I decided about a third of the way in that Anomie *must* be Katya, because she, in an echo of Janice, seemed to be one of the few sympathetic and helpful characters in a crowd of unpleasant and dodgy ones. Not far off, but I thought Anomie being revealed as exactly the kind of incel-type guy that he appears to be online was, again, a little anticlimactic.

    Finally, more of interest to people who follow UK politics, but I was intrigued by the explicit mention of the fact that Robin has a hectic day at work on the day of the general election and forgets to vote. So much so that I looked at where she was supposedly registered to see if there were any obvious implications. Finborough Road, where Robin still lives in May 2015, is in the constituency of Kensington, which was a previously safe Conservative seat which by 2015 was becoming marginal, but *just* stayed with the Conservatives at that general election. There are going to be a referendum in 2016 and two more GEs in 2017 and 2019, so I’ll be interested to see where Rowling places her characters for those. Strike still lives in Denmark Street, which is in a safe Labour seat (Holborn & St. Pancras), and Robin’s new home in Walthamstow is also in a safe Labour seat, so who knows. If Talgarth Road ever makes a reappearance, it might be interesting, since some of it is in a Conservative seat (Chelsea and Fulham) and some in a Labour seat (Hammersmith).

  10. Just had this ironic thought I wanted to share…What if when Strike & Robin finally do kiss, it’s like “kissing your sister/brother/cousin”! But, even though there’s no romantic/passionate magic they remain life-long friends & partners. Not sure how often that kind of relationship occurs, but I have a female friend of 40+ years that fits right into that category. An interesting “twist” on the platonic male/female relationship idea, maybe.

  11. Louise, I also loved the Pat and Flavia moments and though I was initially shocked about the missed kiss, I came to appreciate what Ilsa told Robin about it: “I’m just thinking how good that will have been for him, to think you were disgusted at the idea of kissing him.” In fact I loved everything Ilsa said, about Charlotte smelling something between Strike and Robin and wanting to screw it up, and also about 5 years being the “longest continuous relationship of any kind Corm’s had with any woman.” And Ilsa also nailed why he didn’t tell Robin about Madeline: “he doesn’t want you to feel free to go and shag CID officers.” That one-sided drinking date just got better and better.

    I also really liked when Strike was waiting to help Robin unload the Land Rover at her new flat on a very stressful moving day, made more so by her dad going to hospital because of a heart episode. Strike waiting with a potted plant (not flowers!) and a bag of groceries put me in mind of Luna and her Gurdyroots and I laughed and even cried a little, especially when she told her mom Strike was helping her.

  12. I’m late to the party as usual (& like CBS!) but I agree with these and would add that IBH makes me very eager to meet Prudence whom, I suspect, I am really going to like. Apologies if I missed it, Louise, but can you offer us any insight into the fact that she’s a Jungian? I would have (out of ignorance) thought this to be very old-school yet perhaps this was chosen for literary reasons because that would make her ideally suited for a series riddled with symbols & archetypes. Any thoughts?

  13. Robert Lewis says

    Did anyone else find it difficult to read and understand the chat room threads when there were two and sometimes three threads in parallel. I found myself just glossing over them rather than trying to figure out if I should read them in parallel or in series. I triued both approaches, but neither worked for me.

  14. Louise Freeman says

    Another random thought: Rowling certainly takes digs at overly-entitled and overly-involved fans in IBH, but the “Maverick” film company is also in for its share of ridicule. They are willing to shell out money to identify and neutralize Anomie, but only because of the potential damage to their property . The fact that this individual— or the online mob he inspired— may have killed and seriously wounded their creators is really beside the point.

    Also— the one “original” idea they have for increasing the film’s mainstream appeal is to —- completely change the title character of the franchise. They literally do not think that Hearty, *the* Ink-Black Heart, should be an ink-black heart in the film. This is the equivalent of deciding Rowling’s first series would work better if they just changed that boy wizard character with the scar into something different. I wonder if this is a dig at some of WB’s decisions, or, perhaps more likely, Scholastic’s decision that the first book in the series would not work if it included an actual Philosopher’s Stone.

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