Well, from the lack of comments last chapter I suspect you’re all about as interested in this clusterfuck as I am. Nonetheless, in a brief pause when I’m not working and have run out of things to procrastinate with, I shall struggle onwards, because there are two-thirds of this book left to go and I can’t move on to anything more fun until I’ve finished it. (Okay, I can, but I’m not going to.) Here we go again.
Trigger warnings: sexual assault, victim-blaming, I hate everything. And more of Strike’s misogyny, of course.
Chapter Twenty opens with Strike sitting on his own eating takeaway noodles and making notes (via pen and paper, which is rare in this day and age) while waiting hopefully for Robin to call him. If you recall, last chapter ended with Matthew’s mother dying and Strike rejoicing that it meant Robin’s wedding would be delayed.
He’s making a list of things that have to be done relating to Owen’s murder, though we’re not told what these things are, only that he’s delegating some of them to his police buddy Anstis who flagrantly broke the rules for him last chapter. The narrative calls him arrogant and deluded for thinking he can do this, which I find amusing – when your own narrative voice is getting sick of your protagonist, you are doing something wrong. Despite this, I imagine he’ll manage it just fine. In the meantime he sits and silently criticises his ‘friend’ as ‘competent but unimaginative‘ and generally a textbook example of the plodding policeman stereotype found in virtually every detective/private investigator novel since the dawn of time. He goes on to question whether Anstis is capable of solving a murder like this. I flicked back and we’re not given Anstis’ actual rank, but he’s senior enough to pull rank in order to interview his buddy, and you don’t get to work homicide for the London Metropolitan Police without a fair amount of experience and ability, so I’m going to say “Yes, Strike, he is, now shut the fuck up.”
His phone rings, and he’s disappointed that it’s not Robin, but only Leonora. She tells him the police have been to search Owen’s study, and she didn’t want to let them in but did anyway. They’ve locked her out of it now and they want to come back to search again, but she doesn’t want them to because it’s upsetting Orlando. One of the policemen suggested she move out temporarily and she refused for the same reason.
(For those who have been successful in blocking this shit from their memories, Orlando is Leonora and Owen’s daughter with special needs. Actual age unknown, late teens/early twenties I think? She was born in the 1980s but I don’t know what year this book is set. Actual condition unknown as well.)
I don’t know why they’re only searching his study, why they need to come and search it again, or why they would suggest she move given that Owen didn’t die there and by all accounts hasn’t spent much time actually living there. Regardless, all Strike says is that they have grounds to search and that if they want to ask her any questions she should have a lawyer present. Presumably he’s forgetting that she’s been questioned once already, or does he think they hauled her into the police station last chapter to tell her that her husband had been found dead instead of them going to her house to tell her?
He offers to go and see her tomorrow morning – I don’t know why – and she agrees. Hanging up, he goes back to his notes, and we’re told that he’s writing a hell of a lot:
“There was an intensity, almost a feverishness, about the way Strike returned to his scribbling… Thoughts came fluently, cogently: jotting down the questions he wanted answered, locations he wanted cased, the trails he wanted followed. It was a plan of action for himself and a means of nudging Anstis in the right direction.”
Naturally, we’re not told anything he’s writing down, because why would we want to know what the investigator actually thinks about the case or what he plans to do next. But seriously, mate, you’re not actually in charge of the police investigation, and there are seven clear and named suspects to follow. Nobody needs your help to work that out. Fuck off.
His final act of the night is to look online for the brief announcement of Owen’s murder, and to be surprised that there’s no mention of the gory details. Are you really this stupid? Of course there aren’t, you idiot.
He goes to bed and angsts a bit, wondering how it didn’t occur to him that Owen might be dead. I wonder the same thing, given how many people were repeatedly saying that he’d been quiet for too long and wasn’t behaving normally and they were worried something had happened to him. Strike thinks he should magically have known because he used to be super-awesome and amazing at sensing this kind of thing. I like self-doubting characters, but not when it’s out of left field to fill up a bit of space before the end of the chapter, and not when the character in question is a piece of shit.
Next morning he’s accosted by reporters on his doorstep as he leaves to… go somewhere and do… something. I repeat what I said last chapter about two hundred murders a year. Owen wasn’t famous enough for anyone to care; I can’t imagine the press would be that bothered. Not to mention that there’s no way they could possibly know Strike’s involved yet. But my biggest issue with this scene? There are numerous references to camera flashes nearly blinding him.
In the previous book, camera flashes triggered a PTSD episode. Admittedly we were never told why and it never made much sense, but still, it happened. Flashback, panic attack, the works.
Here? No sign. No mention of any such thing, it never occurs to him. He’s magically been cured over the last year apparently. Because that’s absolutely how trauma works.
Anyway, Strike flounces sulkily off in the back of a taxi, presumably upset that the mean nasty reporters were asking the very good question ‘why didn’t you tell the police when you realised your client’s husband had been missing for two weeks’, and decides that someone from the Met tipped off the press. Get your head out of your arse, sunshine. The penalty for doing so is way too steep for anyone to bother just for you – at the very least it’s a sackable offense, and at worst the officer in question would be charged with perverting the course of justice, which carries a hefty prison sentence. You just aren’t that special. Sadly, I imagine he’s actually going to be proved right in the end, because the police force is clearly just one on the long list of parts of real life that seem to have escaped Rowling’s comprehension.
He does at least text Robin to warn her there are journalists outside the office, though honestly I can’t imagine that she’s going to be working today anyway. Her fiancé’s mother just died, you jerk. Then he calls his police friend and doesn’t quite accuse him of being the one responsible for the leak, but does demand that he tell the press to stop being mean. Anstis says of course he will and invites Strike round for dinner later to discuss the case with him.
There are only so many times I can say THE POLICE DO NOT WORK THIS WAY, you know.
Having arranged his date, Strike swaps the taxi for the Tube – still without telling us where he’s going, but I’ve remembered he said last chapter he would visit Leonora this morning so I assume that’s what’s happening – and whines a bit that his knee still hurts before getting a couple of text messages. The first one is his sister Lucy wishing him Happy Birthday, which he’d forgotten about – so had I, we seem to have had so many mentions of the birthday he absolutely totally doesn’t care about that I assumed it was over – and the second is Robin saying thanks for the warning but she’s already run into the journalists and she’ll see him later because it’s not like her fiancé’s mother just died and Matthew might actually want her there with him.
Turns out yes, he was visiting Leonora. For some reason there’s a policeman on guard outside her house, but not a sniff of a journalist, because Strike is far more important than someone as insignificant as the wife of the victim. Strike insults the policeman, pretty much just because he can, and Orlando answers the door. Refreshingly her description doesn’t insult her at all, and there’s no attempt to telegraph whatever condition she’s meant to have, which I appreciate – she sways from foot to foot more or less constantly, and sounds younger than she is, but there’s no ableist language or anything else unpleasant.
Leonora apparently has a stomach upset, so disappears to the loo after letting Strike in, and he wanders through to the kitchen to find out that Jerry’s visiting with flowers and a card and condolences. That probably means he’s the murderer. He’s certainly a bit thick, since despite talking to him for most of a chapter recently at the publishing party he fails to recognise Strike and doesn’t know who he is. I find this unlikely, because he wasn’t that drunk. For some reason Strike lies to him and says he’s a family friend, which is contradicted a couple of paragraphs later when Leonora rejoins them and says who he really is. Jerry’s not sure why Leonora’s hired a detective:
“‘Cos I need one,” said Leonora shortly. “The police think I done it to Owen.”
One, there’s no evidence they think any such thing – I certainly don’t think she was physically strong enough, quite apart from any other concerns. And two, in that case you hire a lawyer, not a P.I. Anyway, Jerry’s very uncomfortable and flailing, and tries to make his excuses because he’s sure Leonora’s busy with the funeral arrangements and so on, and she points out that they haven’t released Owen’s body yet so she can’t make any arrangements. He gets even more jittery, asks out of the blue if she’s got a copy of Bombyx Mori anywhere, then flees.
I hope he’s not actually the murderer because damn was that clumsy writing.
Strike starts actually questioning Leonora at last, asking if she’s heard from anyone who saw Owen after he vanished, and she says no. She doesn’t know anyone at Roper Chard except Jerry, who she’s only met a couple of times, and she hasn’t read the book and doesn’t know why everyone keeps asking about it. Then she asks Strike what’s really going on, because the police won’t let her see the body and won’t tell her what happened but they took his toothbrush for DNA sampling. Strike says vaguely that Owen’s body had been there for a while, and that they’re not really sure what happened to him yet, which she clearly recognises is bullshit, but then Orlando wanders back in with some drawings to show Strike and they drop the subject. (Leonora addresses her daughter by the nickname Dodo. I can’t decide if that’s meant to be cute or horrible.)
The police did find a couple of old typewriter ribbons in Owen’s study, but nothing else, and Leonora told them he’d taken the manuscript with him. (You know, Strike, at some point you might want to tell the police that you’ve got a copy, since Jerry’s acting so weirdly he might not have turned over his to them…) She says it was a tip and took them ages to go through everything, and Orlando helpfully pipes up that ‘Auntie Liz‘ (who turns out to be Liz Tassel) went in there when she visited, while Leonora was in the loo with her stomach upset. That’s a neat trick given that the police locked it up…
Leonora says she asked Liz why there was such a problem with this book, and Liz said it couldn’t be published because of all the real people in it. Honestly I think everyone’s so distorted by fucked-up drug trip nightmares that they’re unrecognisable and he could have got away with it easily, but I’m not a literary agent. Leonora doesn’t see the problem either because he’s always done it and has put her in lots of his books – hopefully in slightly more flattering terms than his final opus – and Strike changes the subject again to ask about Talgarth Road, again. She repeats that she doesn’t know why Owen went there, that he’s always hated the place, and that he wanted to sell but Fancourt wouldn’t let him, all of which has been said numerous times now, and before Strike can ask a new question they’re interrupted by Orlando asking for more paper to draw on. On being told that it’s all locked up in Owen’s study she goes into the hall and tries to force the door, and her mother shouts at her; she runs off crying and Leonora comes back, telling Strike she’s just upset because the police are here, before ‘yawn[ing] nervously,’ which I’ve never seen before. I wasn’t aware yawns had emotions.
They talk a bit more. Leonora’s been trying to think of who could have done it (aside from apparently everyone) since she knows Owen upsets people sometimes, but… and she thinks Michael Fancourt must still have a key to the house and they hate each other but she doesn’t think he would have done it, and then Daniel Chard was sending Owen threatening letters and Owen always hated him… she looks for the card Jerry brought, which was signed by most of the people at Roper Chard, and realises Orlando took it to draw on and calls her back to get it. She rants to Strike about what a hypocrite Chard is, and Orlando joins the conversation again, saying Owen told her he didn’t like Chard, before adding, “He give me a paintbrush, after he touched me.”
There’s a horrible silence, before Leonora asks what she’s talking about.
Orlando explains she went to work with her father (Leonora confirms, it was about a month ago, because she had a doctor’s appointment so Owen took her with him to the publisher; why he was there given that the new book had been rejected by his agent is anyone’s guess) and she was looking at the coloured pictures for some of the books and “Dannulchar” touched her. Her mother interrupts and says she doesn’t even know who Chard is, and Orlando replies that he’s got no hair and that it happened after Owen took her to see ‘the lady‘ who had nice hair – Kathryn, maybe? Though even Owen’s not likely to take his daughter to see his mistress… – and Chard touched her and she shouted, and afterwards he gave her a paintbrush.
“You don’t want to go round saying things like that,” said Leonora and her strained voice cracked. “Aren’t we in enough – Don’t be stupid, Orlando.”
There’s honestly nothing I can say here. A young woman with special needs has just implied that she was molested, and her mother’s immediate response is to tell her to shut up. Naturally, she gets upset and runs off. And then Strike’s immediate response is to say absolutely nothing about it and to change the subject, asking how Leonora met Owen (at the book festival in Hay-on-Wye), whether she’s had any more dog shit through the letterbox (yes, once more, a couple of days ago), has she seen the girl who was following her again (no) and is she all right for money (yes, Owen had life insurance and a neighbour’s lending her some money until it pays out) before getting the fuck out of there.
I skimmed very quickly through the next chapter. This subject is basically just going to be ignored as far as I can tell.
I’m done for today. I need a hot bath and a stiff drink. There’s no way Rowling’s going to handle this well, no matter what the truth turns out to be, and it’s inexcusable.
A new day, a new dose of shit, and boy do I not want to do this. There is no scenario where this turns out well. If Orlando is telling the truth, her mother is scum for not believing her and Strike is scum for not reporting it, and if Chard’s not the murderer then it’s not even plot relevant and – spoiler alert – there’s never a good reason to put sexual assault into a story ‘just because’. If Orlando is not telling the truth… the last thing we need is more instances of people lying about something this serious, because that makes it less likely that victims will be believed or listened to in future, or of people with special needs ‘just being crazy’ because that’s just gross.
Fine. Let’s see how terribly Rowling manages to fuck this up, shall we?
Strike whines a bit about his knee hurting on the Tube ride home, then calls Robin. She says the journalists are still hanging around outside the office and Strike’s been mentioned on the news (you’d think Rowling, as an actual celebrity, might by now have figured out how this whole fame and publicity thing actually works, wouldn’t you?) and he asks if Anstis has said anything yet. Long story short, yes, his buddy has covered his ass and asked the mean nasty journalists to leave him alone, which hasn’t stopped the ones she literally just told him are still outside his office.
In a breathtakingly horrible display of seeking validation, Strike says very obviously that he can’t believe the press are so interested in Owen’s murder given that they don’t know the sensational details. Cue Robin telling him that no, the press aren’t interested in that at all, it’s him because he’s awesomely famous and amazing. Gag. Anyway, because he’s so noble and saintly and not remotely like Harry Potter really, Strike doesn’t want to see the journalists, and asks Robin to meet him in the pub. They’d have to be really, really shitty journalists not to know Robin’s his assistant and follow her, you know. After he hangs up it occurs to Strike that a decent human being would have asked how Matthew’s holding up, but he’s more preoccupied with wishing he’d asked Robin to bring his crutches.
To the best of my recollection he doesn’t actually have crutches, so I’m not sure how she could have managed that.
He’s limping really badly by the time he gets to the pub, and I’m inclined to believe he’s faking it for sympathy, because thus far this supposed knee injury vanishes whenever he’s doing something dramatic like finding corpses and only reappears when he’s doing something boring like travelling. In any case, Robin is appropriately sympathetic as he explains how he hurt himself – surprisingly admitting that he ‘fell over like a tit’ while following someone – before he hints that he could use a drink and she promptly runs off to buy him one. Damnit, Robin. Not only that, but she comes back with a birthday present as well. Hey, remember the family tragedy that should be occupying her? Remember how before that she was really pissed at him? Nope, me neither.
They rehash that the girl he was following is probably the one who’s been following Leonora and putting dog shit through her door, though they still don’t know why. Strike whines a bit more about his leg, because he’s ‘supposed to be doing surveillance on Brocklehurst and Burnett’s husband this week‘. I have no idea who Brocklehurst is. Burnett might be the brunette woman, in which case holy fuck she finally has at least part of a name after twenty two chapters (but also holy fuck she is Burnett the brunette, facepalm…), but I thought he’d finished with that after watching the guy pawning her jewellery or whatever. Regardless, Robin immediately pipes up with touching eagerness that she could follow them for him, and predictably Strike totally ignores her.
Instead he asks about Matthew, surprisingly. Turns out he’s gone to stay with his dad and his sister. And Robin didn’t go with him because…? Well, because she’s a terrible person. She makes a point of telling Strike that the wedding is going to be postponed, as if anyone still believes it’s going to happen at all by now, and he asks if she got on with her future mother in law. Robin says immediately that yes, of course she did, she was lovely, but she thinks privately that she always thought the woman was difficult and a hypochondriac and now feels guilty about it. Changing the subject, she asks about Leonora, and Strike obligingly rehashes the events of last chapter for a while.
It takes far, far too long for him to mention what Orlando said about Chard; he hasn’t thought about it at all before now, either. Naturally Robin looks horrified and asks how, exactly? Strike replies that she wasn’t specific, and then starts vomiting whitewash:
“It might not be that… He might’ve accidentally knocked into her and given her something to placate her. She kept going off on one while I was there, shrieking because she didn’t get what she wanted or her mum had a go at her.”
Fuck you. Just fuck you.
Shit like this is the reason so many people are so reluctant to report assault or rape.
Continuing to establish himself as a terrible human being only interested in absolving himself of all responsibility, Strike goes on to add that anyway, Owen said in his book that Chard is gay.
One, Owen actually said Chard was a necrophiliac with a rotting dick, which probably isn’t true, and made no mention of whether the victim’s gender mattered. Two, sex attacks usually aren’t primarily about sex. Three, you are a disgusting human being. And so is Robin, who follows the change of subject and starts talking about another of Owen’s books that she picked up and read, which is also about a hermaphrodite (before anyone tells me this isn’t the polite term any more, I know, but it’s the terminology the book uses and I refuse to accidentally give Rowling credit for sensitivity) and the issue of whether or not a vulnerable young adult was actually molested and whether they should actually do something about it is carefully swept under the rug. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s never mentioned again.
They have a rambling conversation about how Owen’s books often involve characters changing their gender or sexual orientation, and about how Strike’s birthday chocolate tastes good, and about how Robin’s meant to be dieting for the wedding but eats some anyway, and about how they both dropped out of uni and Strike’s never bothered to ask her why she never finished but assumes it was something traumatic because that’s why he did (no really, that’s his logic; he left uni when his mother died of an overdose, therefore Robin left uni because of something horrible) and a lot of other stuff I really don’t care about.
Robin wonders why the murderer followed the book so closely, perhaps it was a way to hide their real motive? I don’t think anyone in this book is that smart, but good try. She then goes to order them dinner because of Strike’s knee, because interrupting plot-relevant conversations with mundane shit is always a stellar writing choice. Ignoring the fact that she made a very good point, Strike rather patronisingly tells her not to try so hard, it’s okay to admit that the corpse photos were really icky and make her feel sick, and thinks to himself that if he was with his manly soldier buddies they’d be laughing and joking but her poor delicate ladybrain isn’t ready to cope with that yet. You know, I’m not even angry any more. Given all the things he’s ignoring or condoning, his sexism is just boring.
He goes on to say her theory doesn’t matter because mostly you don’t find out the motive until you catch the person who did it. That seems like bullshit to me, because I’m pretty sure most murder investigations start with the possible motives in order to draw up a list of suspects. He adds that he thinks they’re looking for someone with medical knowledge because of how precise and accurate the removal of the intestines was. I have no idea how Strike knows how well it was done, given that the body was fairly old and had been covered in corrosive acid and left in a very hot room with no ventilation… this is the same school of writing that thinks the crime scene investigation team are also the ones who go on to solve the crime and arrest and interrogate the perpetrator. Strike does not have a background in biology or forensics. He magically just knows.
Robin interrupts, ‘a little desperately‘ begging him to ‘humour [her] for a moment‘. She says the killer must have felt such an elaborate death was worth it, because of all the problems with how it was done – the logistical issues, the fact that the pool of suspects is confined to the few people who’ve read this unpublished manuscript…
Strike interrupts her in turn to tell her that she’s wrong. He thinks the pool of suspects is huge, because Fisher spread knowledge of the book far and wide (first I’ve heard of it, Fisher himself hasn’t even been mentioned in a fucking long time) and Roper Chard kept the manuscript in a safe that the world and his wife could apparently break into.
Determined not to let him shit all over her perfectly sound theory, Robin continues stubbornly, pointing out that Owen wasn’t killed very recently and that there had to be a delay between the killer reading the book and getting the murder set up, getting all the stuff that was needed and getting into the house on Talgarth Road, and unless they knew Owen was going to go there they also had to get him there to be murdered.
Rather than back down, Strike pretends he thought this way all along and runs with it. The killer can’t have read the book any later than maybe two or three days after Owen first buggered off. And unfortunately that makes Leonora a likely candidate, because she could have read it at any time, it was literally a few steps down the hallway, and Owen himself could have told her the ending months before as well. He adds that he doesn’t actually think she did it, but she’s got a lot of good motives and they’ll need more than his opinion.
“Robin took their empty glasses back to the bar for refills without being asked; Strike felt very fond of her as she set another pint in front of him.”
If I had to read it, so do you.
Strike adds it’s possible someone heard he was going to self-publish the book online and wanted to stop it, because maybe Owen found something out and put a cryptic reference in among all the fucked up porn. Robin agrees because she’s been wondering why anyone killed Owen in the first place given that it would be much easier to just use legal channels to stop the book being published; I’ll forgive her for not knowing that’s already happened, because God knows Strike’s trying very hard to keep her away from the actual cases. Strike says dismissively that she’s assuming the killer was thinking rationally, and she retorts that it can’t have been a crime of passion because of how long it would take to plan.
Robin adds that she’s been reading the manuscript herself, since Strike left it lying around. So in between helping Matthew with his bereavement and postponing her wedding she’s had time to read most of two of Owen’s books? Okay. They talk about it for a while, trying to figure out the symbolism behind irrelevant details like the Harpy eating rats and Epicoene’s ‘singing’ not actually being singing, before Strike’s phone rings.
It’s his journalist friend Culpepper, Nina’s cousin. Apparently a policeman is talking to his paper and has said Owen was murdered the way someone was killed in one of his books. That policeman is looking at a very long jail sentence, or he would be if this actually ever happens, but repeat after me: the police do not work that way. Anyway, Culpepper’s got his knickers in a twist because Strike didn’t tell him first and he thought they were pals, and Strike maturely responds by calling him a ‘dickhead‘ and telling him the murder’s from a random book of Owen’s before hanging up.
Robin’s been browsing online on her phone to try and avoid hearing all this, and offhandedly mentions reading something about Pippa Middleton, which sparks a memory. Strike remembers that on Kathryn’s blog the mysterious Pippa claimed to have heard some of Bombyx Mori. Credit where it’s due, I actually like this bit. Robin looks up the blog and confirms Pippa posted that before Owen disappeared, so she might have known the ending already. Strike agrees and sends her to buy dessert.
When she gets back he tells her he’s going to dinner with Anstis later and is hoping for a time of death so they can work on narrowing down the list of suspects: Leonora, Pippa, Fisher, Liz, Liz’s assistant Ralph (but not her other assistant Sally, because sexism I expect), Jerry, Chard, Kathryn, and Fancourt. Robin asks how Fancourt could possibly have seen the manuscript, and Strike’s phone rings again before he can answer.
This time it’s Nina, who understandably sounds pretty pissed off with him but is pretending not to be. She jokes about his inexplicable fame, asks whether it really was murder, says it’s insane at work because nobody’s doing anything except talking about it and hopefully asks for details, which Strike says no to. Also Chard has broken his leg, apparently he phoned from his ‘weekend house‘ to yell at Jerry about the police getting hold of the manuscript and somehow can’t leave said house because of a broken leg. Must have been some break. Nina gets in a little dig about how maybe Strike can call her when he’s not so busy and hangs up before he can say anything. Good for her.
He repeats the gist of the conversation to Robin, who repeats her earlier question about why Fancourt’s a suspect. Strike’s rather flimsy justification is that obviously Chard will have told him, not wanting him to find out from other sources, but they’re interrupted yet again – this time it’s Robin’s phone.
It’s Matthew, inevitably. Poor bastard. Robin asks how he is (don’t ask that question, it’s bloody stupid) and he replies understandably that he’s ‘not great’ before hearing some background noise and asking where she is. And of course she tells him that she’s in the pub with Strike celebrating his birthday. Now yes, she’s perfectly entitled to do this, but it’s not exactly sensitive. Matthew’s obviously not happy, but he doesn’t yell at her or anything, just says he’ll call her later and hangs up. She promptly starts panic-dialling him to grovel and placate him, because that’s what the ‘romance’ plot needs to happen, despite him not having seemed particularly in need of placating, and Strike remembers his bad knee and whines all the way to the loo and back, thinking about it.
“The accountant was unhappy that his fiancée had gone out to lunch, that she was not sitting shiva for his mother.”
I had to ask Mitchell what ‘sitting shiva’ means. Wikipedia covers it pretty well but it’s basically an extended wake. The family get together for a few days and share food and commiserate and there’s a prayer service. Except… Strike’s not Jewish to my knowledge, and there’s been no mention that Matthew is (and Robin’s thought about him and the wedding enough in her rare POV scenes over the past two books that it surely would have come up by now), and Rowling isn’t Jewish either, so I have no idea why this phrase would enter his head. I know in a lot of places in the States, for example, there’s a high Jewish population and it’s not an unreasonable assumption, but generally speaking in the UK white British = some flavour of Christian/atheist, or at least that’s the accepted view. Certainly in London there’s a very mixed population, but the Jewish families tend to be more strongly culturally Jewish and are mostly non-Caucasian, so you don’t often have to guess.
Also, the shiva takes place after the funeral, and the poor woman only died a day or two ago. I doubt they’ve buried her yet given everything that has to be arranged when someone dies.
Anyway, yes, Matthew is a bit pissed that his fiancée hasn’t gone to mourn with him and help the family out and is instead at a birthday party with someone who is very clearly a love rival. How unreasonable of him to be annoyed and hurt by that. Especially since he wasn’t a dick about it, just said he’d call back later.
Strike limps slowly back to the table as Robin finishes her phone call. She asks if he’s all right, and he snaps at her. She offers again to do some of the surveillance work so he can rest his leg, and he snaps at her. Then he tells her to go type up the paperwork, and adds that they really need to hire someone else.
Robin promptly gets her things and storms out. I wish they’d been in a restaurant rather than a pub, because then Strike would be left with the bill, but sadly in a pub you pay when you order rather than after you’ve eaten. Strike spots that she’s angry with him (you can see how he became a great detective with keen observational skills like that) but refuses to do anything about it.
Next chapter will be his dinner date with Anstis, but I can’t wade through any more of this crap right now.