Troubled Blood, Part Five: Top Ten Take-Aways from Chapters 49 to 59

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. And here is Part Four, the longest part of Troubled Blood and the longest HogwartsProfessor post ever. 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 Five, Chapter Fifty Nine!

What a break that was! Yesterday I gave a talk to the Oklahoma Christian Fiction Writers about Ring Composition — and I think they may be the Perfect Audience for everything I want to say on that subject. They were not Harry Potter or Comoran Strike uber fans, but, as serious readers and writers as well as Christian believers, they were most interested in parallelism (chiasmus!) and receptive to ideas and possibilities that most others would not be. It was a great break from the Troubled Blood marathon-analysis and the narrative slow intake experience I’ve been on.

I came home to chart Part Five, the eleven chapters I’d read early Saturday morning. It was an even better experience the second time, though just checking out the various ring elements and re-reading the ‘happy ending’ of the Oakden interview at the Stafford, leaves me dreading all that comes next. Part Six, especially if in parallel with Career of Evil and Order of the Phoenix, must be a nightmare.

Before we go there, though, here are my Top Ten Take-Aways of Part Five, the beginning of the return trip to the epic story’s latch. Join me after the jump for looks at Part Five as a ring, what I expected, what surprised me, and what I had to look up, and my thoughts heading into the Longest-Rowling-Book-Ever’s wild finish!

(1) The Chapter Latch

Part Five begins with Matt postponing Robin’s mediation session with lawyers, the quick end to the Nanny case with Saul Morris, triumphant, lounging in the office, ripped abs in view, discussion of how to get Oakden to a meeting, and then a full review of cases at hand between Robin and Strike at an outdoor cafe and a joint phone interview there with Amanda White. Robin probes Strike’s thoughts on whether he falls on the “nature or nurture” end of the genes vs environment debate in psychology and they talk about children.Robin goes into a deep dive about Talbot’s True Book; Strike says the only value in astrological and tarot interpretation is in hindsight, i.e., they have no predictive value but will always be found to have held the secret afterwards. Tellingly, after Amanda relates that Creed wrote Irene Cooper and delivered a secret message to her that he killed Margot; Strike tells Robin that the event in star language was “an asteroid passing through the house of bullocks.”

The fifth of seven Parts closes with a wow, chapters 58 and 59 with Strike and Robin alone in the office in 58, joined by Saul Morris and Sam Barclay in 59. Strike “compensates” Robin for the elbow to her face at the Stafford with a take out Indian meal and whiskey on the rocks, of which he drinks a generous portion. Veritas in vino, he tells her (and us!) about the two meetings he’d had with Rokeby at ages 7 and 18, and the reason for his bitterness about the loan from Rokeby he used to start his business (it was child support money his mother never collected!). They get through the subjects of Charlotte, Ilsa, the revelations about Matt and Sarah at her mediation, and children before Strike tells her she is his “best mate” and she responds “the feeling is mutual.”

Barclay interrupts an incipient love scene with good news about the SB/Shifty case; Robin’s flash of insight had effectively solved the mystery involved. Robin, subsequently, argues with Morris over the phone, who surprises Robin from behind. She defends herself physically, reveals to one and all the dick-pic story, and Strike cancels his contract.

These scenes work as a latch because of the parallels and echoes in the discussions about children, the two cases closing, and Saul Morris’disregard and disrespect for Robin. We open and close at the office and with Robin and Cormoran at close quarters, talking business, thinking love thoughts, with the last only shared shared at the close.

(2) The Chapter Turning Point

Part Five is eleven chapters long so its obvious turn would be in the sixth chapter, chapter 54, with five before and five after it. I think the turn, however, is chapters 54 and 55 combined. Each is the seeming end of Robin and Cormoran’s first great loves and their ties to those relationships. Strike and family commit Joan’s ashes to the sea and he saves suicidal Charlotte’s life in chapter 54; Robin and Matt finally come to mediation and he, pressed into marriage with Sarah because of her “accidental” pregnancy, agrees to her terms for divorce without a struggle. The chapters are joined, too, in that the latter begins with Robin dealing with inquiries from friends about Strike and Charlotte. [Linda calls Robin in chapter 57’s encounter with Oakden; has Matt topped himself?]

Robin and Cormoran both remember in their respective chapters, too, that, no matter how broken and pitiful the ones they left behind are, at the lowest moment of Strike’s life post-IED and of Robin’s life post rape, each was sustained and supported by a person who, for all his and her faults, didn’t have to show up. Charlotte deserves to have her life saved (again) by Strike; Matt merits Robin’s thanks for his help at her nadir.

These central chapters echo and reflect the beginning and end of Part Five in that they are the subject, substance, and context of Cormoran and Robin’s share-all post proelium conversation over curry and whiskey in the Agency office. The separate chapters and how each is now related to their respective ex come together in Strike’s first admission of emotional attachment to Robin as, egad, his “best mate.” Ilsa asks “What’s Corm saying?” about Charlotte in 55 — and Strike brings up and apologizes for his friend’s “trying to match make,” an apology that leads to their conversation about children and their relationship.

My favorite link? Matt telling Robin Sarah Shadlock’s pregnancy was “accidental,” a claim Robin finds hard to accept because she believes Sarah has done everything to cause Robin’s separation with Matt and to win him as husband. Strike has just missed decking Oakden for proclaiming in public the details of Strike’s conception in New York (Rokeby “fucking your mother on a pile of beanbags while close to 50 people are watching”). He tells Robin that he doesn’t want children because “I shouldn’t be here; I’m an accident,” a condition he shared with Charlotte, whose mother admitted to wanting while pregnant to have aborted her.

Robin dismisses Strike’s logic as “bloody self-indulgent” but misses the parallel with Sarah and her not quite “accidental” pregnancy with Matt. Was Strike an “accident” as he thinks and Rokeby told him at their first meeting — or of Leda’s calculation? The echo between story turn and finish suggest Leda was not raped by her Zeus-swan but seduced him in hopes of marriage; Strike continues to be unaware that his biological father was not married when he and Leda had their bean bag moment.

(3) The Chapter Transverse Lines

The tranverse lines in Part Five’s turtle-back ring are straight across rather than like an asterisk. Janice Beatty’s interview with Strike in chapter 50 is matched by Robin and Strike meeting with Oakden at the Stafford hotel in chapter 57; the conversations with Brian Tucker and later with the Bayliss sisters in chapters 51 and 53 are echoed as the follow-up talk Robin and Strike have with Betty Fuller in 56.

Strike drops in Janice Beatty’s flat unannounced. She is listening to the television turned up loud, a parallel with his trip to Betty Fuller. Her first words to strike, however, and much of her conversation is about Oakden and his recent ‘visit’ with her. Strike pursues the interview with Oakden largely because of what he learns from her. Oakden reinforces the Irene message that there was a Douthwaite-Beattie thing going on; “The nurse got all giggly when he was around.” If the Margot abortion was for her, who killed Gloria’s baby?

Janice spills the beans on Irene, namely, her motive for murdering Margot; Satchwell dumped her Dr Bamborough and she would have assumed that Eddie, her lifeline out of something like poverty, would learn eventually about her affair with Satchwell if she couldn’t make Paul go away. Jealousy, anger, and fear are a potent combination and incentive. What could she told the Riccis through Eddie about Margot and Gloria? Could she have told Paul that the mob was coming for Margot, hence his appearance as Theo to get her out of the way? Janice’s revelation that Margot met with Paul at a band event before their “accidental” meeting in the street means there is much more to that story than we know.

The other parallel set of interviews, Tucker-Bayliss and Betty Fuller, are equally eye-opening or eye-brow raising, at least. Brian Tucker sets us up for the big Career of Evil echoing finish — a confrontation consequent to Robin acting without Strike’s knowledge that involves Shanker, Zahara, a madman, and a break between the Agency partners — but he also gives Robin the information about Kara Wolfson she needs to understand it was her in the snuff film Fuller describes to Strike to say-without-saying it was the Riccis who wrote the note to Margot. The Bayliss sisters, beyond the opportunity their appearance give Rowling-Galbraith to show her solidarity with ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists, tell Strike that Betty Fuller knows who killed Margot, hence the interview.

Betty Fuller explains the rape of Kara Wolfson was not a small thing; “Some people fink a hooker being raped means she never got paid — it ain’t that.” This is what Samhairn Athorn is alluding to when he tells Strike he knows stories, “Old Betty and the one who didn’t pay.” The danger posed by the Riccis as evidenced by the Wolfson snuff film was obviously well enough known in Clerkenwell that it made its way even to the mentally infirm, hence Talbot’s eventually getting a copy of it and Shanker’s remarkable warning’s to Strike about not messing with Ricci or his sons. Robin connects the dots in Fuller’s story to label Brenner a somnophiliac but neither Strike nor Robin get that there must be a connection between him, Deborah Athorn, and the blood on the sleepwalking-magic page of Barret’s The Magus. Strike draws exactly the wrong conclusion from Fuller’s message; it is not the time to pay a visit to Mucky Ricci.

Saul Morris knows enough about the Riccis and their investigation that, in revenge for his broken nose and lost job (remember his panic after sending the dick-pic about what unemployment would mean to his children?), he would tell the mobsters that the Strike Agency is trying to pin the disappearance of Dr Bamborough on their father. If he isn’t sufficiently motivated to do that, Oakden the masculinist certainly is after Strike emasculates him in public at the Stafford’s American Bar. Part Six is looking to be very ugly, whatever the progress Robin and Strike have made as “best mates.”

(4) Echoes of Troubled Blood Part Three in Part Five

If Troubled Blood, the novel, is a ring composition as a whole just as each of its first five Parts has been, we need to ask ourselves how Part Five corresponds with either Part Two or Part Three (Parts Two and Four were asterisk-shaped rings, so the book might be as well). I’m going to go with Part Three as the mirrored image of Part Five.

For one thing, we get another Talbot page. Those pages also appear in Four and Six, but the Death Thoth tarot card we see embedded in Part Five’s page (see Take Away #5 below) is reminiscent of the Devil card we get on both the astrological chart of the day of Margot’s disappearance and the Celtic Cross spread page.

Part Three is also Strike’s first interview with Janice Beattie, one to which the RN refers in their Part Five meeting. Janice spills the beans on Irene’s love for Satchwell but does not tell Strike about the fight over Eddie at the Christmas party, a revelation of how profoundly she hates Margot and how she can threaten her (assuming that Eddie as a construction business owner is heavily tied to the Ricci mob).

Strike tells Oakden in their Part Five interview that he has read Whatever Happened to Margot Bamborough? He read that book and discusses it with Robin in Part Three.

Robin hears from Tom Turvey about Sarah Shadlock and Matt and Sarah come to Massham in Part Three, the ‘why’ of which Robin finally understands only after her mediation session with Matt in Part Five.

Talbot’s son gives Strike his father’s True Book in Part Three and suggests his father may be working some kind of supernatural influence to get it to Strike. At the end of Part Three Strike dismisses Talbot’s interpretation of Wilma Bayliss as The Hierophant as “racist,” but learns in Part Five that Talbot was spot on about Wilma having kept a lot of information from the police and actively deceived them in her testimony.

Robin realizes and comes to some kind of peace in Part Three about her sister-in-law’s comment that she seems to be “traveling in a different direction than the rest of us.” She uses different words to explain this idea to Strike when she talks in their after battle debriefing and true confessions moment about her not being sure she wants children anymore. But it is the same idea.

Strike receives and watches the snuff film for the first time in Part Three; they learn its genesis and relevance to the case in Part Five. Shanker  in his Part Three meeting at the Shakespeare’s Head tells Strike who the Riccis are and that Luca in particular is a “psycho.” As noted above, Oakden and Morris get all the motivation they need at the end of Part Five to activate the Riccis to revenge themselves on Strike and Robin. Shanker twice mentions Zahara in Part Three which points to their first meeting at the end of Career of Evil; I think the events of Part Five, most importantly Robin’s secret meeting with Brian Tucker, mean we’re headed to a similarly broken-play ending to Troubled Blood with at least as unhappy consequences for Strike and Robin’s relationship. Might she be about to lose via the Riccis her ability to have children?

And, yes, there’s the dick-picture finish to both Parts Three and Five. Enough said.

(5) Talbot’s ‘Death’ Tarot Card Page

Robin says when she shows Strike the True Book page dominated by the Thoth tarot card deck image for Death we first saw on Rowling’s Twitter header that he should “Ignore all the weird Tarot drawings.” You’re kidding me, right? She’s told us that Talbot liked to do three card readings — problem, cause, solution — and we’ve seen on the Part Four Talbot page how he embeds cards in threes. I feel obliged to ignore Robin’s advice and take a long look at the “weird tarot drawings” Talbot made in the hope of seeing what was revealed to him.

The dominant image is the dancing skeleton with scythe, the Thoth tarot deck card for Death, number 13 in the major trumps, astrological sign Scorpio. The other images, moving from left to right on the page, are a combination (I kid you not) of the Princess and Queen of Cups, the winged Orphic Egg and serpent from the bottom of The Lovers major trump, number 6, astrological sign Gemini, the wheel on the Fortune major trump card, number 10, astrological sign Jupiter, and the “the sacred Beetle, the Egyptian Khephra, bearing in his mandibles the Solar Disk” from the bottom of The Moon major trump, number 18, astrological sign Pisces. Another card, Lust, one already discussed in Part Four’s Ten Take Aways, I think is mentioned: ” says Pallas, Ceres, Vesta (asteroids: Robin identifies them as Talbot’s glyphs for Margot, Janice, and Cynthia respectively [585]), and Cetus (Irene Bull Hickson) are SCARLET WOMEN who RIDE UPON THE BEAST.” Who “says”? The glyph Robin tells us is the “part of Fortune” [633]

Of these six or seven cards, three have to be eliminated to get a three card reading. The Lust card is not pictured so I’ll guess it is meant only to reflect Talbot’s conviction that these four women are, like the woman in the card, atop a beast of passionate love with a man, that pregnancy is an issue, and this relationship turns on their material well-being (“the Lot of Fortune“). Robin also interprets this mention as a gloss on the other mention of the Lot of Fortune, which seems to point with “Mother’s House,” Death, and the Virgo sign to Dorothy Oakden and the suspicious death of her mother Maud [633]. Assuming the Death card image, Fortune card wheel with lightning bolts, and allusion to Lust are something of a set, I will put them aside with the notes about Black Moon Lilith/Wilma at the page’s top — with the note to remember Talbot’s Lust note with respect to the four women he signifies.

That leaves the Princess and Queen of Cups illustration, The Lovers’ card’s winged Orphic Egg and Serpent, and the Beetle with sun at the bottom of The Moon card. I’m going to read them as three card spread and will read from left to right.

I will guess that the Princess and Queen of Cups is the significator, the problem-person Talbot was trying to figure out. His notes about this unknown person are: “TRUSTED (Black Moon Lilith) didn’t want to dismiss (Black Moon Lilith) IN LOVE WITH (Capricorn)?” Black Moon Lilith according to Strike is the glyph for Wilma Lewis, a mark of his racism. Margot cannot be the Princess/Queen of Cups because the move to dismiss Wilma, at least according to Janice (600) and the Bayliss sisters (648), begins after Dr Bamborough has vanished. Janice Beattie, though, sounds sympathetic to Wilma — she thinks Carl Oakden was the thief — and we have been told by suggestion several times that she was carrying a flame for Steve Douthwaite. Talbot, remember, has corrected Douthwaite’s star sign from Pisces to Sagittarius on his chart of the Day of Disappearance.

The picture has the lotus flower and shell of the Princess of Cups and the figure and astrological ‘window’ numbers of the Queen of Cups. The long quotations above Talbot’s notes for the figure are from Crowley’s Book of Thoth:

For her crest she wears a swan with open wings. The symbolism of this swan reminds one of the swan in oriental philosophy which is the word AUM or AUMGN, which is the symbol of the entire process of creation.

She bears a covered cup from which issues a tortoise. This is ~again the tortoise which in Hindu philosophy supports the elephant on whose back is the Universe. She is dancing upon a foaming sea in which disports himself a dolphin, the royal fish, which symbolizes the power of Creation.

The character of the Princess is infinitely gracious. All sweetness, all voluptuousness, gentleness, kindness and tenderness are in her character. She lives in the world of Romance, in the perpetual dream of rapture. On a superficial examination she might be thought selfish and indolent, but this is a quite false impression; silently and effortlessly she goes about her work. (Book of Thoth, ‘Princess of Cups’)

The Queen of Cups represents the watery part of water, its power of reception and reflection. In the zodiac it rules from the 21st degree of Gemini to the 20th degree of Cancer. Her image is of extreme purity and beauty, with infinite subtlety; to see the truth of her is hardly possible, for she reflects the nature of the observer in great perfection. (Book of Thoth, ‘Queen of Cups‘) [Highlighted portions those quoted in Talbot’s ‘True Book’]

Please note the swan symbolism noted for the Princes of Cups and its connection to the Creative Word of God, the hallmark of Johannine theology, the Logos being the light of the world – and the “power” and “process” of creation also mentioned in this Crowley exegesis of the card. There will be more on this below in the discussion of Uncle Ted’s choice of name for his boat.

My Take Away from this card, if I am right in thinking Talbot believes it is Janice, is that “to see the truth of her is hardly possible” perhaps because, superficially at least,All sweetness, all voluptuousness, gentleness, kindness and tenderness are in her character.” Douthwaite has disappeared; might Janice have both killed him and been part of the rescue mission with Theo/Satchwell to sweep up Margot to get her out of harm’s way? I mentioned a connection — the loud teevee sets — between Janice Beattie and Betty Fuller. As noted before in the Higson/Hickson echo, one of Part Three’s Take-Aways, I wonder if Janice was not turning tricks to supplement her income, Betty Fuller’s profession, or at least that she was Douthewaite’s lover.

If Janice is the Problem, the second card, The Lovers,’ is the Cause of her problem (see Robin’s discussion of the three card reading sequence in chapter 45). Talbot believes Janice is one of the four women whose material condition, ‘Lot of Fortune,’ rides “UPON THE BEAST” of Lust, the card of which represents a character holding up what Harris-Crowley interprets as an “Impregnated womb.” Talbot glosses the Snitch-with-Snake with a quotation from Aleister Crowley’s The Book of the Law:

I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge and Delight and bright glory, and stir the hearts of men with drunkenness. To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, and be drunk thereof! They shall not harm ye at all.’ [highlighted portion is text used by Talbot]

Crowley considers this major trump card to be essential for understanding tarot because it depicts the Great work of alchemy in one involved image. Here is a lengthy but not even half of his gloss on The Lovers in The Book of Thoth:

The hooded figure which occupies the centre of the Card is another form of The Hermit, who is further explained in Atu IX. He is himself a form of the god Mercury, described in Atu I; he is closely shrouded, as if to signify that the ultimate reason of things lies in a realm beyond manifestation and intellect. (As elsewhere explained, only two operations are ultimately possible—analysis and synthesis). He is standing in the Sign of the Enterer, as if projecting the mysterious forces of creation. About his arms is a scroll, indicative of the Word which is alike his essence and his message. But the Sign of the Enterer is also the Sign of Benediction and of Consecration; thus his action in this card is the Celebration of the Hermetic Marriage. Behind him are the figures of Eve, Lilith and Cupid. This symbolism has been incorporated in order to preserve in some measure the original form of the card, and to show its derivation, its heirship, its continuity with the past. On the quiver of Cupid is inscribed the word Thelema, which is the Word of the Law. (See Liber AL, chap. I, verse 39.) His shafts are quanta of Will. It is thus shown that this fundamental formula of magical working, analysis and synthesis, persists through the Aeons.

One may now consider the Hermetic Marriage itself.

This part of the Card has been simplified from “the Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreutz”, a masterpiece too lengthy and diffuse to quote usefully in this place. But the essence of the analysis is the continuous see-saw of contradictory ideas. It is a glyph of duality. The Royal persons concerned are the Black or Moorish King with a golden crown, and the White Queen with a silver crown. He is accompanied by the Red Lion, and she by the White Eagle.

These are symbols of the male and female principles in Nature; they are therefore equally, in various stages of manifestation, Sun and Moon, Fire and Water, Air and Earth. In chemistry they appear as acid and alkali, or (more deeply) metals and non-metals, taking those words in their widest philosophical sense to include hydrogen on the one hand and oxygen on the other. In this aspect, the hooded figure represents the Protean element of carbon, the seed of all organic life.

The symbolism of male and female is carried on still further by the weapons of the King and Queen; he bears the Sacred Lance, and she the Holy Grail; their other hands are joined, as consenting to the Marriage. Their weapons are supported by twin children, whose positions are counterchanged; for the white child not only holds the Cup, but carries roses, while the black child, holding his father’s Lance, carries also the club, an equivalent symbol.

At the bottom of the whole is the result of the Marriage in primitive and pantomorphic form; it is the winged Orphic egg. This egg represents the essence of all that life which comes under this formula of male and female. It carries on the symbolism of the Serpents with which the King’s robe is embroidered, and of the Bees which adorn the mantle of the Queen. The egg is grey, mingling white and black; thus it siguifies the co-operation of the three Supernals of the Tree of Life. The colour of the Serpent is purple, Mercury in the scale of the Queen. It is the influence of that God manifested in Nature, whereas the wings are tinged with crimson, the colour (in the King scale) of Binah the great Mother. In this symbol is therefore a complete glyph of the equilibrium necessary to begin the Great Work. But, as to the final mystery, that is left unsolved. Perfect is the plan to produce life, but the nature of this life is concealed. It is capable of taking any possible form; but what form? That is dependent upon the in fluences attendant on gestation. (The Book of Thoth, pp 83-84, emphasis mine; see this discussion for the Orphic egg’s place in the sequence of major trumps.)

I suspect Rowling-Galbraith enjoyed that hermetic backdrop as well as its obvious similarity to the Golden Snitch of Quidditch. The interpretation of the card in this place is probably much simpler than the alchemical wedding.

Talbot has put a large Capricorn glyph on the egg not in the original so I’d guess that by it he means to suggest Douthwaite is the cause of Janice’s problem, which is not marriage so much as it is pregnancy outside of marriage? The trouble that Nick and Ilsa and that Matt and Sarah are having in inverse reflection, too, may be pointers to this conflict being central to the mystery of Margot’s disappearance.

Talbot’s third in the reading is The Moon, from which he takes the scarab beetle at the card’s bottom as the glyph he puts on this page. The whole Crowley exegesis for The Moon can be read here, but this is his discussion of the Beetle image:


Pisces is the last of the Signs; it represents the last stage of winter. It might be called the Gateway of Resurrection (the letter Qoph means the back of the head, and is connected with the potencies of the cerebellum). In the system of the old Aeon, the resurrection of the Sun was not only from winter, but from night; and this card represents midnight.

“There is a budding morrow in midnight”, wrote Keats. For this reason there appears at the bottom of the card, underneath the water which is tinged with graphs of abomination, the sacred Beetle, the Egyptian Khephra, bearing in his mandibles the Solar Disk. It is this Beetle that bears the Sun in his Silence through the darkness of Night and the bitterness of Winter. Above the surface of the water is a sinister and forbidding landscape. We see a path or stream, serum tinged with blood, which flows from a gap between two barren mountains; nine drops of impure blood, drop-shaped like Yods, fall upon it from the Moon.

Crowley’s Book of Thoth is the reference text we know Talbot is using, Robin, though, only has the booklet that came with her Thoth tarot card deck. In it, The Moon is the card of nightmares. In one spot Crowley-Harris writes “This card represents the state of impure horror, hidden darkness which must be passed through before light can be reborn.” “At the bottom of the card moves the Sacred Beetle, bearing the Sun through the darkness of night” (25). In another, “This is the most sinister card,” one which depicts the “dangerous” path “to get an understanding of the universe” “through sorcery and witchcraft” (43). Crowley’s satanic legacy and the fictional fate of Talbot speak to the reality of that danger.

I’m already way out on a limb about the sequence being about Janice and Douthwaite. I’ll say that this card means Janice has succeeded in keeping secret how Margot helped her with her unwanted pregnancy — and how she has kept the secret of how she has kept the secret of Margot’s disappearance successfully all these years, bearing, like the beetle, the Solar Disk of truth in silence, underground. I would be delighted when I finally get to read Parts Six and Seven (tonight!) to learn that Janice is Margot’s secret-keeper — and her watch on the vengeful Irene Bull Hickson. If Talbot drew the Queen and Princess of Cups for a reading about her and the cards read true, Janice must be a very good person indeed, the “saint” Irene says she is at their joint interview with Strike. From this view, it is no accident that she told the detectives about the Margot sighting in Laemington Spa but a clue she hoped would lead them to her hiding place.

(6) Winners

I enjoyed seeing a couple of things I have guessed at in this week’s posts come true in Part Five. Rokeby indeed has a potentially terminal illness and this was the reason his children from his several wives and lovers wanted Strike to come to the photo shoot and party.

I also predicted that Oakden would tell Strike that he didn’t steal the vodka or spike the punch (half-right). Robin’s mind went the same place mine did; Gloria’s throwing up must have another cause (and pregnancy is a good bet, no?).

My specific predictions for Part Five were given in the last Take-Away for Day Three, Part Three:

We had two critical interviews in Part Three, first with Irene and Janice and then with Reverend Oonaugh Kennedy. I want to think we’ll learn what they were hiding or the meaning of what they actually said in their parallel Part’s chapters the way Oonaugh answered the question (sort of!) of why Irene really didn’t want Strike to know the cause of her fight with Margot at the Christmas Party. Who was the man she thought Margot was flirting with? And what was making Margot think she “might be going mad”?

No, we didn’t learn that in Part Five, doggone it.

More likely, there will be more interviews with characters that have evaded Strike and Robin thus far. A child of Wilma Bayliss, for starters, Amanda White, of course, the Oakden boy-author, now middle-aged, and Creed, Satchwell, Douthwaite, and Roy and Cynthia Phipps, the main suspects.

We got Satchwell and the Phipps in Part Four, as well as a phone conversation with Irene. Part Five did give us interviews with the Bayliss daughters, Amanda White, and Carl Oakden, hurrah. We got a little bit of Dennis Creed in the conversation with Brian Tucker but still no Douthwaite. He’s the prize we get in Part Six, whether he is living or dead, that I hope will unlock the Margot disappearance. Creed? I sure hope Tucker is wrong and Margot is not at the bottom of a well or in the Great Church Wood. I want to believe it’s the Riccis and the whole Creed bit has been a bizarro red herring, one to be explored in one of the two Part Seven chapters where Strike interviews the psychopath.

In the Part Three turn, chapter 22, Strike deletes a picture of naked Charlotte on his birthday, a picture she sent him with an open invitation to return to her. I expect, dread, and look forward to an in-person confrontation with his glorious ex, a meeting that promises to be as memorable and painful (Saturnine!) as Robin’s mediation session with Matthew which we hear about in Part Three’s chapters 18, 23, 28 and 30. If this is the series nigredo, these will be the occasions for solve dissolution well before coagula resolution and reintegration.

I’ll give myself partial credit for this one. We do get the longest live conversation with Charlotte in Part Five as well as the personal nadir of her attempted suicide but no face to face confrontation. [Did anyone else think at this moment in Troubled Blood of Strike running to get to Robin and simultaneously call the police as the Ripper attacks her in Career of Evil? I can’t wait to read the parallels you have written up this week.] And we do get the mediation session between Robin and Matt. Describing both moments as solve or the black, dissolution stage of these relationships is close to spot on.

And how about a meeting with Big Jonny? That would be the parallel with his first contact, the Bloodhound Xmas card, I’d like to see in Part Five.

Close, but no cigar. Being in the same building as the Rokeby blow-out party for the Deadbeats and their fans is not a meeting between the two. We did learn at last, though, in Cormoran’s tête-à-tête with Robin of the other meetings he has had with his biological father. No points but the idea was present.

(7) Losers

I know I’m probably forgetting where my Part Four predictions for the finale were shown up but two things really hit me as blown guesses.

I thought Samhairn Arton’s “old Betty” was going to turn out to be Janice Beattie. Nope, that of course was Betty Fuller, so the idea that Janice was selling sex on the side is dead as a possibility, I think. The “old Betty” story, though, did turn out to be important, as discussed above.

The other prediction that exploded on me while reading Part Five was the one that had Janice being an accomplice of Satchwell. It’s still possible, but it means that the Queen and Princess of Cups lied to Strike about never having met him (“I’ve never even met the man!” [603]). Janice explaining to Strike that “the nurse” Satchwell remembers (and suggests by intonation he now knows was not a nurse) was actually Irene blew up the fan fiction of Satchwell being upset with the nurse because his partner in rescue subterfuge seemed to have been telling tales that would reveal Margot’s location.

Amazing how attached one can get to these misconceptions…

(8) Things I Had to Look Up

The Cormoran Strike novels are a UK series primarily because they are set ‘over there’ and most of their readers and viewers are BBC subscribers and Waterstones patrons. Quite a few times, I had to stop reading (or re-reading) Troubled Blood‘s fifth Part to look up something I was totally clueless about. Here’s the short list — feel free to add your own via the comment boxes!

  • Ted Nancarrow’s boat is named the Jowanet. I thought it was probably three people’s first names’ first syllable with Joan being the first but couldn’t guess the other two. So I looked it up. ‘Jowanet’ is the Cornish version of ‘Joan.’ Which is sweet, I think. More interesting, though, in a book with quite a few references to my patron saint, St John the Evangelist, ‘Joan’ is via Catalan the woman’s version of ‘John,’ God is Gracious in Hebrew. Given Joan’s transformation and otherworldly influence — Cormoran thinks of Joan in the critical moments in the office moment of revealing his true feelings for Robin — it’s not that surprising that Rowling-Galbraith would call more attention to Joan’s name via Ted’s boat.
  • Buying MDF at the B&Q: that is the UK equivalent of shopping for sheetrock (well, Medium Density Fibreboard) at the Home Depot.
  • “Robin can’t follow people looking like she just did three rounds with Tyson Fury” (735). I thought this was a bizarre take on Mike Tyson. Turns out Tyson Fury is heavyweight champion of the boxing world — and a proud Gypsy. I need to get out more.
  • In that same scene, Robin is cleaning up the plates from her take-out meal with Strike. Out on the Charing Cross Road, a car passed, blaring Rita Ora’s “I Will Never Let You Down,” and softly, under her breath, Robin sang along” (737). No, I’d never heard the song or of the singer. Provincial boob, I know. Here’s a short if you, like me, were unfamiliar with the song (live performance can be watched here, filmed in a stadium filled with those who know it by heart):

  • Aside: I was a Tom Waits fan way back in 1978, believe it or don’t, though I haven’t listened to his music in years. I’ve ordered the UK DVD that Robin bought for Strike’s Christmas present. For all the hype around the Joni Mitchell album ‘Court and Spark’ as the embedded soundtrack to Troubled Blood, I wish that we were hearing more references to ‘Nighthawks at the Diner.’ “Precipitation is expected.”

(9) Echoes of Career, Phoenix

According to the HogwartsProfessor “Parallel Series’ and ‘Seven Book Ring Composition’ (TM) twin hypotheses, Strike5 is supposed to be a shadow of Career of Evil and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Part Five’s eleven chapters I think point to this playing out, despite the seemingly happy beginning at the end of the fifth part.

I’ve already pointed to the biggest echo of Career of Evil audible in Troubled Blood. Robin’s pursuing an interview with Dennis Creed, convicted psychopathic murderer, and talking with Brian Tucker, around the twist aggrieved parent of a missing child, behind Strike’s back is border-line screwy — except as a deliberate parallel of her intervention with Shanker for abused children at the end of Career.

It won’t end well, of course. How is Strike going to respond to this deception after Robin has told him he needs to talk with her about everything? Not well. And if she gets the same results, well, I suspect that will bring us to the big Phoenix parallel, the death of Harry’s godfather and Shanker, Strike’s brother from a different mother. As I wrote in Part Four, I’m hoping Rokeby plays Dumbledore to the Death Eater sons of Mucky ‘Voldemort’ Ricci.

Which brings us, at last, to the concluding summary of what’s left to discover in Part Six.

(10) Part Six Set-Up? Douthwaite, Creed, Ricci, Shanker, Rokeby, Ted, Margot?

I will be putting up Take-Aways for Parts Six and Seven next week but this is my last post when I will not have read the ending to Troubled Blood. I already have posted my guesses for the Strike5 finish as the tenth Take-Away from Part Four, the story-turn, so here I’ll just lay out the characters and events from the story thus far from whom we need an appearance or story resolution.

Steve Douthwaite is the only member of the three primary suspects named by Strike in Part Two about whom we know very little beyond the suggestion he killed Julie Wilkes in 1985 after Oakden told her Steve’s Clerkenwell history. We’ve heard the hints that there was something going on between him and Janice Beattie, RN, and I’ve made my guesses about that based on the embedded Thoth tarot card reading in Part Five. Part Six has to deliver a big reveal featuring Steve Douthwaite.

Dennis Creed has been the default Bad Guy of the book. We’ve read The Demon of Paradise Park, we’ve met Brian Tucker and read his encoded messages, and we know via Amanda that he sent a similar note to Vi Cooper about Margot Bamborough. Robin has been pursuing permission for Strike to interview Creed, pursuit without the Agency’s senior partner’s awareness or permission. At the very least, we should get the Vi Cooper coded message from Creed in Part Six, and, better, a meeting with him.

We’ve seen Mucky Ricci but no one has spoken with or contacted him or his volatile sons. As predicted above, the emasculation of two hyper-macho masculinists, Carl Oakden and Saul Morris by Strike and Robin in Part Five, will as likely as not lead to their sharing with Ricci the Agency’s hope to pin the crime of Margot’s death on the Godfather of Clerkenwell. Shanker’s concern about someone getting acid in their face or a shotgun blast to the “fucking head” have a good chance of playing out and I’m afraid he is the likely victim. Part Six has to reveal why they wanted to kill Margot, if they did, and how they did or how she escaped — after, that is, Strike and Robin have their friends’ lives threatened by professionals so they’ll drop out of the investigation.

Strike has been doing his best ‘Raging Harry’ imitation all book in relation to Jonny ‘Albus’ Rokeby. We’ve moved from cards and text messages to phone calls from siblings and Jonny himself and now Al Rokeby has appeared in person at Strike’s office to confront him. Part Six, on that trend, almost has to include a live appearance by the aging rocker. My hope, as you know, is that, a la Dumbledore at the end of Phoenix, he’ll offer help and be able to assist Strike in pushing back on the Riccis.

Gloria Conti has been a no-show. Her husband has responded to Robin and Anna’s outreaches to her so we cannot know if she is alive or, if alive, if she is aware that Anna Phipps wants to know what happened to her mother. If as suspected, she was pregnant at the barbecue party held by the Phipps, what happened to the baby? was hers the mystery abortion appointment under Margot’s name and was this one of the reasons the Riccis wanted her dead? We’ll have to learn in Part Six what happened to her and the part it played in Margot’s disappearance.

We’ve been given enough information about Irene Hickson — a spider tattoo on the belly! — to be more than half-convinced she had a good hate on for Margot and feared that her relationship with Eddy was in danger if she talked. What we don’t know enough about is the threatening note to Margot, why she told Oonaugh that she thought she was going mad, Brenner’s real reason for threatening to have Margot removed from the Medical Register two weeks before her disappearance (a Ricci message being sent about Gloria? about their arrangement with Brenner to supply them with barbiturates?), and why Janice, a perceptive and thoughtful woman, has stuck with Irene Bull through all these years.

And Theo! I’ve guessed that it was Paul Satchwell, come to the office to spirit Margot away because her execution was imminent, but that’s a guess whose greatest support is that I have only one other idea who else it could be. Which is just as unlikely…

This is relatively small beer, but I really do want to know what Gwilherm Athorn saw that made him think his magic killed Margot (which unfortunate role as eye-witness got him killed). I’d love it if he was the Magus-inspired Theo, come to talk with Brenner about sex and drugs unannounced but who got to spill his guts to Margot instead — who in turn took the information as her death warrant and fled to Satchwell and Laemington Spa. I’m guessing, too, that there is some connection between the bloodied sleep-walking-magic page in Barrett’s The Magus and both the tarot card of the same name and Brenner’s somnophiliac relationship with Deborah.

Ilsa all but promised at Joan’s burial at sea that Ted Nancarrow would be coming to London soon. I think Ted has something to tell Strike about Joan and Ted’s relationship with Leda; Strike is already gaining via Joan’s straight talk near the end the emotional space he needed for a more objective understanding of his mother. His thinking of her as being just like the irresponsible and self-absorbed college students at Max’s dinner party suggests we are about to get a bigger reveal from Ted about his sister (think of Joan’s telling Strike that Ted was a Capricorn at the beginning of Part Four and Strike thanking her for the tip-off; not a joke that ages well).

Ted hated his father for a reason and forgave his sister again and again for her alien life choices — might Papa Nancarrow have molested lovely Leda as a young girl, sexual assault or rape causing her exodus, then Ted’s, and her life on the far side? And, of course, if the Ricci boys want to scare Strike, hurting Uncle Ted or threatening to kill him might be the best way to get him to leave their father alone. Ted may be Shanker’s best insurance policy.

Talbot, the stars and charts, and the Thoth tarot cards…. Wow. I’ve spent the last week trying to find and interpret the offered and the hidden tarot card layouts of Strike5 and make sense out of the Capricorn centered Disappearance Day horoscope. Forgive me for expecting that Rowling-Galbraith will feel some responsibility to look back and share with us how much of Talbot’s seeming madness was spot-on except for his assumption that Margot was killed and had been killed by the Essex Butcher.

Matt and Charlotte? Part Five has them both in unbearable emotional pain with respect to their lives without the love of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. Charlotte attempted suicide and failed; I suspect that call from Linda Ellacott to Robin while she was picking up a gin and tonic at the American Bar has bad news about Matt Cunliffe. Part Six or Seven does not need another development on this back-story front with respect to either character, but if one, the other, or both, choose to make a dramatic entrance, who could be surprised? A Jago Ross or Sarah Shadlock nastygram and Howler, too, would make the series nigredo that much darker.

Roy and Cynthia Phipps as well as Anna Phipps and Dr Kim Sullivan departed the stage for Part Five’s eleven chapters. They have to make a big come-back in Part Six because penultimate Part of the novel has to answer all the questions and mysteries raised in Part Two, the seven chapters that featured the first two deep dives into the case. Witnesses like Carmen Bayliss and Carl Oakden have all but convicted Cynthia of being Anne Boleyn to Margot’s Catherine of Aragorn (and Roy of being a calculating Henry VIII). The culmination card of the Celtic Cross Spread Talbot spread to learn what happened to Margot was the Prince of Swords and I think that is Roy. He is either flat out evil or he is the messenger of something; there has to be a reason Rowling-Galbraith assigned him the Hermes-Asclepius constellation as his astrological sign — are you out there, Even Willis? What’s up with Ophiucus, stars of Hermes?

Did Roy perform an abortion in Broom Manor? Did Cynthia take a note out of the ugly clock from Margot or Roy that would have saved her life or their relationship? Was bloodless, bleeder Roy working for the Ricci gang? I suspect that Cynthia has lived forty years without changing the rooms at Broom Manor because she has really has been living in expectation of Margot’s return; she might know the Ricci plan to kill her did not work out. And was the 1985 note to the Met about what was buried under the St John’s Cross really just an Oakden publicity stunt?

Which brings us to Margot Bamborough. I predicted in my Take Away notes to Part Four that she is alive and living in Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire. That is my fairy tale ending and wouldn’t it be nice if the Phipps’ Broom House world is exploded in the end and Anna and Oonaugh are reunited with Margot? Forgive me for doubting the nigredo of the Strike series ends on an up-note.

My biggest concern as I sign off to go read the last two Parts of Troubled Blood? That, just as Strike tells himself when he is opening up his heart to Robin at the end of Part Five, things will “go to shit” as “they always do” for him. Robin’s decision not to tell him about the Creed interview efforts she is making is just the ticket to disaster, which is to say, a repeat of the ending to Career of Evil, the break-up of their partnership.

Thank you for reading this far even if you skimmed and F-scanned most of it! I’ll see you in a few days with my thoughts about Part Six and Seven, the big finish to Troubled Blood. Thanks in advance, too, for sharing your thoughts on this post and Part Five in the comment boxes below — and your other discoveries on the threads beneath the posts linked right here!




  1. Beatrice Groves says

    Thank you John!
    Has anyone done the work to find out what Creed’s letter to Tucker (622) says? It is printable…?

  2. “Your daughter cried for her mummy before she died.”

    I want the coded letter Creed sent to Vi Cooper that convinced her he’d killed Dr Bamborough.

  3. Louise Freeman says

    The rescue-by-cell phone connection has been made— and linked to both Career of Evil and OotP!

  4. Kelly Loomis says

    One little detail I think you have wrong is Irene being the gal with the spider tattoo. Satchwell said that short-lived girlfriend had long black hair. Irene is and was blonde. I had the niggling thought that this girlfriend was Leda – enough so that I looked back through the previous books seeing if she had another tattoo besides the blue oyster cult tattoo.

    I won’t comment on anything else since I’ve finished the book before you!

  5. Kelly, speaking of girls that might be Leda… is there any consensus on who the girl is who, accoding to Izzy at the end of Lethal White, witnessed Raphael’s strangulation? I figured the obvious answer is Charlotte, who is the right age and a friend of Izzy’s already. However, if it’s so obvious, why not say so out right? Who else could it be?

  6. Beatrice Groves says

    Thank you John. And yes, would be good to see that one!

  7. Kelly loomis says

    Elisa, I’m not sure it was ever revealed. I was thinking it was the Wynn’s daughter but it was the 18th party she was at wasn’t it and this seemed to be different. Do we know where Charlotte went to secondary school and if it was co-ed or associated with the one the Chiswells went to? She did know Izzy – Strike seemed to think all the blue bloods knew each other regardless of school though.

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