Troubled Blood: Strike’s Transformation

Troubled Blood is largely the story of Strike’s beginning to come to terms with the facts of his conception and birth. At least ten circumstances, events, and revelations spur and foster his having to deal with his ‘daddy issues.’ Readers attentive to psychological as well as alchemical meanings leave the book having had something of a catharsis alongside Cormoran; he learns in Strike 5 that he has been largely driven by unconscious forces, most notably the internalized rage he feels about the injustice of his father’s neglect and the shame he feels about his conception’s “accidental” quality.

If Troubled Blood echoes in important ways the chief take-aways of Order of the Phoenix and Career of Evil, a working hypothesis here at HogwartsProfessor, this is the most important parallel to both. In Career we learned about Whittaker and the circumstances of Leda’s death — and how much Strike’s psyche is pre-occupied with this problem. In Phoenix, Harry Potter is reduced to the prime matter of the first Trelawney Prophecy and his life’s destiny of confronting the wizard who murdered his parents, the Boy Who Lived’s defining moment. Troubled Blood is an alchemical alembic, a psychological crucible, in which the heat of events and the catalysts of circumstances conjoin to cause Cormoran’s like transformation.

Join me after the jump for a review of those ten story embedded elements that act as agents to the beginning of Strike’s psychological metamorphosis, his breakdown nigredo and first steps toward reintegration.

(1) The illness and death of Joan Nancarrow

The interior and exterior action and events of Troubled Blood all begin with the terminal illness and death of Cormoran Strike’s and Lucy Fantoni’s Aunt Joan. Strike is compelled by the obligation he feels to the Nancarrows in Cornwall to reflect on this relationship, that is, his being their son, and inevitably and in contrast, to reflect on his relationship with his biological parents, Leda Strike and Jonny Rokeby. Joan’s last two heart-to-heart meetings with her nephew-son, in which he is able to tell her that he considers her and Ted his proper mother and father and she tells him with her last words that she is proud of him, free him to look with the beginnings of objectivity at his suppressed feelings and understanding about his biological mum and pop.

 (2) A forty year old missing person case

Troubled Blood’s murder mystery, the thing Robin and Strike work all year to solve, is ‘What happened to Margot Bamborough?’ Her child left behind can no longer deal with the psychological pressure of not knowing if her mother loved her or not, if the doctor’s disappearance from her life was because Anna was expendable to her (I’ll leave it to those more bold than I to muse on the possibility that Anna ‘married’ a woman doctor to experience the love of the mother-physician who disappeared). As noted repeatedly in text, Margot’s disappearance happens in the year of Strike’s conception and birth, 1974. We are meant both to note that Strike is on a similar journey to discover the ‘missing person’ and absent parent of his life, Jonny Rokeby, and to ponder how Strike, in parallel with Anna Phipps, has psychologically compensated for what he perceives as the greatest injustice and unforgiveable failing, a parent who forsakes, abuses, or neglects his or her child.

(3) Ilsa Herbert’s miscarriage and Nick’s response

The turning point of Troubled Blood, the heart of Part Four, is Strike’s discovery of the Athorn mother and son in Clerkenwell just before the turn and the disastrous dinner party at Robin and Max’s flat. What makes the dinner party as momentous an event as it turns out to be for Strike and Robin is that both learn that day, Valentine’s Day, that Ilsa Herbert had a miscarriage; Robin texts and speaks with Ilsa and Strike drinks Nick back from the brink of divorce or self-harm (one has to doubt the fight with the college students at the party happens as it does except that Strike is drunk and in vino veritas). Robin and Strike’s mutual friends are in agony because they desperately want children, a child, and have pursued that end deliberately, earnestly, and consistently for years, which is to say, the one thing their off-spring could never feel would be that they were “accidental.” Add Brian Tucker’s decades long search for the body of his murdered daughter — time he feels she is owed — as one more shading with respect to devoted parenting that adds highlighting to Strike’s anger with his biological father for depriving him of this experience.

(4) The natal astrological underpinnings of Talbot’s True Book

Troubled Blood’s primary embedded text is DI Talbot’s True Book in which he wrote down his case notes within a web of tarot card readings and, most important, astrological reflections on the sun signs of suspects as they appear on the chart for the time and place of Margot Bamborough’s disappearance. Strike despises all things astrological, he says, claiming to be a proud member of “Team Reason,” but he is compelled to spend the greater part of Strike 5 immersed in the sacred science of natal astrology, which is to say, the means of understanding the influence one’s birth has on any person’s life. Conscious Cormoran has only disdain for this view, but sublimated Strike has to know in his deep self that his birth circumstances have largely set the course of his life’s choices. However much he says he hates star signs and the determinism of those who study the heavens to give meaning to their lives, he spends Robin’s 29th year, the year of Saturn Return, in reflection on the subject most likely to foster his realization of his own alogical reductionist fatalism consequent to the forces at play at his birth. 

(5) Charlotte’s contacts and suicide attempt

We witness in Troubled Blood the parallel uncouplings of Robin from Matt and Strike from Charlotte. The Cunliffe’s divorce is finalized in mediation and Strike changes his phone number so that Charlotte can no longer reach out to him via text or call. Both Robin and Strike, at their respective disengagements, remember and acknowledge the debt each owes to the first great loves of their lives — Matt for helping Robin recover from her having been raped and Charlotte for her appearance at the hospital and love for the wounded soldier. Strike repays his life-saving debt to Charlotte but elects deliberately and finally to cut off his relationship with a woman, whom he explains to Robin, like himself, feels her conception was unwanted, hence meaningless, and whose life is an unmoored search for unconditional love and meaning she cannot believe actually exists. Strike’s break with this view, his psychological conjunction with the beautiful Charlotte Campbell, is a defining moment of the book and series. Unlike Roy and Cynthia Phipps, whom Robin believes would not have married except for Margot’s disappearance, Strike chooses not to marry the woman who helped him overcome the agony of the IED explosion and his leg’s amputation. Their break-up turned on her dishonesty about a pregnancy, her inability to speak the truth about their child; she texts Strike from the clinic in Troubled Blood that she and Jago are divorcing because she will not have any more children.

(6) Sarah Shadlock’s “accidental” pregnancy and what it suggests about Leda and Jonny

Robin deduces at mediation and Matt affirms afterwards that the reason he has come to terms so quickly was because Sarah was pregnant and the divorce was necessary for Matt’s marriage to Sarah. Robin believes that Sarah has been playing a very “long game” to win Matt and that the pregnancy was no more “accidental” than her leaving the earing for Robin to find in the marital bed. Though neither Strike nor Robin connect the dots, Rowling-Galbraith leaves this story out in the open for the serious reader to reflect upon and connect the dots with the circumstances of Strike’s “accidental” conception, the repeated use of the word “accident” being the principal marker. Leda Strike may have been a “groupie” and anything but the model of calculated life planning for success, but the suggestion is made and repeated more than once that she made love to Jonny Rokeby (and the guitarist Rick Fantoni and who knows how many others) in hope of becoming pregnant and thereby forcing a marriage and gaining a life of financial security if not love or stability. As shameful as Robin finds this behavior in Sarah Shadlock, so Strike unconsciously but as certainly finds the circumstances of his conception and childhood.

That Rowling finds this behavior simultaneously natural and tragic, perhaps even somehow logical and admirable in abused women without options can be seen in Krystal Weedon’s decision to have unprotected sex with Fats Wall after being raped by Obbo in Casual Vacancy. Janice Beattie played the same gambit with Kevin’s father, also unsuccessfully and with consequences that eventually included Margot Bamborough’s murder. That Leda was in such a position and played this card haunts Strike to the point of creating his primary persona as Avenger of Wrongs.

(7) The constant proddings of his half-siblings and father to reconcile

Troubled Blood pivotal event, if the middle chapters of Strike 5 are, as noted, crowded, is Jonny Rokeby’s phone call to Cormoran in which he clumsily reaches out to his estranged son for some kind of meeting and reconciliation. Strike responds to this peace offering, specifically to the bribe offered by Rokeby, emotionally retarded by decades of fame and self-importance as he is, with rage. That call was not the first or the last attempt by the Rokeby family to reel Cormoran back into the fold; he equates their efforts to insect bites he refuses to scratch but which itch bothers him throughout the book. This is perhaps the most telling catalyst to his coming to terms with his “daddy issues;” it is the invitation to the party, after all, that Joan urges him to accept to get to the heart of his problems.

(8) Dinner at Max’s and his confrontation with Leda’s real children

As noted in #3 above, the first events after the story turn are Nick and Ilsa’s involuntary loss of their IVF child and the dinner party at Max and Robin’s house with Strike, Robin’s brother Jonathan, and his two friends from college. Strike, drunk and emotionally strained consequent to his time at the bar with the distraught Nick Herbert, not to mention the phone call from his biological father, has few social inhibitions left when the college students voice their puerile progressive views about how to advance women’s rights. He lays into them without reservation — and his inability not to pull his punches winds up wounding Robin inadvertently, a scene that will repeat itself later in the book. One of Strike’s reflections the next day, however, turns on his realization that the reason he feels such disdain for people with naïve and self-righteous political views they act out in public demonstrations that help no one is that they remind him of his biological mother Leda and her childish anti-authoritarian beliefs and bohemian life-posture. Strike is forced again, as he was in his conversations with the deathbed Joan, to come to terms with how little he has in common with Leda and how much he is, as Dave Polworth tells him in the novel’s opening chapter, a Nancarrow by rights and Western Man by nature and nurture.

(9) Oakden’s taunting Strike with the manner of his conception

Carl Oakden taunts Strike as he attempts to walk out of his interview with the wannabe biographer and Public Pundit of Misandry. He calls after him so everyone at the chic American Bar in the Stratford Hotel can hear that “You didn’t even know your own fucking father’s having a party round the corner. Not going to pop in, thank him for fucking your mother on a pile of beanbags while fifty people watched?” (716). Oakden gets exactly what he wanted — Strike comes undone and moves to punish the heel with a physical beating — but Robin intervenes sufficiently to deflect Strike’s first blow and to redirect Strike’s attention to having decked her. Strike’s control, barely maintained through all through the text messages and only briefly lost in his phone exchange with Rokeby and with the college students later that night, evaporates at the public exposure of his core secret and shame, his “accidental” and ignominious point of origin at a New York City posh party of the in-crowd. The genie is out of the bottle at last.

(10) Strike’s consequent ‘talking thing’ time with Robin in the Agency office

All the above come to a head after Robin takes an “accidental” blow to the nose from Strike’s elbow when he pulls it back to hit Oakden with a punch to the face. She is decked and all but knocked out by the blow. They retreat to the street and catch a taxi for Denmark Street before the media buzzards Oakden has summoned arrive to record the scene. In the Agency office, spurred once again by strong drink, Strike feels Robin is owed the whole story of why he lost it at the American Bar, if not as an excuse then as an explanation. He tells her about Charlotte’s suicide attempt, the Rokeby call, and, at last, about his only two meetings with his biological father. She urges and advises him to trust her as his partner and to try “the talking thing” with her when he becomes this emotionally wound up so he does not die of a heart attack or wreck their business by beating up someone they are interviewing. He agrees — and they immediately share their thoughts about the desirability of children (!).

In this conversation, Robin shares her own complicated and conflicting thinking about the subject and then acts as psychological counsellor to Strike. He tells her in answer to the question “Do you want children?” that he doesn’t because “I shouldn’t be here, should I? I’m an accident. I’m not inclined to perpetuate the mistake” (729). Robin responds with the observation that this view is “just bloody self-indulgent;” “you can’t let your whole life be colored by the circumstances of your conception!” This “startles” Strike because Charlotte, who had learned “in her early teens” from her “drunken mother” that she had “considered aborting her,” had “both understood and agreed with him” about the proper finality of mis-conception. In this moment of daring self-exposure to a woman he loves unlike any other, Strike learns from the oracle that he is free to become the man he wants to be, that he can be, rather than the person he has to be, that he is inescapably. And that, as Harry realized in Dumbledore’s office, “makes all the difference.” Strike is free to change.

Conclusion: Strike’s realization that he is not, as he suspects and resents, prisoner of his origin; change is possible

How about the armchair psychologist’s view of Strike’s life?

He has unresolved Oedipal issues galore. Cormoran wins the battle with his father for the love of his mother but only because the battle was uncontested. He still hates his father with a borderline murderous anger and has mixed feelings for mum, too, because she is relatively free with her sexual favors and at least as negligent of her responsibilities as a mother. I have to think that Erik Erikson would suggest that Strike’s cigarette habit is a consequence of his unresolved oral issues consequent to his desire for a true mother as well as an attentive father.

These mum and pop issues played out naturally in Strike’s life as a young man.

Cormoran worked as hard as he did against all odds and what he supposed were his father’s expectations (“He’s probably hoped, with a background like mine, I’d slide quietly out of sight forever” 723) to get into Oxford. He did this, from the Freudian view, to merit his mother’s love and to prove he was worthy of his missing father’s affection and attention, an effort aimed naively at being the cause of his parents’ reunion and one that was always doomed to fail.

He left Oxford at his mother’s death, which event forced his realization that there was no way for him to bring about his biological parents reconciliation in any fashion. He shifted his efforts then into becoming the living as well as the visual image of his adopted and de facto father, Uncle Ted, whom we learn in Troubled Blood left St Mawes to join the army and become a Red Cap after a fight with his father.

Strike is driven to fight injustice and to bring evil-doers to judgment and punishment largely because of his internalized and largely unconscious rage at his biological father’s treatment of him at the music studio when seven year’s old and then again at eighteen at his first great success. Joan Nancarrow, of course, is right to urge her nephew to meet with his biological father because she knows that this relationship is at the heart of Cormoran’s  unhappiness.

Troubled Blood is the alchemical nigredo of the series’ first seven books because in it Strike is reduced to his psychological foundations, his Nancarrow life as a Western Man. His psychologist and partner Robin midwifes this painful solve et coagula dissolution of exterior identities to get at the prime matter of his life. She frees him in their “Best Mate” conversation to get over his “accidental” conception and existence as the defining prison of his life’s possibilities, cf., Charlotte Campbell, and to choose the life he wants as a free man.

He embarks on this journey by freeing Anna Phipps and Brian Tucker from their unresolved parent-daughter issues of four decades’ vintage. That done, his own rebirth begins when he turns to reversing his failures at Robin’s birthday and the defining nativity of the Western calendar, Christmas, to give her a properly “thoughtful” gift, an expression of his feelings and admiration for her as a person, a woman, rather than his business partner. He tells a surprised and delighted Robin that he learned from “a psychiatrist at Broadmoor” that “people can change” (925); I’d argue that it was the conversation he’d had in Skegness with Robin over fish and chips (810-811) on top of his office consultation with Dr Ellacott that cued him in more than Dr. Ranbir Bijral:

“D’you think Scotland’s going to leave?”

“Go for independence? Maybe,” said Strike. “The polls are close. Barclay thinks it could happen. He was telling me about some old mates of his at home. They sound just like Polworth. Same hate figures, same promises everything’ll be rainbows and unicorns if only they cut themselves free of London. Anyone pointing out pitfalls or difficulties is scaremongering. Experts don’t know anything. Facts lie. ‘Things can’t be any worse than they are.’”

Strike put several chips in his mouth, chewed, swallowed, then said, “But life’s taught me things can always get worse than they are. I thought I had it hard, then they wheeled a bloke onto the ward who’d had both his legs and his genitals blown off.”

He’d never before talked to Robin about the aftermath of his lifechanging injury. Indeed, he rarely mentioned his missing leg. A barrier had definitely fallen, Robin thought, since their whisky-fueled talk in the dark office.

“Everyone wants a single, simple solution,” he said, now finishing his last few chips. “One weird trick to lose belly fat. I’ve never clicked on it, but I understand the appeal.”

“Well, reinvention’s such an inviting idea, isn’t it?” said Robin, her eyes on the fake hot-air balloons, circling on their prescribed course. “Look at Douthwaite, changing his name and finding a new woman every few years. Reinventing a whole country would feel amazing. Being part of that.”

“Yeah,” said Strike. “Of course, people think if they subsume themselves in something bigger, and that changes, they’ll change too.”

“Well, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be better, or different, is there?” asked Robin. “Nothing wrong with wanting to improve things?”

“Not at all,” said Strike. “But people who fundamentally change are rare, in my experience, because it’s bloody hard work compared to going on a march or waving a flag. Have we met a single person on this case who’s radically different to the person they were forty years ago?”

“I don’t know… I think I’ve changed,” said Robin, then felt embarrassed to have said it out loud.

Strike looked at her without smiling for the space it took him to chew and swallow a chip, then said, “Yeah. But you’re exceptional, aren’t you?” And before Robin had time for anything other than a slight blush, Strike said, “Are you not finishing those chips?”

“Help yourself,” said Robin, shoving the tray toward him. She pulled her phone out of her pocket. “I’ll look up that one weird tip to lose belly fat.”

Note Strike’s allusion to the college students and his mother: Change “is bloody hard work compared to going on a march or waving a flag.” Forgive me for suspecting we are meant to understand “or tweeting TERF and ‘cancelling’ on social media someone you do not know.” Real change, personal change of course but social and political as well, requires painful self-confrontation, dissolution of safe personae, and reintegration as free persons rather than prisoners chained to the “accidents” of their birth, their families, their education, and their tax bracket.

The investigation, discoveries, and revelations of Troubled Blood are the alchemical reduction and reinvention of Cormoran Strike. He sings the song ‘Trelawny’ at the Skegness beach with Robin because he is simultaneously destroyed and liberated through the course of the novel as Harry Potter was in the nigredo of Order of the Phoenix by the time he learns the details of Professor Trelawney’s prophecy. Cormoran marks the importance of this moment by making Robin’s first birthday gift a donkey’s head balloon, a gift he thought of in Skegness (813).

I hope this week to write about the predominant symbolism of the fifth Strike novel, namely, the cross, to finish up my Ten Take-Aways with a review of Part Seven, and to take a long loving look at each of the True Book’s pages and how every one of them includes pointers to Janice Beattie as Margot’s murderer. I had to get this off my chest first, though, and look forward to reading your comments and correction. Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts and insights, even your criticism!


  1. Beatrice Groves says

    Great post John! Lots of food for thought.

    We were expecting Shanker to be Sirius in Troubled Blood (and were worried for him!); but it turned out to be Joan. The nigredo-death of a father-figure in Order of the Phoenix, becomes the nigredo-death of the person whom Strike finally realises was more than a mere mother figure. That’s my favourite bit of fortune-telling in the book – the inverse of all those Trelawney ‘literally false but actually correct’ predictions – Joan telling Strike about the fortune teller who told her ‘you’ll never have children.’ ‘Well she got that wrong didn’t she?’

  2. I really enjoyed this commentary — I have been noting parallels between Strike and Robin for some time, and particularly appreciated your insights on those as well as the psychoanalysis of Cormoran and his “daddy issues.” It’s very satisfying to see some of the things I thought about only fleetingly written out in a very cogent and methodical manner. I like your use of the expression “pulling punches” (or rather, not pulling punches, in Cormoran’s case) in both pivotal scenes — with words in one, and physical punches in the other. And I love how you show that Robin’s words during the “talking thing” freed Cormoran to change. And I truly appreciate your making that alchemy connection — “solve et coagula” — it suddenly made wading through all that astrological language more worthwhile. I look forward to reading your other commentaries on TB!

  3. Joanne Gray says

    Professor Granger,

    Absolutely fantastic summation and insight into this wonderful fifth book of the Strike series. This post and all the others you have provided are a great aid while re-reading. I wish I could say I caught all of these as well but you far exceeded what I managed to find. I really do think readers of Troubled Blood would all benefit from reading this post when they finish the book.

    On the question of predominant symbols, i.e., as in Lethal White’s white horses—there is one that is even more predominant in Troubled Blood than all the horses in LW. It’s wrapped in white paper and is the ever present cigarette tied to every single appearance of Strike throughout the book.

    I thought cigarette mentions had already reached ultimate-over-saturation point in the third book, Career of Evil, but Troubled Blood managed to beat CoE’s count easily (and not just because it had more pages)!

    I experienced the same queasy feeling from Strike’s gluttony of cigarette in both books with a feeling “this can’t end well”—but the added proliferation of Cancer mentions, as well as the recurring statements to Strike about needing to quit smoking, even Aunt Joan asking him, made Troubled Blood’s echo from Career of Evil seem more a harbinger of things to come than just a simple echo.

    An added worrying touch came in Troubled Blood’s chapter 71, during Nurse Janice’s long confession to Strike, that when she disposed of Larry she only needed to add a bit of a high blood pressure medical push to send him to an early grave. This was because Larry was already more than half way there from his years of bad eating habits and smoking.

    Strike fans couldn’t miss the other character Larry’s bad habits bring to mind!

    Strike will definitely have to finally meet and talk with Jonny—and there will need to be an initiating incident to bring that about. We already know that Jonny has been diagnosed with prostate cancer—even though it has been stated that they believe it was caught early and he most likely will not die from it—but might there be a medical scare in Strike future (echo from Lethal White’s nephew Jack)?

    (Side note: Both Aunt Joan (mother) and Jonny (father) have cancers linked to reproduction.)

    I’m working my way through a first run with the printed copy (first time through was audio) in order to mark all those little pieces that sailed by the first time but are now revealing themselves this second time. I’m truly amazed at all there is to still discover and I thank you for your talent in first finding and then in clearly presenting these complex and fascinating additional insights to the series.

  4. Kelly Loomis says

    John, I think this is my favorite post you’ve ever written! I picked up on a few of the items you mentioned but could never have put it all together the way you have. That’s why you’re the Hogwarts Professor!

  5. I think Strike’s relationship with his father, or the injury caused by its lack, is his own horcrux, if you want to compare to Harry Potter. It’s something that has been with him all of his life even though he doesn’t recognize its influence on him. And the hurting scar can be compared to those texts and contacts from Rokeby’s other children. They are painful and a reminder of what he doesn’t want to think about.

    I thought an important point in HP was when he embraced his friendships following the alienation he felt after the trial and when learning of his heritage and after the death of Sirius. Sirius and Joan are similar in that they represented a more loving home, or a chance for one in Sirius’s case. Harry could have turned away and become the same kind of self-contained, hurting character as Strike. When Leda died and after her trial Strike left his friends and family behind. He cut himself off from from them and the responsibility of his family ties. With the death of his second mother Strike has a chance for a different response, to make different choices. “Harry, suffering like this proves you are still a man!”

    I found it interesting that Margot had told Gloria ‘We aren’t our mistakes. It’s what we do about the mistake that shows who we are.’ It contains an echo of Dumbledore’s words to Harry Potter, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” I don’t know if the echo was intentional, but Rokeby had called Strike an accident, a mistake, however that’s not what he truly was.

  6. Thank you all for these comments and new ideas, each of which, frankly, merits a post of its own to discuss.

    It being very late here, I only want to add one note tonight that I think secures the foundation of my argument that ‘Troubled Blood’ is the story of Strike’s incipient transformation consequent to coming to terms with his ‘daddy issues.’ Rowling-Galbraith has Strike himself psychoanalyze a man with ‘daddy issues’ and play with the idea that this man has taken on the identity he has because of unexamined and unresolved relationship and emotional problems due to a failed bond with his father.

    From the end of chapter 48, the last chapter pf the book’s central part, Part Four — Cormoran speaking with Dave Polworth at his Aunt’s wake by the seaside:

    “Listen, mate—thanks for everything.”
    “Shut up,” said Polworth. “You’d do it for me.”
    “You’re right,” said Strike. “I would.”
    “Easy to say, you cunt,” said Polworth, without skipping a beat, “seeing as my mum’s dead and I don’t know where the fuck my dad is.”
    Strike laughed.
    “Well, I’m a private detective. Want me to find him for you?”
    “Fuck, no,” said Polworth. “Good riddance.”
    They drank their pints. There was a brief break in the cloud and the sea was suddenly a carpet of diamonds and the bobbing seagull, a paper-white piece of origami. Strike was wondering idly whether Polworth’s passionate devotion to Cornwall was a reaction against his absent Birmingham-born father when Polworth spoke up again:
    “Speaking of fathers… Joan told me yours was looking for a reunion.”
    “She did, did she?”
    “Don’t be narked,” said Polworth. “You know what she was like. Wanted me to know you were going through a tough time. Nothing doing, I take it?”
    “No,” said Strike. “Nothing doing.” (570)

    Strike is able to see that it’s possible, even likely that Polworth’s non-relationship with his papa is probably at the root of his principal persona as Cornish patriot (I’d add “and his inability to relate to women as anything but instruments of sexual pleasure”). He remains blind in large part, however, to how this is certainly true of him — as well as to how the world, its psychic and visible realms, is conspiring to bring him to conscious awareness of his own ‘daddy issues’s influence in shaping his identity.

    Seeing one’s problems in others is always easier than seeing them in a mirror, but Strike’s recognition of Polworth’s issues, ones he shares with his absent biological father Rokeby, is an important start. Perhaps he will figure out in Strike 6 the mystery of why ‘Little Dave’ Polworth adopted him (see 6-7); they were instant mates because psychologically they are twins.

    We are promised at book’s end visits to London in the coming weeks and months by the Polworths (a birthday present!) and by Uncle Ted. I hope we do get a meeting, as Strike suggests it (520), between Polworth and Shanker, another father-less child struggling to be a good father (see his struggle to get the right gift for his adopted Zahara, 297). If they do meet, look for Strike to see in their likeness despite obvious differences an image of his own need to meet with Rokeby and start his new life out right.

  7. Wayne Stauffer says

    John, will you be gathering these posts and those of the other Hogwarts Professors into any sort of collection of essays (similar to the Harry Potter for Nerds, Ravenclaw Reader, Harry Potter Smart Talk, Rowling Revisited collections)? I, for one, would buy each if you did.

  8. Louise Freeman says

    I found the mention that Ted and Joan had contacted Rokeby to let him know Cormoran had gotten into Oxford interesting. I wonder if they had any other contact over the years— Joan certainly seemed sympathetic to him. As you may recall, I speculated that Strike transitioned directly from the elite school with the Bristow’s, to the squat with Shumba, from where he and Lucy were rescued by Ted, who found out where they were living by some unknown means. That unknown means may well have been a PI bankrolled by Rokeby, after they disappeared from the elite school.

  9. Barb Nikola says

    Someone shared this post through facebook. This was such a great analysis of Strike, I had to save this to read again. Thanks

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