Yes, I’m still alive, just about. The less said about the new job, the better. But it is at least less painful than this.
Last time on The Baby Silk Moth, Strike was a piece of shit to all and sundry, pulled a knee injury out of his arse only for it to vanish two pages later, and found Owen’s body. We’re about a third of the way through the book but the plot has finally started.
By the way, for anyone wondering what happened to Robin, I have no idea. Once Nina showed up she was evidently deemed unnecessary and benched, because clearly she’s not going to contribute anything to the story except what passes for ‘romance’. Maybe she’ll show up again soon.
Edited to add: Also more of Owen’s book, which means a repeat of last update’s warnings for necrophilia, rape, transphobia, male pregnancy, ableism, cannibalism and general grossness.
On to Chapter Seventeen, then. Strike’s sitting at the police station thinking back to the last time he was here to talk about a corpse, reminiscing that he’d had sex the night before that one too. Well, I’ve read one paragraph and I want him to shut the hell up. This is going to be a great update, I can tell. A man is dead, mate, can we focus? He’s also remembered his inexplicable knee injury.
He does eventually move on to thinking about the murder scene, and he is at least thinking of Owen in human terms now, as he compares the horror of it to other bad stuff he’s seen in the past and wonders whether Owen was alive or dead when the acid was being thrown around. But this is Cormoran Strike, Our Hero, so most of that is him being concerned about his feelings after having to see something so nasty, and it only lasts a paragraph before he starts sulking that the police are ignoring him and delaying his interview in favour of, you know, investigating the crime scene. Obviously it’s because they all hate him after the way he humiliated them all by proving them wrong over Lula Landry’s death last book.
Let me hop on Google for a second. Ah, right. In the last decade there have been an average of 171 murders a year in London, and it’s been most of a year since the last book, so at least a hundred people have been murdered since then, Strike. I think the London police force have more on their minds than you. You are not the centre of the universe. Nor was Lula Landry any more important than any other murder victim.
After whining for most of a page about being ignored, Strike changes tack and declares that actually he’s just fine with being ignored and their cunning, cunning plan isn’t going to work. Perhaps realising that the readers are losing the will to live at this point, someone insists that things move along, and someone enters the room – a policeman with a badly scarred face whom Strike served alongside in Afghanistan. His name is Richard Anstis, and he says he’s pulled rank in order to be able to interview his buddy personally. Which I don’t think you’re allowed to do. This is followed by a semi-flashback retelling, because of course it’s not enough for them to have served together, oh no. Strike saved his life by the magical power of psychic intuition.
I wish I were kidding.
Continuing with our theme of ‘screw the rules’, Strike pulls out the bottle of birthday whisky someone gifted him at some point in the last update. I can’t remember who and I don’t care enough to look. He pours himself a drink and his buddy lets him, which means his statement is now totally invalid because he’s under the influence and nothing he says will be admissable in court. This interview is also not being recorded or witnessed; since Strike’s not under arrest I don’t think that’s a legal requirement, but it’s still damned careless and pretty unlikely.
They chat for a bit to summarise Owen’s disappearance and why his wife hired Strike instead of going to the police, spending two pages on things the reader already knows. Anstis says he heard the body was a real mess, and Strike – I swear to God – says, “Wanna see?” and pulls out his mobile phone and shows him the photos of the crime scene.
Why does he still have his phone? These days I imagine the first action of any policeman in these circumstances would be to take it off him before everything gets posted to Facebook. (Yes, I realise there’s no real way to enforce this, but seriously, this is hideously unprofessional for all involved.)
Also, stop acting like the sick fucks who slow down when driving past car accidents so they can stare at the mess.
They spend another page discussing the libellous book, which again, the readers already know. The conclusion is that Leonora’s behaviour doesn’t add up, since she says she’s never read this manuscript and she ‘forgot’ they owned a second house. Except, no, she didn’t forget – she didn’t tell Strike because she was certain Owen would never go there, and Strike himself never bothered to ask because he’s either lazy or incompetent. Anstis asks where Strike got the manuscript, Strike refuses to answer, and his buddy accepts this and moves on despite that being really suspicious and obviously dodgy. Strike gives him a list of suspects who’ve been libelled in the book – remember, Strike never finished reading it – and lies that he no longer has the manuscript when asked. Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and arguably wasting police time. Though luckily it’s not actually a criminal offence to be a complete waste of space.
He then adds he doesn’t think Leonora did it, based on nothing whatsoever. I hope he’s right, I don’t think I can handle two successive books where the murderer proceeds to hire an investigator and thus get themselves caught.
Leonora herself phones his mobile as they’re finishing up. She’s calling to make sure Strike’s okay, because when the police told her that her husband had been found gruesomely murdered they also told her they were holding Strike for interview. Apparently. Anyway, disregarding the issue of why she would give a fuck, she’s downstairs waiting for him.
Astonished, with the whisky sitting on his empty stomach, he said the first thing that occurred to him.
“Who’s looking after Orlando?”
He can only act like a decent human being when half-drunk and caught off guard. That says it all, really, doesn’t it.
They meet up in the lobby, and Strike can see from the way various nearby policemen are watching her that they’re suspicious of the way she reacted when they broke the news to her, and she doesn’t look very upset. Honestly, given what we know of Owen, I’m not surprised. Strike talks to her a little, and she seems a bit in shock and says she’s not sure how she’s feeling. She also apparently hasn’t been told much, since she thinks maybe a burglar broke in and killed Owen while he was hiding out at the house.
It turns out that she came to meet Strike because she wants to ask if he’ll keep working for her, because she can tell the police suspect something and she wants an ally. I do not approve of her choice, but it’s a smart idea, although I don’t think a private investigator is very useful – a lawyer might help more. Refreshingly, Strike just says yes, without any passive-aggressive thoughts that she hasn’t paid him yet and that he’s been thinking all along that she’d default on the bill. Maybe if he spends the rest of the book drunk he might be a better character,
Heh. Interestingly, Chapter Eighteen sees the return of Robin. Clearly my comment at the start of this post was some sort of premonition. And it seems I should have been careful what I wished for, because her ‘chapter’ is less than two pages long. She’s reading a book about investigative psychology she bought online while Matthew talks to his unwell mother on the phone, and Strike sends her a text.
Found Quine murdered. C.
I want to say something about this, because seriously this is not how you break that sort of news to someone, but after thinking about it I don’t know how you actually would go about it. Except ‘not like this’.
Sadly this does make Robin forget that she’s angry with him, though I suppose I can understand that since this is fairly dramatic even if it was inevitable. She promptly vanishes into another room to call him and get the story, leaving us stuck with Matthew. He talks to his mother for another twenty minutes before going to eavesdrop on Robin, and he can magically tell from the tone of her voice that she’s talking to Strike even though he can’t hear a word. Finishing her conversation, she comes out and tells him Strike’s found their client murdered, and Matthew decides to be a dick.
“Well, I’m glad something’s happened to interest you tonight… I know you’re bored shitless by Mum’s health.”
Dude. You were on the landline phone. Robin couldn’t have taken part in the conversation had she wanted to. What was she meant to do, sit at your feet and wait for enlightenment?
Anyway, this kicks off a flaming row, which we’re told about and not shown. We’re given a laundry list of things they’re supposedly fighting about, but it pretty much boils down to ‘everything’. Since they apparently only live somewhere with one bedroom, Robin declares she’s going to sleep on the sofa, and Matthew doesn’t argue because he expects her to give in, but he wakes up the next morning and finds that she’s already left despite it being an hour or so earlier than she usually goes to work, and naturally he decides she’s gone to see (and possibly sleep with) Strike.
In Chapter Nineteen, Strike reads more of Owen’s book. Help me. (He’s doing this because while talking to Anstis he supposedly thought of something, and naturally the readers can’t find out what it is. Have I mentioned how much I hate this writing trick yet?)
Bombyx and his companions have escaped the Cutter, and they go to a brothel where Bombyx leaves the others to become sex workers. He continues alone on his quest; apparently he’s seeking a famous writer named Vainglorious, whom he hopes will become his mentor. His next encounter is a parody of his mistress Kathryn, here named Harpy, who eats rats and who ties him up and whips him and has sex with him a lot before also trying to breastfeed from him.
Bombyx is saved from this by “his nipples start[ing] to leak a dazzling supernatural light“.
I’ll just leave you with that mental image for a moment.
The Harpy breaks down in tears at the sight, and shows her own breasts, which do not leak dazzling supernatural light but instead “something dark brown and glutinous“. I’m sorry, all I’m picturing is Marmite. (Sorry Mitchell.)
They’re joined by a young hermaphrodite, described inaccurately as a girl with a penis, who is introduced as the Harpy’s adopted daughter Epicoene. I assume this is meant to represent Kathryn’s… sister? Friend?… Pippa, but we haven’t met her yet. Epicoene insists she and Bombyx are soul mates and asks him to have sex with her after he’s heard her sing, then barks like a seal until he runs away.
I’m sure you’re wondering if I’m high. I’m not, but I suspect Rowling may have been.
Bombyx sees a ‘castle of light’ in the distance and starts making his way towards it. His next encounter is a male dwarf who claims to be Vainglorious, and who is clearly meant to be Fancourt. He offers Bombyx a bed for the night because he’s heard he’s a good lay. Inside, there’s a young woman chained to a desk next to a fire stacked with branding irons; Vainglorious explains that this is his wife Effigy, whom he’s set to writing her own book so she’ll leave him alone to write his, but adds that she has no talent and needs to be punished. He picks up a branding iron and Bombyx runs away, refreshingly without being raped by anyone.
He reaches the castle, which has a sign above the entrance saying Phallus Impudicus. Nobody answers his knock, so he walks around peering in the windows, because despite featuring a castle in most of her works to date Rowling doesn’t know what they look like. Eventually he finds an occupied room, and sees a nude bald man (Phallus, who as we know is Daniel Chard) standing over the corpse of a golden boy. The boy is covered in stab wounds, which are all emitting the same dazzling light coming from his breasts. Phallus’s erect penis is rotting. (No, this isn’t actually possible.)
The editors screwed up here and missed a scene break, so the next paragraph has Robin walking in and saying hi, and Strike thinking she’s beautiful. The juxtaposition between a rotting penis and a pretty girl walking in is jarring enough to make my brain hurt, and it took me a minute to figure out what the fuck was happening. I also don’t see how Strike can be thinking anything is beautiful after reading this literary sewage, but naturally he had no thoughts whatsover about any of this.
Oh, no, that wasn’t actually a scene break. Strike tells her to go make the tea so he can finish reading (sadly not an exaggeration or a joke… sigh) and dives straight back into the filth. That interlude was purely so he could think about how good looking she is. Sigh.
I really can’t do this any more. The gist of the rest is that Bombyx, now about to give birth, is dragged into the castle for a feast involving the seven characters we’ve met – Phallus (Daniel), the Cutter (Jerry), Succuba (Leonora), the Tick (Liz), the Harpy (Kathryn), Vainglorious (Fancourt) and Epicoene (…maybe Pippa) and slaughtered in exactly the way Owen was murdered, with corrosive acid and cannibalism etc.
Oh, the drama.
He tells Robin, who asks to see the photos of the crime scene, and after some waffle about how her poor delicate ladybrain might not be able to cope Strike shows her and then gives her the manuscript pages to compare. Her reaction involves a couple of ‘My God‘s, and pressing ‘ignore’ on her phone a couple of times since Matthew’s trying to call her, because we mustn’t ignore romantic problems just because there’s a plot trying very hard to happen.
They start discussing possible suspects, which dissolves into a stupid conversation about how women are far too pure and good and sweet to do something so icky. I know this sounds like Strike, but it’s actually Robin. Sigh. Mercifully, they’re interrupted when Robin finally decides to answer her phone, having been ignoring Matthew all morning, and he tells her his mother’s dead. (Hands up everyone who saw this coming a mile off.)
Naturally, she leaves immediately to go to him, leaving us with Strike. Who, equally naturally, instantly thinks that now they’ll postpone their wedding and isn’t that great.
To add insult to injury, he then reveals to us that the divorcing brunette client is due any minute. And she still doesn’t have a name.
I’ve had enough. I need a drink and some brain bleach. Next update whenever I can force myself to read more of this trash.