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!

(1) Ring Latch: Opening and Ending Chapters of Part Four

In chapter 31, Strike is in Cornwall, it’s raining hard, and he has his best conversation ever with Aunt Joan Nancarrow. She tells him what she wants to happen at her funeral because Ted and Lucy cannot bear to talk about it. They joke about Sun Sign astrology blurbs in the daily papers. She encourages him to reconcile with Jonny Rokeby: “I think your father’s at the heart of a lot of things.”

In chapter 48, Joan is dead and Strike makes sure the funeral and her cremation go as she told him she wanted it to be. In a conversation with Dave Polworth at the Ship & Castle wake, Dave shares that Joan had told him Rokeby had reached out. “Nothing doing,” Strike responds. A bobbing seagull is mentioned three times and there is something of the suggestion that the sea-bird flying out towards the horizon is a figure of the late Joan Nancarrow.

Talk about funeral details; see the funeral details. Push to see Rokeby; check to see if nephew was listening before transmigrating across the infinite waters. Curtain up; curtain close. That’s a latch.

(2) Ring Story Turn: The Central Chapter 

Again, we have an even number of chapters in Part Four, so, as with Part Three, we do not have one chapter that has the same number of chapters from the beginning as there will be to the end. Chapter 39, though, Strike’s age this year, is the obvious turn, at least with respect to echoing the start and foreshadowing the finish. It’s an unpleasant experience reading it; everyone in it seems more than slightly out of sorts if not down right rude to one another. Robin, for example, tries to talk at the staff meeting about Amazon deliveries she’d seen on stake-out the night before and the chauvinist crowd ignore and disregard this information — a big red flag.

To the point, though. Strike gets a call from Uncle Ted in Cornwall that Joan is fading fast and he and Lucy need to come quick. The weather is unholy flooding and Greg is out of town but Strike makes plans with Lucy and Polworth to get to St Mawes somehow. When Strike announces his intention to travel at the staff meeting, no one can believe he has a chance.

And then, as everyone is departing the office, Jonny Rokeby calls Strike on his cell phone. He tries to be conciliatory but makes some gross mistakes in judgment, specifically, referring to “your mother and all her fucking men” and suggesting that he would make it profitable for Strike if he came to heel, a so-called “peace offering,” an emotional bribe. We get CAPS LOCK Cormoran, albeit only the tail end of his conversation: “… so GO FUCK YOURSELF.”

Cornwall, the demise of Aunt Joan, and a person-to-person conversation even if only by phone between Strike and his biological father…. That’s the connection we’re looking for in ring writing between start, middle, and ending that constitutes a story turn.

Aside — We learned in chapter 17 that Strike still thinks his conception was the cause of Rokeby’s divorce from his second wife and in chapter 31 that the young Ted Nancarrow left St Mawes to be a Red Cap “in revolt against his own father.” Strike thinks in chapter 34 that he wishes it was Rokeby that was dying rather than Aunt Joan. I confess to being fascinated that Strike is such a prisoner of his adolescent anger towards Rokeby that he does not once ask himself, his half-siblings, or Rokeby, “Why now? Why reach out to me with such pointed urgency after all these years?” The obvious answer, one perhaps that Ted will share on a visit to London when telling Strike about his return to St Mawes from the Army, is that Rokeby is dying and Strike needs to speak with him, as Aunt Joan told him, to get to “the heart of things.”

(3) Ring Asterisk Lines: Chapters After Start and Story Turn, Before Story Turn and Finish, Middle Chapters

I think, as in Part Two, that the lateral lines connecting the story front and story back are not the neat parallel lines of a turtle-back but transverse lines of an asterisk. I break it into three strokes:

  • Chapters 32-34 Just After the Open and Chapters 40-43 Just After the Turn:

In the first chapters of Part Four, after Strike’s heart to heart with Aunt Joan about her funeral and Rokeby, we have Max ask his roommate if Strike can come to dinner soon and brother Jonathan asks Robin if he and a girl friend can spend the night at her flat. Robin is told in a conversation with the daughter of the driver of the mysterious van that “At least Creed can’t get you now.” She reflects on the senses of the word “get” and “being got” with respect to man-on-woman violence. Al Rokeby calls and half-sister Prudence texts Strike to urge him to come to a family photo-shoot; Strike explodes with the declaration that he is not Jonny’s “pet fucking black sheep.” Nice.

In the first chapters after the story turn, we get the painfully hilarious dinner party nightmare in which Strike shows up drunk for drinks with Max and winds up in a fight with the risibly SJW student friends of Robin’s brother. Robin calls him out for his selfishness in the street outside in a fit of righteous anger that leaves the totally buggered Strike dazed and off-balance. Strike, recovering the next day from his drinking binge with Nick and from the party and from Robin’s blistering accusations, tears up an invitation to the Deadbeats reunion party that his half-siblings have sent him. He eventually, contrary to everything he learned from his years of fighting with the mad cow Charlotte, calls Robin to apologize. She breaks down in grateful tears when he tells her for the first time, “If I’ve taken advantage of you, I’m sorry. You’re the best I’ve got.”

That last may mean on the surface “You’re the best detective I have at the agency,” but I think Robin interprets it correctly as the reverse echo of the “being got” in her parallel conversation. Strike might as well have said, “You’re the best person I know, best friend I have, best woman to ever be in my life.” Cue violins and Lin Manuel-Miranda cheering Rowling as the “Maestro of Reprise.”

  • Chapters 35-36 and Chapter 44, Half-Way Out From and Back To the Latch:

The middle chapters front and back are a second line bisecting the circle, this one from left to right rather than top to bottom. On the left are the pair of interviews with the Phipps, Roy and Cynthia. Strike, grumpy from his conversation with Al Rokeby and exchange with his half-sister Prudence, travels with Robin to Hampton Court where they interview Cynthia, just out of character as Anne Boleyn in her role as guide for tourists and children. The three are summoned to Broom House, the Phipps’ home, by Roy who has learned from Anne and Kim that Cynthia had agreed to speak “behind his back” with Strike and Robin. There daughter and father bicker bitterly while Strike asks questions about the case; Roy eventually breaks down and admits being cruel to Margot which indirectly he feels must have caused her capture and murder by Creed. Dr Kim Sullivan qualifies that as “close to a miracle” for family healing and reconciliation. (see more on these chapters in Take-Away #6 below).

Chapter 44 is the half way point of the nine chapters after the story turn and it, too, is the story of a miracle and a family resolution. Strike and his half-sister Lucy Fantoni travel by Jeep through the flooded West Country and eastern Wales before being stranded 30 miles from St Mawes. Dave Polworth and a host of Strike’s school friends deliver them to the Nancarrow door after a harrowing adventure through torrential rains and washed out fields and roads. After almost a week of hanging on and a death bed benediction with her nephew, Joan dies.

  • Chapters 37-38 and Chapters 45-47 Just Before the Turn and Close:

The last stroke of the asterisk parallels stretches between Strike’s solo interview with the Athorn mother and child who have Fragile X Syndrome in chapters 37 and 38 and Robin’s solo encounter with Paul Satchwell in Leamington Spa and Warwick. Both these interviews take place because of semi-miraculous good luck; Strike sees Samhain Athorn’s very large ears walk by him as Irene describes the “massive ears” of the boy Strike is looking for and Robin only learns of Satchwell’s painting exhibition in Leamington Spa on a last second Google search before shutting down her laptop after reconciling with Strike over the phone.

Strike learns from the child-man that his uncle told him “Nico and his boys killed Margot” and that Dr Brenner was “a dirty old man” (Strike learns later from the social worker that the mother was almost certainly ‘pimped out’ by her husband for drug money). Deborah’s husband Gwilherm told her one night that he believed he might have killed someone with his magic; she and the boy find this credible. The boy shows Cormoran The Magus, a book he inherited from his father, and Strike deftly cuts out a blood-stained page about sleep-walkers.

Robin hoped to get Satchwell’s contact information at the gallery but meets the artist himself instead. They travel to Warwick for lunch at The Roebuck Inn. Their conversation is a gamesmanship back and forth and review of the evidence until Robin brings up Janice Beattie’s report of the Margot sighting in Leamington Spa; Satchwell loses his bearing at this and is obviously threatened by the report and angry with the RN. He goes to the loo and Robin confronts him on his return with the “pillow dream,” the death of his older sister, a handicapped child his mother suffocated.

After Strike’s interview, he thinks to himself that he was “disinclined to credit supernatural intervention” but he was definitely feeling it in his borderline uncanny experiences in Clerkenwell. Robin also is feeling the supernatural influence as she pulls out the Thoth Tarot deck and does a three card reading in her hotel room before heading to the Pump Room exhibition. Her embedded text? Both a bizarro page from Talbot’s ‘True Book’ and her figuring out who ‘Schmidt’ is — Steven Schmidt, author of Astrology 14 (see Take-Away #7 below). The Satchwell paintings at the exhibition, too, are all mythological in subject matter, pornographic and violent in character: “bondage, rape, and abduction,” to include Leda being impregnated by Zeus-as-Swan.

There are stray correspondences that violate this asterisk break-down. There is a statue in Broom House, for one, of Asceplius that Strike recalls when Robin explains the nature of the extra astrological signs in Astrology 14. The Athorns’ social worker, Clare Spenser (!), speaks with Strike, too, in chapter 42, which is not in line with the connections I’ve drawn. The “got” echo, though, and the reverse image solo interviews by Strike with the Athorns and Robin with Satchwell under “supernatural intrervention” makes me think Part Four is a ring.

(4) Leamington Spa and Long Itchington, Warwickshire: Margot and the Shakespeare Connection

After reading the end of Part Four the first time, I had to go to bed. I was exhausted by even the idea of charting this chapter, which is longer than the first two Parts combined. I woke up with something of an epiphany; I had the bizarre idea that I recognized Margot Bamborough in the background of one Part Four’s scenes. 

My reasoning, such as it is, is based on these premises or experiences of Rowling-Galbraith as a writer:

  • The murderer or mystery principal has to be revealed in the story center. Part Four qualifies as the novel’s central part so, though I’d prefer to find the bad guy in Part Four’s center, chapter 39, or the central chapter of the 73 chapters, chapter 37, anywhere in Part Four will do.
  • If a story has an inner chamber or alocal place removed from time a la every Harry Potter novel, truth is revealed there.
  • People rarely are what we assume they are; what they do is not done, as often as not, for the reasons we think.

With those thoughts in mind, turn to Robin’s meeting with Paul Satchwell at the ‘Local Artist Exhibition’ in Laemington Spa and her lunch with him in Warwick, chapters 46 and 47.

Oonaugh’s description of Satchwell in Part Three was entirely negative; as Strike tells Roy Phipps in Broom House, Rev Kennedy thinks Margot’s first lover should be the focus of the Strike Agency investigation. The description of Margot being pulled into their flat and Oonaugh’s having to pound on the door and threaten the police to get him to let her go are reminiscent of Rowling’s farewell to her first husband in Portugal when she returned for her daughter after a fight. Robin, from that interview and from her own experience with controlling, dangerous men, is predisposed to think the worst of Satchwell.

She does not expect to meet Satchwell at the exhibition but learns he is in town. He has returned from Greece to have cataract surgery and agreed to bring his paintings. She has a coffee in hopes he will turn up, walks the exhibit room again, and then finds a room apart, what used to be “a Turkish hammam or steam room, and had the appearance of a small temple” (544). While admiring the “eight pointed star in glass” in the room’s cupula ceiling, Paul Satchwell, left eye bandaged, walks up behind her and introduces himself. He is not pleased that she wants to talk about Margot’s disappearance but they agree to have lunch and go over the case. On the way to Warwick, his proper hometown, he explain he was born in Leamington Spa as was Aleister Crowley; they make a detour to see where the occultist was born and grew up. (Aside: a Benjamin Satchwell, poet and shoemaker, “helped found the Royal Spa at Leamington” in the 18th Century. I’m going to assume Rowling got the name on her visit to the Pump Rooms art gallery.)

Their conversation raises “more questions than Answers” Robin feels at its conclusion but she does learn that the “pillow dream” was Satchwell’s mother suffocating his older sister, Blanche, who was handicapped. The interview ends with the cool Satchwell losing all bearing and poise after Robin tells him about Margot having been sighted in Leanington Spa. He is furious that Janice Beattie told her that; he seems to believe that “the nurse” (his emphasis) was “shit-stirring” and trying to draw attention to him (Robin does not share with him the sighting in Warwick that Strike brought up with the Phipps family).

Remember those premises? The inner chamber is a place of revelation, the mystery is revealed in the center (‘the meaning is in the middle’), and people aren’t what they seem and don’t act as they do for the reasons you’d guess.

Here’s my wild idea, then, in a nutshell. Paul Satchwell is a good guy; he may even be Theo. When he met Margot (by accident? in the street? because, y’know, London is a small neighborhood where you’re always running into old friends…), he dropped his girlfriend of the moment that night because he was going to help Margot escape from the imminent execution she was facing or thought she was. Or to kidnap her? He gives her the Brunhilda statuette to help her feel heroic and sacrificial (see Take-Away #6 below). His alibi has a hole in it from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, during which time he dresses up Romani and goes to the office to tell her that she has to leave that night. Janice, also with a hole in her alibi (assuming she skipped the film), drove the van that picked up Theo/Paul. Margot walks to the Printer’s Shop where Amanda sees her in agony over her decision to forsake her daughter. She with or without Satchwell drives to Laemington Spa and Warwick and dyes her hair black.

Satchwell could be the cad he seems to Robin. In that scenario, Margot enlists him to help her vanish by threatening him with telling the police about how Blanche died. Either way, Satchwell and Janice are the means of her escape; he is the Aries on the Horns page, bottom left (537), Talbot’s Baphomet, and Janice is the Cancer on the Chariot and Two of Cups cards in the Celtic Cross drawing (see Talbot’s symbol key in ch 29). He is the one-eyed figure of The Devil Thoth Tarot card in the spread, the goat on the astrology page, and the single eye on the Horn page (the eye is a copy of the Devil card’s third eye). Hence “the [deer] horns appeared to rise directly out of the white hair that fell in limp curls to his shoulders” (562).

He is as afraid of the Riccis and Margot as he should be; if they find out he helped her escape, he would be as likely to be “shot in the fuckin’ head” as his old girlfriend — after, that is, they torture him to find out where she is. He flees to Greece, a nice home for a painter of mythological paintings. Margot calls him back, though, when she learns from Janice about the investigation Anna has started. Hence his sudden appearance in Laemington Spa. He takes Robin to Warwick to get her away from the gallery — because Margot is there.

Margot is the “stocky, gray-bobbed woman in an Alice band” at the gallery. She yells at the gallery manager, “I told Shona that Long Itchington needs an accent light! You can barely see it, this corner’s so dark” (542). When Satchwell leaves the inner temple with Robin, he makes a point of stopping to speak with the exhibit host and to this artist before they go. “He even took fulsome leave of the disgruntled painter of Long Itchington, who scowled at him as he left” (547). He stops to talk with her in order to explain that he is going to be polite to the lady detective but throw her off the trail as well as get her out of Laemington Spa.

Rowling-Galbraith only tells us three things about this older woman: she wears an Alice band, she has been to Long Itchington, and she is very serious about light and darkness. One at a time —

  • In the US we call an Alice band a hairband or headband. It has its name from Alice in Wonderland because the girl in the Tenniel drawings wears one. Alice, of course, is a heroine who disappears down a rabbit hole and through a looking glass only to re-appear later.
  • Long Itchington is perhaps the dead center of the United Kingdom; it is in the West Midlands, Warwickshire. Its name perhaps suggests an itch that someone longs to scratch, certainly Margot’s situation if there is any chance she can safely communicate with her daughter. The town also used to be the end of the railroad line that stretched from the Midlands to Laemington Spa. I think Rowling chose this town, though, because it is in the only district of Warwickshire that her readers might know about (forgive me, West Midlands readers!), namely, Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace and home away from London of William Shakespeare. Strike met with Shanker at the Shakespeare’s Head pub in ch 27; I suspect Margot has been doing an in-disguise act out of any number of Shakespeare comedies all these years in the Bard’s backyard. In a novel suffused with the supernatural, astrological, alchemical, and divinatory, what better place to hide than the English fount of all such writing? (Remember that the story begins in Devon, birthplace of Agatha Christie, where Robin is tracking down a bigamist named Campion. We have our birthplace clue right at the start.)
  • And the accent light she wants! On the Horns page, as Robin calls it, the upper left corner, the first place the eye goes to read a text, even one as bizarre as this, has John 1:5 on it: “Note St John’s cross ‘And the Light shineth in Darkness and the Darkness comprehended it not’ St John 1:5.” “I told Shona that Long Itchington needs an accent light! You can barely see it, this corner’s so dark” (542). The note to the police telling them to dig at the St John’s Cross to find Margot? I have to think that was Wilma Bayliss who saw something, someone, buried beneath the Phipps’ summer house. Regardless, the scriptural passage appearing just before the stocky woman with light issues is another pointer to “the disgruntled painter of Long Itchington” in the Laemington Spa gallery. “Shona” is the female equivalent in Hebrew of “John.”

I’m curious about Janice and her trip to Dubai. Robin asks Satchwell who told him that Roy “had a stick up his arse and was a bit of a mummy’s boy.” That would be Janice in her exact accent. Satchwell’s response to her sharing Ramage’s Laemington Spa story is that of a man who feels all his security has just evaporated; if Margot is found and the story gets out, he clearly believes he will be marked for acid in the face or the shot in the head due enemies of the Riccis. Until he learns about what Janice, “the nurse,” has told Robin, he believes he and Margot are still safe. I hope Janice has an exit plan after Dubai, if she ever went to Dubai. Is she not a nurse?

(5) Robin’s Tarot Reading and Talbot’s Horn Page: Back to the Thoth Tarot Deck

Robin impulsively does a quick tarot three card spread in her hotel room before turning in for sleep. She has just taken a look at what she calls the “Horns page” from the back of Talbot’s notebook. Forgive me for thinking his supernatural influence is acting on her. She complains to herself the next day after seeing a fountain that reminded her of an image on a Thoth Tarot card, “You’re getting like Talbot” (541, emphasis in the original). It turns out that there is an embedded Thoth Tarot card reading on the Horns page, perhaps akin to the one Robin attempts.

She knew from her exhaustive examination of his notes that Talbot had sometimes tried to see his way through the investigation by laying out just three cards: the first representing “the nature of the problem,” the second, “the cause,” and the third, “the solution.” (539)

We’ll get to her three card lay-out in a second. First, though, I want to look at the Horns page to see if there are three cards there that answer an important question about the case.

The single eye in the center of the triangle is identical to the third eye or God’s eye in the center of the forehead of The Devil Thoth Tarot card. The head with horns at the apex of the inverted triangle is Talbot’s copy of Lady Harris’ painting of The Fool trump card in this same deck. Just above his head is the word BAPHOMET in a hermaphrodite circle, one with both Mars and Venus markings. The booklet Robin has in her hotel room describes The Fool as the Baphomet (21). I think we can assume these cards, The Fool and the Devil, are represented in the image as significators; Talbot is trying to find the Baphomet or Essex Butcher. 

On the bottom left of the page, Talbot draws Aries horns and notes all the qualities of Satchwell’s horoscope and its several similarities with Aleister Crowley’s. Robin recalls these when driving with Satchwell and lists three (550). One she leaves out is ‘Aries 10 Pallas close to his Sun destined for him/ soulmate in 10th, she is his ambition.’ On the Day of Disappearance horoscope the Pallas asteroid symbol is defined as “the goddess of intelligence and justice” and it is in Capricorn; Talbot notes “SHE IS WITH BAPHOMET.” If Talbot’s notes are to be taken seriously, this is a pointer to Margot being with Satchwell, though he is not a Capricorn.

On the bottom right of the page, Talbot draws Taurus horns and Strike interprets the Detective Inspector’s notes as being about Wilma Bayliss, a Taurus in conventional astrology but Aries according to Schmidt (Talbot draws a line with his sharpie and arrow pointing to the Satchwell side of the triangle and its description of Aries). The Taurus description, though, begins with “The Hierophant/(Taurus) secretive/.” The Hierophant is a major trump card in the Tarot deck. The Thoth Tarot card for the Hierophant has a lotus flower halo around the figure’s head which is identical to the one with a ‘V’ in it on the Horn Page (The Hierophant is trump card 5 or ‘V’).

In the upper right corner of the triangle next to the symbol for Venus, Talbot wrote “The Emperor = (Aries), sudden, violent activity Crowley equates Baphomet.” The circle above the horns on the chart and just to the left of this description has a multi-dimensional star inside it akin to the ones found on the top of Christmas trees. This image is found on the Thoth Tarot deck’s Emperor card to his right and left. It is set within a ball or orb topped by a cross, the image of the ball in the Emperor’s left hand, an astrological glyph of the Earth.

The last tarot major trump card named is Lust/Babalon. Talbot adds ‘yet of this own poison do they perish.’ The Thoth deck image has spheres that Talbot draws a copy of just beneath the triangle with the Devil goat’s eye. I could not find a card in the Thoth deck with an image of a zebra circle inside a circle opposite the Hierophant lotus flower circle.

From top to bottom, then, Talbot’s three cards, if the Horns page is meant to be a record of a Tarot spread as well as Satchwell’s horoscope (?), are The Emperor (Aries, IV), Lust (Leo, XI), and The Hierophant (Taurus, V). In Robin’s three card formula, the first would represent the nature of the problem, the second the cause, and the third the solution. I confess to having failed to connect the three into any kind of coherent answer to the question of whodunnit or what happened.

Robin draws the Prince of Cups, the Four of Cups, and the Two of Cups. She reads the descriptions for these cards in Crowley’s Book of Thoth but does not even attempt an interpretation or to think if this was answer to a question or a pictorial representation of her position, near future, Margot, whatever. Please take your best shot at deciphering these images in Talbot’s True Book and Robin’s bedspread.

Me? I think the cards Robin pulls are inspiration from beyond about Paul Satchwell, the problem she will face in the immediate future in Laemington Spa. Robin correctly intuits she has pulled all water cards because she is in a spa town. Satchwell is the Prince of Cups, “an artist in all his ways,” whom the booklet Robin says she has is about “steam of water,” i.e., the man she will meet in the steam room.

The Four of Cups card is in the “cause” position of this spread, so his motivation is primarily now about money. Who paid for his trip to the UK from Greece and to his bring his paintings along as alibi? The people in the studio are the obvious answers. Margot and her doting husband. Who is Shona, “a young woman in black”? It could be the daughter of that marriage if she married late, or a grand-daughter. If she is in her late teens or early twenties, she would be young enough to be a child born to the forty year old love child of Margot and Satchwell. The Two of Cups is the “solution” to the Satchwell mystery; as the Satchwell horoscope told Talbot, the insubstantial artist of steam has never loved anyone as he did Margot Bamborough, his Brunhilda “soulmate.”

“Bullocks” is what my inner Strike voice says. But the one-eyed man in the inner temple steam room is not whom he seems and Rowling-Galbraith has to have inserted this reading for a reason.

The cards that Talbot embedded on the Horns Page are probably as important. All are major trumps — perhaps a joke Rowling-Galbraith inserts about Talbot at this point in his investigation “not playing with a full deck”! If the Devil and Fool card are significators for the Baphomet rather than drawn cards, if it is a three card series as Robin suggests was Talbot’s habit (535), if the “motifs” copied from the cards on this drawing are from the tarot cards he has pulled and which he names, again, as Robin says was Talbot’s wont (ibid), and if the three I have identified are in the right sequence, then “the nature of the problem” is The Emperor (Aries), the “cause” of the problem is “Lust/Babalon”(Leo) and the solution is “The Hierophant” (Taurus).

The Emperor card, according to the three interpretations in the Thoth Card booklet Robin has (pages 8, 21, 40) the themes of government and esoteric wisdom. The twin rams behind him and the Agnus Dei (St John 1:29) at his feet are the front and back of Aries’ power in the world, power represented by the orb of Earth he holds in one hand and ram headed staff in the other. The esoteric truths undergirding this power are represented in the multi-dimensional or radiant star symbols to the left and right of his seat, the bees on his jacket (“the Secret Doctrines in the Indian Upanishads,” 40), and the heraldic twin headed eagle “alchemical sulphur” (40) or “the Red Tincture of the Alchemists, which is of the nature of Gold” 21).

That we learn about this card — see a mention and emblem of it, at least, in the Horns page — just before Robin’s interview with Paul Satchwell and that the card is of a one-eyed man whom the Horns page tells us is Satchwell-Aries, makes the most obvious interpretation that this is Satchwell, artist of violent mythological events, i.e., abuses of supernatural power The single eye of the Horns page and horned fool, markers of the Baphomet which play out in Satchwell’s appearance at The RoebuckInn also suggest that page from Talbot’s notebook is about Satchwell.

The card in the “cause of the problem” position is “Lust/Babalon” (‘yet of their own poison do they perish’). This major trump card is an explosion of images, cf., booklet pages 9, 23, 41). A naked women whose face is not visible rides a seven headed lion-serpent. In her left hand she holds a rein that controls the Beast and in her right a cup or “impregnated womb” (41). Horns approach the mouth of this womb or cup, which radiates light rays ending in orbs that touch the end of each antler. The Beast walks on the “bloodless figures of the saints” (23) “to whom this path towards Union is an empty dream” (43). 

The mythic quality of this card and the horns again point to Satchwell. The woman riding the Beast if this is true would be Margot, the woman whose face we cannot see (she has disappeared!). She controls Satchwell via his lust, love or fear of exposure (the “pillow dream”) and is pregnant or the cause of her problem is a pregnancy. It should be noted that what the Thoth deck calls “Lust” is in most tarot decks called “Strength;” if this is Margot, she is not a victim. She is, however, subject to the power of Leo, the Serpent-Lion, whom Talbot in Strike’s Symbol Key, tags as Dr Dinesh Gupta, Willy Lomax, and the Ricci godfather don. Shanker is afraid of the latter; they’re the cause of Margot’s disappearance and it turns on the matter of a pregnancy.

“The Hierophant” is “the solution” card. The relevant booklet pages are 8, 21-22, and 40. This is a crowded card, the most image-laden of the three. I’m going to go with the relatively conventional summary for card readings at the beginning of the booklet:

V. The Hierophant. Divine wisdom. Inspiration. Stubborn strength. Toil. Persistence. Teaching. Help from superiors. Patience. Organization. Peace. Goodness of Heart. Occult force voluntarily invoked.

The card has a child, a baby, enclosed by a pentagram over the Hierophant’s chest. A picture of pregnancy? I think the “solution” to the problem of Margot’s disappearance is that she chose the path of sacrificial love to protect her living daughter, a path in which she has “persisted” and “endured” for decades because the evil she protects herself and loved ones from persist. Margot is wise, heroic, and living in hiding. If Robin would listen to the cards rather than her preconceptions of ‘horny’ men like Paul Satchwell, she might see this. Good luck with that.

A simpler “solution” to the Hierophant card is reading it as a representation of the only priest in the novel, the Reverend Oonaugh Kennedy.

Talbot reads the Hierophant, though, as a pointer to Wilma Bayliss, Taurus in his first reading, one corrected to Aries by Schmidt. The cut-right-to-it interpretation of the card is that Talbot, crazy as he was, got this right — and the solution to the mystery will only become apparent when we learn from one of her children what the clean-up woman knew. It wouldn’t be a great surprise, would it, if she knew all the trash going on at the Clerkenwell clinic and helped Margot, the Pearl of Great Price, take it out? It seems Margot did all she could to help Wilma make a transition as great as her own from Bunny Girl to General practitioner, that is, Janitor to Social Worker. Might she have been the person, through her husband’s underworld sources, who learned that the Riccis were about to kill Margot or send a message to her through violent harm to her family?

(6) The Real Center: Clocks, Statues, and Crosses: Symbolism and Psychology, Bolelyn and Brunhilda

The end of Part Four chapters are only barely a ‘center’ of the book. If the theory that Rowling reveals the murderer or chief bad guy in the very center of the book, we’re left with two better options than our time in Laemington Spa’s gallery and the Roebuck Inn, as helpful as they are in seeing Satchwell as the person who made possible Margot’s disappearance, the Baphomet, if also suggesting that, like The Devil tarot card, he is not the principal Black Hat or even a bad guy at all — however despicable he may be. The two better options are the story turn for Part Four, the center of the central Part, chapter 39, or the true center of the 73 chapter work as a whole, chapter 37. Robin has a dream about Cynthia in the madhouse beginning of chapter 39, but the chapter (see Take-Away #2 above) is a grab bag of persons and subjects — staff meeting! Amazon boxes! — culminating in Rokeby’s first spoken words to Strike in the series thus far. Chapter 37 is a better bet.

Before we go there, however, we need to take a much closer look at chapters 35 and 36, the interviews with the Phipps that set us up for the story-turn and the pointer to the principal bad guy.

Let’s start with Robin’s tell all about all the symbolism in Troubled Blood, the artistry and what Beatrice Groves calls “specularity — three dimensional shading” of Strike 5. Strike plays the foil of skeptic to her defense of the super-rational and noumenal.

“Well, I think there’s a kind of poetry to astrology… I’m not saying it works, but there’s a kind of symmetry to it, an order…”

“It makes a kind of — not literal sense, … but It’s survived for a reason.”…

“Jung says [astrology] was man’s first attempt at psychology, did you know that?”…

“Folklore and superstition haven’t gone away. They’ll never go away. People need them…. I think a purely scientific world would be a cold place. Jung also talked about the collective unconscious, you know. The archetypes lurking in all of us.”…

“People like feeling connected to something bigger…. I think it makes you feel less lonely. Astrology connects you to the universe, doesn’t it? And to ancient myths and ideas…” (396-397)

What prompted this defense of astrology — and it’s half-hearted, isn’t it? Robin is also ‘Team Rational’ — was Robin responding to Strike’s “expression of mingled surprise and annoyance” on seeing the Hampton Court “enormous, ornate sixteenth-century astronomical clock of blue and gold” with its “signs of the zodiac” represented by both glyphs and pictures (396). Rowling-Galbraith ends their conversation with the appearance of a woman in the costume of Anne Bolelyn, Cynthia Phipps.

Yes, I think we’re meant to read that outfit as a telling sign of who Cynthia Phipps is. As Strike says about Cynthia later, “She lived with [the disappearance of Margot Bamborough] for forty years…People who live wityh something that massive stop being able to see it. It’s the backdrop of their lives. It’s only glaringly obvious to everyone else” (411). What Rowling-Galbraith hits us with Cynthia at first look is that she is Anne Bolelyn, the woman for whom King Henry VIII sought to have his first marriage annulled, a debacle of lust become political and ecclesiological crisis that reshaped the lives of everyone in the United Kingdom. We are supposed to see right off that Roy Phipps, roi meaning ‘king’ in French, wanted to be rid of Margot to marry his much more domestic and attentive third-cousin. It doesn’t mean that this is what happened but all the representations are “glaringly obvious.” Only ‘Team Rational’ overlooks this symbolism.

The same is true for the Brunhilda statuette. Read the Wagnerian version of the Brunhild legend. It is the story of a Valkyrie who marries a man who is not her equal and who gains her hand and robs her of her greatest strength under false pretenses. She commits suicide after insuring the man responsible for her deception has been punished. The “glaringly obvious” messaging of Satchwell giving this to Margot is to call her away from the husband who is unworthy of her as well as to call her to a suicide or at least her disappearance, a death of the person she has been.

We see the St John Cross in Clerkenwell, at Hampton Court, and in the Broom House estate’s summer-house granite floor. Talbot reads a tarot card spread called ‘the Celtic Cross’ which is identical in symbolism to St John’s. St John’s Gospel and symbols from Revelation appear in the True Book and the tarot cards mentioned in its pages. The police file includes an anonymous letter that says, “If you want to know where Margot Bamborough is buried, dig here” (151). The letter ends with a St John’s cross.

Which brings us to the confrontation scene in chapter 36 at Broom House.

The conversation at Broom House is a farce in two acts with an intermission. The first act features the furious Roy and Cynthia reviewing in some detail the events of the barbecue Margot had planned as an occasion to win the good will of Dr Brenner, who did not come. They move on to a discussion of a supposed Margot sighting in Warwick, home of Paul Satchwell, which topic leads to a bitter back-and-forth between father and daughter about her accusation when she was a young teen that he had killed Margot and buried her under the koi pond. Exeunt Omnes for an intermission, one that allows Robin and Strike to note the St John’s Cross on the floor of the gazebo, an ormulu clock with secret drawer, and a statue of Asceplius.

All return. They review evidence. Roy talks about the Brunhilda statuette he found in Margot’s office things. Roy breaks down finally while talking about the threatening note Margot had received for “facilitating promiscuity behind the back of parents,” a threat that recalled his inability to protect her because he was a “useless… bloody… bleeder.” Anne and Cynthia rush to comfort him after he confesses to giving his wife the silent treatment which led to her taking a long walk on which Creed got her. Kim walks Robin and Cormoran to the door and says what has happened is “well, close to a miracle.” The chapter closes with pointed discussion about the St John’s Cross on the floor of the summer house.

The cross, the clock, and the statue, the whole of Broom House, are meaningful. That the chapter is composed as an a-b-c-b-a chiasmus with the meaning-in-the-middle center being the intermission in which Robin and Strike discover and discuss all three highlight their importance

The place has not changed one bit since Margot disappeared, for one thing, other than removal of the little evidence she had ever lived there. Why has time stopped at Broom House? Check out the clock.

The ormulu clock has a secret drawer for messages, a method of communication that Cynthia claimed in her first police statement she knew nothing about until the night of Margot’s disappearance. Roy asked her to check if there was a message in the clock. Was he looking for her response to his reply to the last message she sent begging him to talk to her? Did Cynthia intercept one of those notes? The cover of Troubled Blood is an astrological clock with symbolic or interior meaning; the attentive reader is called to look for the message inside the clock.

And the statue of Asceplius… When Strike learns that one of the two new astrological signs that Schmidt introduces in Astrology 14 is Ophiucus, he recalls the statue at Broom House of Asceplius and his snakes, the god of healing. Talbot’s notes mark Roy Phipps as being the Troubled Blood character born under this constellation. Not much of a stretch, his being a hematologist.

The conversation, as noted, starts out with a bizarrely detailed review of the barbecue. Roy is still angry with Margot after all this time because he believes the Oakden boy broke a valuable art deco decanter and stole a bottle of vodka to spike the punch. Roy believes this joy juice is what made Gloria Conti so sick that she threw up in the bathroom. Cynthia adds the telling story of finding Irene upstairs in the house going through Margot’s wardrobe. What’s going on?

I’m confident that the Oakden masculinist will remember things quite differently. He may have broken the valuable punch bowl with a cricket ball but he didn’t steal the vodka or spike the drink with it. Gloria Conti was probably throwing up due to morning sickness. Roy breaks down in the end when talking about the threatening note from an angry parent because Margot “facilitated the promiscuity” of their daughter. Gloria’s parents aren’t your neighborhood Karen and Ken; my bet is they are the Ricci family or relations within the syndicate. I’ll stretch from there to say Irene’s Eddy is also a mafioso — and the plan was on to destroy the Phipps and move in to Broom House. Irene wasn’t just being “nosy;” she was checking out the mansion where she hoped to live.

Okay, that’s more than a little over the top. But if Gloria was pregnant because she didn’t use the birth control pills Margot had prescribed for her without telling her parents, that might explain the appointment at the abortion clinic — and Margot’s need to escape lest she or her family be punished by the Conti-Riccis.

The blood on the floor of Broom House that Wilma reported? I doubt very much that it was, as Roy claims, “menstrual” flow. We are all but promised in chapter 37, the true center, that we will eventually have a meeting with Gloria Conti, now Madame Jaubert (“God’s Peace“?), and Maya Bayliss (Maya!) and I think we will learn from them what happened at Broom House the week of Margot’s disappearance, what made her think she was going out of her mind. Wilma seems to have covered for Margot whose secret she knew but done her best to point the police at Mr Phipps to get them to discover what he had done.

Chapter 37! The big event of the center chapter, overlooking the face covering antics inside the mysterious Dean residence, is Strike’s phone conversation with Irene Hickson, nee Bull. She repeats there the story that Gwilhelm Apton told Dorothy Oakden that he had killed Margot. We learn in Strike’s interview that Apton told his wife he might have killed someone with his magic by mistake and “then the magic took her away.” He dies quite suddenly soon after and his body is found under a bridge. I’m going to speculate that he saw something happen to Margot (while pretending to be sleepwalking? See the bloodied Magus page), imagined he was responsible somehow, and was silenced before he or someone he told about it figured out what had happened. Uncle Tudor’s conviction that “Nico and his boys killed” Margot probably reflects both the awareness on the streets that the Riccis were gunning for Margot and his understanding of how his brother died.

I don’t think Gwilhelm killed Margot. I’d guess instead that Irene told her Eddy or Gloria’s family about what Margot was teaching their daughter which led to the threatening note(s) from the family and Margot’s decision to vanish with the help of Wilma, Janice, and Satchwell.

Irene is determined in her two conversations with Strike to run down Janice Beattie as much as possible, though Beattie is unbelievably solicitous to this friend who contradicts and talks over her when not ordering her about. Satchwell’s suggestion to Robin at the Roebuck Inn, Warwick, that Janice’s claim to be a nurse was a lie or not her principal way of living may be supported by one of Samhairn’s comments about a story his uncle told him, the one he remembers as “Old Betty and the one who wouldn’t pay.” If “Betty” is how he recalls “Beattie” and Janice was working in some role for the Ricci sex trafficking syndicate, all sorts of possibilities open up.

Supposing Janice did help Margot disappear; she might then feel obliged to keep in good graces and in contact with Irene to be sure the Riccis are not hunting her vanished friend. Similarly, if Irene suspects Margot knows her connection with the sex industry mob bosses and Margot’s disappearance, she’ll want to be sure that she always knows what Janice is up to. Her care to be sure that Robin and Strike are not told about her fight with Margot at the office Christmas party about her boyfriend is evidence of that possibility, as is Janice’s eager compliance to support the deceit. I worry that Janice’s performance – and her trying to share the Ramage sighting in Laemington Spa with Strike and not Irene has meant her demise. The great effort to link Janice with Douthwaite, whom we are supposed to think killed Julie Wilkes after she spoke with Oakden for his book, and to convince Strike that “Duckworth” is gay seem an attempt to cast suspicion on two innocents and distract the investigation from herself.

My guess based on the structure, that is, the hypothesis that Rowling-Galbraith reveals the bad guy or gal in the story center, is that the young Irene Bull, the only horned animal in the cast of characters, is the Baphomet.

(7) Embedded Text: Astrology 14

Rowling writes about texts and about the struggle to understand narratives, written and unwritten. She embeds published texts and has her characters struggle with the stories they’re told as well as these books to get at the truth. Part Four is largely about symbols and the written texts of DI Talbot who was consumed by astrology, the tarot, and occult paths. It also includes a book that Talbot discovered during his investigation of Margot Bamborough’s disappearance, a book, Astrology 14 by Steven Schmidt, that changed the narrative he was writing about this missing person’s case.

Irene Bull is born under the Cetus astrological sign that Schmidt introduces to the traditional zodiac in Astrology 14. During Robin’s time in the hotel room at Laemington Spa, a moment of unparalleled occult inspiration, she discovers the Schmidt book. We are told this is the book which Talbot used to correct his original assignment of suspects with astrological glyphs for their sun signs.

I have a copy of the book, believe it or not, and can share here his chart of the fourteen sun signs as well as what Schmidt says is characteristic of Cetus and Ophiucus personalities, Irene and Roy, respectively. the chart first:

That’s quite the shift! I’ll leave it to y’all to figure out how this changes Talbot’s understanding, the Sharpie changes to his previous charts being the guide. I agree with Strike that this kind of shift “would make a crazy man crazier” (538). Here is what Schmidt says about those born with their sun in Cetus:

The children of Cetus often seem unsure of themselves. Many of them are extremely charming, though headstrong. If you give one advice, he or she will listen politely, and usually without disagreement, but will end up doing exactly what he would have done anyway – so save yourself the trouble? People born under Cetus like themselves, as a rule, and are very much aware of their charm and its effect upon others. Thy usually appear to be uruffled by their surroundings. Unlike Scorpio, Cetus can function efficiently despite noise, confusion and conflicting demands on this time. Thus they are able to maintain a certain detachment by not associating too closely with others and their problems. On the other hand, they are in their element when surrounded by interesting people and love being in the limelight. (p.51)

Schmidt concludes that Cetus folk do not make good politicians but are excellent actors. Irene? I don’t see it, but I’m now a Libra and that will shock many of those who know me. Talbot, though, seems to have had another source for Cetus characteristics. He writes on the Celtic Cross page next to the fish symbol:
The monster Cetus, Leviathan, the biblical whale/ Superficial charm, evil in depths/ Headstrong, enjoys spotlight/ A performer, a liar.
There’s Irene! What about the other new sign, Ophiuchus?

The children of Ophiuchus seem to be born for center stage. They make fine entertainers – especially where music is involved – and tend to versatility rather than specialization.

Not all Ophiuchans can go into show business, of course, but this trait can tell us something about those destined to be housewives or accountants. You can’t succeed in the entertainment world without talent, and talent in its turn denotes sensitivity – a strong quality of Scorpio, some of which seems to have “spilled over” to affect its neighbor in the Zodiac. Ophiuchans are very sensitive people; this is what makes them shine in the performing arts, and this is what can make their life a hell if their pattern of existence doesn’t enable them to express their sensitivity and talent. Ophiuchan teen-agers, for example, are terribly misunderstood by their elders, and Ophiuchan housewives and salesmen often end up on a psychoanalyst’s couch (or should). (pp.90,91)

Schmidt concludes, again, that those born in this sign, whatever their vocation, should take up one of the arts. If we’re supposed to make a connection between Roy Phipps and this sign, the only one I’m getting is the Asceplius one, which is to say, he’s a doctor who plays with snakes.

(8) Troubled Blood Ring Story Turn: Parts One and Four Correspondences

In the first three Take-Aways for Part Four, I discussed the ring structure of the book’s central part. If the novel as a whole is a ring, though, the fourth part will resonate with the first and seventh. I haven’t read the fifth, sixth, or seventh yet (ouch!) but we have discussed Part One. Here are a quick list of ten parallels between Parts One and Four in Troubled Blood:

  • They open in reverse echoes, both in Cornwall. Part One begins with Strike at the Victory with Dave Polworth. He tells his sister in chapter 4 that he only went because Uncle Ted all but forced him to. Part Four begins in Cornwall but here Uncle Ted is forced to the Victory with Dave so Cormoran can talk with his Aunt.
  • The center of each has Strike yelling at his closest blood relations. In Part One it is the knock down exchange of unpleasantries between Strike and his half-sister Lucy. Rokeby calls Strike in the heart of Part Four and Strike unleashes 39 years of unpleasantries suppressed.
  • Anna Phipps and Dr Kim Sullivan meet with Strike and Robin in Part One and decide to hire them to re-open the cold case of Anna’s mother’s disappearance. They say the Phipps family is off limits for interviews. We get those interviews as well as a memorable time with Anna and Kim at the Broom House in Part Four.
  • The axis of the two Parts is the same, namely, Aunt Joan’s cancer and Cornwall family. The one-four-seven story axis for Part One is Aunt Joan’s cancer with its attendant family issues and revelations. Strike thinks about Joan and her cancer in chapter one, chapter four is in her home and the Big Event is Strike’s unpleasant but revealing conversation with his biological half-sister in the Nancarrow garden, and Strike relates this conversation to Robin in the Subway interlude in chapter seven, its central part. Part Four has its beginning and end in Cornwall about and attending the funeral and its center drama turns on striking hearing from Uncle Ted that Joan is about to die and he needs to get to St Mawes.
  • Part One features Dave Polworth illustrating and Robin explaining Social Identity Theory. Part Four has Polworth and Barclay both talking about independence movements within the UK (cf., Polworth in the Victory, chapter 44).
  • Part One, chapter one has Dave Polworth on his birthday explaining to Strike via Anna Karenina that a man needs to be married so he doesn’t have to work so hard for sex or in doing chores. In Part Four, chapter forty eight, Strike insults Polworth’s wife and her friend and we see Polworth treat his children like baggage.
  • Strike tells Lucy her boy Luke is a “complete arsehole” in Troubled Blood’s Part One, chapter four. In the last chapter of Part Four, he yells at Luke and tells Polworth the boy is a “little shit.”
  • The genesis of the cold case re-opening is Anna taking seriously the advice and predictions of a medium she consulted about her mother’s disappearance. Strike talks about feeling the presence of his late mother in the garden, Part One, chapter four. There are no medium predictions in Part Four except the fortune teller who told Joan she would have no children, but it is loaded with occult texts and invitations to take seriously divinatory messages from the psychic realm.
  • Strike makes some serious reflections about his mother, Leda, in Parts One and Four. In his argument with Lucy, he allows that his half-sister was more right than wrong in thinking their biological mother wasn’t the best, if he still refuses to choose between Leda and Joan. In Part Four, he tells Joan he is her son, whatever the gypsy told her, and expresses his real break with his mother when he realizes the college students he despised at Max’s dinner were just like her (chapters 31, 42).
  • I’m going to count the embedded hat-tip to Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham (Devon and Campion) in Part One, chapter two, and the Long Itchington pointer to Stratford-on-Avon and the Bard in Leamington Spa.

Are there more? I’m sure. But these ten are enough to check the box for the series ring composition characteristic ‘Beginning-Middle assonance.’

(9) Troubled Blood Ring: Part Seven Predictions — Raging Cormoran with Rokeby (Phoenix)

Having shown that Parts One and Four of Troubled Blood align, what happens just before or in Part Seven, the novel’s two chapter epilogue, should be foreshadowed in events in Part Four. Here are fifteen quick resolutions to story strands that were ‘live’ in Part Four:

  • The Polworths, Penny and Dave, separate or divorce. Nick and Ilsa go the same route or try again to conceive a child (or adopt).
  • Shanker is killed by the Riccis, either protecting Strike and Robin or in a hit, “shot in the fuckin’ head,” the mob contracts to send a message to Strike.
  • We learn what was in the Amazon delivery to the Dean residence that Robin mentions in chapter 39.
  • We meet with Anna and Kim — and the Long Itchington painter in the Alice hairband?
  • Rokeby steps up to help Strike fight the Riccis after the Shanker hit; they begin to get at “the heart of a lot of things” Joan said their meeting will reveal.
  • Talbot’s tarot card reading that points to Roy Phipps being responsible for Margot’s disappearance, the Prince of Swords, will play out.
  • Irene Bull will be arrested.
  • Dr Brenner’s madness and drug addiction (and ties to the sex industry mob?) will be revealed and explained.
  • Robin and Matt will be officially divorced; Saul Morris and Pat’s relationship with Matt will be revealed (and both fired).
  • What is buried under the St John’s Cross in the Phipps’ summer house will be disinterred; I’m guessing it will be an aborted child, Gloria Conti’s, the death of which resulted in blood on the floor of Broom House.
  • We will learn what Gwilhelm Apton saw that made him think his magic had killed Margot and how this led to his being murdered.
  • Douthwaite/Duckworth’s death, I don’t think he makes it to the finish, will be explained.
  • Dennis Creed makes a cameo in which he explains the pleasure he gets from all the people who think he tortured and killed their family members, women he never heard of or encountered.
  • Margot or Satchwell explains to Robin what really happened in Leamington Spa and Warwick.
  • Oonaugh Kennedy learns the truth she has prayed to know since the day of the disappearance.

Most of all I’m looking for an Order of the Phoenix parallel here to play out, namely Shanker dying as did Sirius Black, and Rokeby standing in for Dumbledore after that death. So far, all things point to that. Every time someone mentions or there is an encounter with Rokeby in the first four Parts of Troubled Blood, Strike has the “snake within” anger rise up in him so he is angry, CAPS LOCK furious, and beyond all reasoning. Rokeby doing what he can to find out how to get the Riccis and Strike finally learning that Rokeby is expected to die in the coming year will bring them together. But, oh, what ablow-out at their first meeting! Another Harry destroys everything in the room encounter…

(10) Cormoran Strike Series Ring: Strike7 Predictions

If I’m right that Margot survives or that she sacrificed herself to save her family and friends from the mafia, I think we will have to revisit the assumption that Leda was murdered and her suicide was faked. The Order of the Phoenix revelation of Trelawney’s Prophecy equivalent in Troubled Blood may be Rokeby’s explanation to Strike of the very dangerous people that Leda knew information about which they would not want anyone to know.

If I’m wrong about Margot, well, I look forward to reading the ending of Troubled Blood at last. Thank you to anyone who has read this post to the end, the longest post ever at HogwartsProfessor I think, and for sharing your thoughts on Part Four in the comment boxes below.

I am taking the day off from posting tomorrow in order to give a talk on Ring Composition here in Oklahoma, See you Sunday with my Top Ten Take-Aways from Part Five of Troubled Blood

Day One, Part One: Charting the First Seven Chapters of Troubled Blood

Day Two, Part Two: Top Ten Take Aways for Chapters Eight to Fourteen of Troubled Blood

Day Three, Part Three: Top Ten Take-Aways for Chapters Fifteen to Thirty of Troubled Blood

Day Four, Part Four: Top Ten Take-Aways for Chapters Thirty One to Forty Eight of Troubled Blood


Day One, Part One: The Spenserian Epigraphs of the Pre-Released Troubled Blood Chapters

Day Two, Part Two: The Spenserian Epigraphs of  Troubled Blood Chapters Eight to Fourteen

Day Three, Part Three: The Spenserian Epigraphs of Troubled Blood Chapters Fifteen to Thirty

Day Four, Part Four: The Spenserian Epigraphs of Troubled Blood Chapters Thirty One to Forty Eight


  1. Not quite to the end of four yet (today’s task, along with 5, now having a little more time), but I think I may have noticed a series-wide pattern. Rowling signals the murderer by the only direct mention in the given book of a descendent of Atlas (the family of Hermes on his mother Maia’s side), or their equivalent in other mythologies in the very near vicinity to the first on-stage appearance of the murder. In CC, a statue of Freddy Mercury appears within a couple pages of the end of our introduction to Bristow. In SW, our first introduction to Tassel is in the context of a dog described as Anubis (one of the two Egyptian counterparts to Hermes). In CoE, our introduction to Laing is in the context of a boxing (!) match with Cormoran in which he is compared to Atlas. In Lethal White, the murderer is named after the archangel who in the book of Tobit disguises himself to help a merchant’s family by the use of magical fish and uniting central characters (Tobias and Sarah) in marriage (a Hermes figure if ever I’ve seen one). TB, first among all of this series, includes multiple references to the Atlanteans: Ma(i/y)a, Thoth, and, in a first for the whole series, “Hermes” directly (421). The statue of Hermes appears in the chapter where we see Roy in person for the first time, now my primary suspect. Nice parallel to CC in having the reference be to a statue of Hermes/Mercury (also direct parallel in having it be a direct reference to Hermes, rather than Egyptian/Atlantean/Biblical). The Thoth Tarot is first mentioned in the context of a general summary of the case (so less helpful).

  2. I love your posts about Strike, Rowling and the names she uses. I thought it might be interesting to highlight – as I don’t think anyone on here has spotted but apologies if I have missed it – something that occurred to me, who grew up in Leamington and was delighted to see it mentioned and Robin visit!
    The name Satchwell has significance to us locals – one of the founders of the town of Royal Leamington Spa (how I laughed at the description of the Queen Victoria statue outside the Town Hall on the Parade, incidentally) has the surname Satchwell, something I learned in primary school up the road but there is a Wetherspoons pub named after him.
    Keep up the good work! I am getting so much more out of these already fascinating books by reading your articles.

  3. Embarrassing – I somehow didn’t notice you’d included this titbit. Nevertheless, great stuff!

  4. The woman with the Alice band is described as stocky, so even if she gained weight I don’t think Margot would ever be described that way.

  5. I found something that might be of interest concerning structure, it’s an interesting happenstance if nothing else. In Chapter 13 Robin is meeting Strike to walk the path from the medical practice to the pub. Robin observes it is the first time they will be working together on the Bamborough case, signaling a beginning. When she arrives Strike is already there.

    “Am I late?” she called, as she approached. “No,” said Strike, “I was early.”

    Then in Chapter 72, they are going together to see Anna, marking the end of the case. Once again they say,

    “Morning,” she said, as Strike hoisted himself into the passenger seat. “Am I late?” “No, I was early.”

    The halfway point of this beginning and ending is Chapter 42 and within that chapter is the phone call with Clare Spencer, the social worker, aka Janice. Chapters 42 and 43 also signal a change when Strike recognizes the difference between his relationship with Robin relative to other women and apologizes.

    The case was solved by the time of the second “am I late” conversation so they can’t be used as markers for identifying the killer, but do you think their placement was significant?

  6. In brief, ‘Yes, this sort of echo across the story axis is a good sign of parallelism.’

    You’re thinking like a ring-reader!

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