Previously on The Baby Silk Moth, lots of epic fail involving possible sexual assault, victim-blaming, PTSD, inexplicable Judaism and tedious misogynistic ‘romance’. This time, more epic fail I expect, though hopefully marginally less disgusting. Pretty please. (Spoiler: that hope was dashed pretty quickly.)
Warning for racism, as well as the usual misogyny.
We start Chapter 23 with Strike whining about his knee, again. Go to the doctor or the hospital if it’s that bad, mate, or else shut up and act like a grownup. He’s on his way to his dinner date with his cop buddy Anstis and Anstis’ wife Helen, who is apparently commonly known as ‘Helly‘. I’m going to take a stab in the dark here and say that’s probably against her will. I’m also not too clear on why Strike’s only referring to his friend by his surname, but then, his friend calls him Bob and I’m not sure of the reason for that either.
It occurs to Strike as he limps along feeling sorry for himself that he ought to have brought a gift for the Anstis’ son, his godson. I don’t know why, it’s not the kid’s birthday or anything – though a gift as an apology for saddling the poor boy with the name Timothy Cormoran Anstis wouldn’t be out of line. Anyway, somehow this segues into a monologue about how Strike can’t stand Anstis’ wife (so yeah, calling it, Helly was not her choice of nickname) because… well, I’m honestly not sure. He says she’s really nosy and he can tell she’s desperate for details about his chequered past, his rock star father, his dead junkie mother etc etc, and that she’ll be equally desperate for details of his breakup with Charlotte, but there’s no indication that Helen has ever asked about any of this; Strike can just magically tell that’s how she feels. The worst thing he can say she’s actually done is to go overboard with gratitude and solicitousness whenever she sees him, because he saved her husband’s life. That’s really not a reason to dislike someone.
He goes on to reminisce about little Timothy’s christening, which was delayed to allow him and Anstis to be airlifted out of Afghanistan (apparently airlifting is a synonym for ‘taking a flight’. Oh wait, no it isn’t), when Helen made a tearful speech of gratitude to him for saving her husband and said she was happy that he was going to be her son’s guardian angel as well. Okay, it’s a bit melodramatic, but her husband nearly died on military service, I think she’s entitled. Strike disagrees, since apparently he spent the speech trying not to look at Charlotte in case she made him laugh, and his memory now is full of him remembering how totally hot Charlotte looked and how having such a hot woman with him made up for his missing foot because every man there was really jealous of him and literally stopped talking in sheer amazement whenever Charlotte walked past.
The sad part is that this is a huge improvement over the way he’s talked about Charlotte in the last book and a half.
So anyway, he doesn’t want to be here because he hates that his friend’s wife is grateful to him and has decided that she’s horrible. In that case, why accept the dinner invite? Why not tell his buddy ‘sorry mate, bit too busy investigating the murder you’re also working on, let’s meet at the office to talk it over instead of having dinner and not being able to say anything in front of your family’? Oh, wait, because that would make sense.
‘Helly‘ actually calls him ‘Cormy‘. And her husband, ‘Ritchie‘. And, yes, her son is ‘Timmy‘. And it turns out they have a one year old daughter as well, who is labelled ‘Tilly‘ – presumably short for Matilda, though since she’s only a girl we’re never told her full name. Why do I suspect this is Rowling spitefully caricaturing someone she knows, again? In a book criticising an imaginary author for doing just that? People do not talk like this. Ritchie and Timmy are legitimate nicknames, but nobody is going to come up with Helly or Cormy unless they’re very, very drunk. Strike hates her calling him that, but naturally has never bothered to tell her and just silently hates her for it every time she says it. She hugs him, which he also hates but makes no attempt to avoid or discourage, and he magically knows that the hug is meant to show pity for him being single, instead of just being something that some people do to greet friends. Anstis himself just gives him a pint of beer, which is a much more acceptable greeting – a literal greeting, they don’t even say hello.
Timothy shows up in pyjamas and waving a plastic lightsabre around. He’s three and a half years old and apparently wanted to stay up to meet his Uncle Cormoran, since his parents have told him so much about him. I don’t have godparents, but if I did and they lived in the same city I would expect to see them a little more often than every three years. In any case, Strike isn’t remotely interested in the boy and the boy doesn’t seem interested in him either, but Strike does at least know when the kid’s birthday is because he was born two days before the explosion that took Strike’s foot and part of Anstis’ face, ‘not that this had ever led Strike to buy him a present‘. Is anyone surprised that he’s an arsehole to small children as well as to adults?
Then there’s a paragraph where Strike remembers the day he saved Anstis’ life, and wonders why Anstis instead of the other guy that was with them. If you recall, Strike had a magic psychic premonition that they were about to be in an explosion, and grabbed Anstis to pull him a bit further away, saving them both while the other guy died. He now decides that it’s because the day before Anstis was Skyping Helen about their newborn son, whereas the other soldier was ‘engaged but childless‘, even though Strike doesn’t like children and doesn’t like Helen either.
Remember, everyone, Rowling says you’re not a person unless you have children.
I have no idea why this is here. In a better book this would segue into an exploration of survivor’s guilt, or at least an acknowledgement that nobody in those situations has time to make any sort of decision and just acts and there’s no actual conscious choice involved, but here it’s just a statement before the narrative moves on. I really, really hate the implication here. I’m sure variations on this scenario have played out thousands of times in every military conflict, and implying that any of them made a deliberate decision to save one person over another is horrible. There’s not even an acknowledgement of what it would mean for Timothy not to grow up fatherless, or anything else that would show any sort of human decency; it’s phrased purely as a comparison of the two men, and one managed to reproduce where the other did not, so therefore apparently one was worth saving and the other wasn’t.
And we immediately move on, and will almost certainly never revisit this subject again. Helen, who I refuse to label with that stupid nickname, invites Strike to read Timmy a bedtime story. I don’t care, book. I really don’t. This has nothing to do with anything. Helen seems to exist purely for us to hate, and God knows this book doesn’t need any more women to be hated on, and this is boring as fuck. This whole chapter should have been cut. Strike dutifully trails into the kitchen and reads Kyla The Kangaroo Who Loved To Bounce, which sounds utterly riveting and I’m not surprised Timmy doesn’t seem to be paying attention – by the time I was three and a half I was attempting to read my bedtime stories myself. To my cat. (He totally liked them, shut up.) I don’t know why they’re doing this in the kitchen instead of in the kid’s bedroom, but whatever.
Over the next several pages, Strike finishes the book – published by Roper Chard, incidentally; nice touch – Timmy refuses to give him a goodnight kiss, Timmy runs upstairs making a lot of noise, Helen follows, Timmy’s little sister Tilly wakes up, Timmy goes to bed, Helen brings Tilly downstairs, it takes most of an hour to get Tilly to go back to bed… I assure you it’s every bit as interesting as I’m making it sound. How the hell did an editor ever let this pass? I suppose they simply don’t care as long as the book makes money, but I have genuinely not read anything this unbelievably boring and pointless in a novel in years. Continuing with the tedium, the three adults eat dinner, and Helen says she was sorry to hear about Charlotte, and Strike treats this as some sort of personal interrogative attack even though it’s literally just a comment before she moves on to tell him she’s pregnant again. Timmy reappears saying he’s hungry, and I am almost falling asleep at this point. Anstis takes his son back to bed, and Helen tells Strike that Charlotte’s getting married again in a few days.
Strike sort-of has a mini meltdown about this, but he already knew, because Robin told him a while back. And Robin told him because he was refusing to take Charlotte’s calls or return her messages and thus she couldn’t tell him herself. In any case, Strike’s main objection here seems to be that there’s no way Helen can possibly know because she’s far too common. Because it turns out Charlotte’s fiancé, Jago Ross, is the son of the fourteenth Viscount of Croy (a minor French nobleman, as far as I can tell), and Charlotte herself is apparently from this social class. I don’t think we knew that before, but I fail to see what difference it makes.
Timmy reappears yet again, crying for some reason, and both parents take him back to bed again, leaving Strike to angst through a full page of what a terrible person Charlotte is and how she lies all the time and how one of her stepfathers tried to have her committed and how over a sixteen-year relationship they never actually stayed together longer than two years and just shut up. You cannot spend the best part of two books insisting that a character is utter scum without actually showing said character to the readers and letting them make their own minds up. This is stupid, shitty, lazy writing, this whole chapter is misogynistic filler, and this book makes me angry for so many reasons.
I’m getting close to my limit here, folks. I’m going to finish this book, but if there’s no improvement there’s not much chance of me covering any more of them. There are only so many times I can read the exact same thing with zero payoff or development.
The next few pages continue to be a textbook example of how not to write a novel. Strike angsts about how horrible his ex-wife supposedly was. Both children constantly reappear to interrupt the conversation. Strike keeps telling himself Helen’s too common to know about Charlotte’s marriage (it doesn’t occur to him that hey, they knew each other for years, maybe they actually became friends). They eat some food. Strike has now completely changed his story about Charlotte – originally she was meant to have had an abortion a little while after telling him she was pregnant with a child he didn’t believe was his, but now he’s saying she claimed to have miscarried and that he doesn’t believe she was ever pregnant at all.
I’m genuinely growing concerned at this point. He’s gone from being a generic arsehole to sounding more and more like a textbook MRA woman-hating sociopath. If he does end up with Robin I’m pretty sure the series is going to end with him brutally murdering her.
Finally, after most of a chapter of mind-numbingly tedious and repetitive filler, the characters remember there’s a plot going on. Helen buggers off with the children, and Anstis and Strike settle down with some beer to discuss the forensics report. Apparently it’s the hardest job they’ve ever had, which I’m automatically dismissing as hyperbole because that’s what I expect from this book. Owen was killed by a blow to the head, probably from a cast-iron doorstop they found nearby; they’re not sure if death was instantaneous or not, but he was definitely at least unconscious when they cut him open. They’re pretty sure he was tied up before he was killed, but they don’t know if he was conscious at the time – oh, come on. The excuse is that the acid stuff on the floor hid any signs of a struggle, but they know he was alive when tied because of a bruise on his wrist; if he was conscious at the time there would be much more extensive bruising. People who are awake are going to struggle if you try to tie them up, unless it’s a consensual sex game, which this really really really wasn’t.
Whatever. He was hit from just above, but they can’t tell if he was standing, sitting or kneeling at the time. Strike says he must have been killed in the room, because nobody would be strong enough to move a corpse that heavy – yeah, I really hadn’t missed the constant fat-shaming, thank you so much, book – and Anstis says they’re pretty sure he was killed where the body was found because that’s where the greatest concentration of acid was.
The acid turns out to be hydrochloric. Chemistry fail! Both Strike’s prosthetic foot and his actual foot would have dissolved by now if he’d walked through hydrochloric acid strong enough to destroy forensic evidence. Also they can now solve the murder immediately by just finding out who ordered a fuckton of acid – half the house was covered in it, and you can’t exactly wander into a store and buy gallons of industrial-strength acid. I think you have to go to a specialist supplier even to buy cleaning products containing acid above a certain strength. Also, the killer would have needed specialist acid-proof safety gear, otherwise they would also have dissolved their hands and feet by now.
Anstis mentions that it occurs naturally in human stomach acid as well – this is true, but not really relevant. Strike says that in the book they use ‘vitriol‘, and Anstis explains that’s sulphuric acid, which hydrochloric acid is derived from. Eh, technically true, you can make it that way, and historically they used to, but these days it’s made directly from hydrogen chloride. Which is a gas at room temperature, incidentally, so the killer can’t have made the acid themselves without specialist equipment. If you have sulphuric acid you can make hydrochloric from it with ordinary table salt, but again you’d need specialist equipment, and if you had sulphuric acid anyway you could just use that to dissolve your corpse.
Oh, wait, apparently the acid was already in the house. There were empty gallon drums of it in the rooms Strike never bothered to search, and some unused dusty ones in the cupboard under the stairs that had been there ages. The police are still trying to figure out how it got there and who bought it, even though they’ve already traced it to a chemical manufacturing company based in Birmingham.
I’ve worked for a pharmaceutical company before. The amount of records those places keep is insane. Trust me, it would take them about ten minutes to track down a specific order, unless by an amazing coincidence they sell that exact quantity of that exact product to hundreds of people in London every month, and even then it would only take a few hours to trace. This is an industry that does not fuck around.
The ‘entomologist’ refuses to commit to a time of death. Well, I’m not surprised, the poor guy is probably wondering why the fuck the police are asking him, since an entomologist studies insects. I think Rowling means they were asking a biologist because of flies, maggots etc, but really, someone on the forensics team would know that, they don’t need an insect specialist, and it’s really not clear.
The acid fucked with usual decomposition rates and kept insects away from most of the corpse, plus the heating was on full blast to accelerate the rotting, and the guts were removed and taken away by the killer so they can’t determine it from the last meal etc. Anstis and Strike seem bewildered by the killer taking the intestines away, even though they have literally just discussed how that means time of death is really hard to figure out – pay attention, guys, the killer is trying to hide evidence, this is not a radical concept. It’s an interesting question though, because your intestines are about twenty feet long and that’s quite a lot to haul away and dispose of. Easiest way would be to head to your nearest pig farm, but in central London those are in pretty short supply…
(Mitchell suggests perhaps another form of acid was used here. I’m inclined to agree 😛 though possibly by the author rather than the characters.)
Anyway, time of death was at least ten days ago, though Anstis says unofficially they think perhaps two weeks or so. No sign of the knife that was used to cut him up. They haven’t had the blood test results back yet so they can’t be sure if he was drugged or not, but it’s possible he wasn’t because the police have been talking to Owen’s mistress Kathryn, and guess what? He liked being tied up.
Sigh. Tread carefully, Rowling. The BDSM community have been vilified enough by being associated with the abomination that is Fifty Shades, we don’t need you joining in and saying they deserve to be horribly murdered.
A taxi driver has confirmed he took Owen to Kathryn’s flat on the 5th (I’ve lost track of what month this is all meant to have gone down, and the book doesn’t see fit to enlighten me) but Kathryn wasn’t there – she was with her dying sister Angela at a hospice, which has been confirmed, and she claims not to have seen him for around a month. She told the police a lot about their sex life because she seemed to think they already knew a lot of it. Strike comments that she told him she’d never read the book, but that her character ties up and assaults the hero, so maybe she just wants it on record that she ties people up for sex and not anything else.
There’s no sign of the typewriter ribbons, manuscript and other remnants of the book that Owen took with him, so they assume the killer took those away. In the other rooms Strike never bothered to search they found some food, a camping mattress and a sleeping bag, so they’re assuming Owen was staying there. I’m going to guess this will turn out to be wrong, since a lot of people have said repeatedly that he likes fancy hotels and you don’t go from that to squatting, but that room was doused in acid too. Anstis mentions that the fumes are so bad in the house that the police have to wear masks while they’re working in there, which means Strike should be coughing up blood and getting quite close to dying by now.
Nobody saw Owen entering the house, but a neighbour saw someone leave, about 1 in the morning of the 6th of whatever month we’re talking about. We’re told the neighbour saw Owen, but the description is of ‘a tall figure in a cloak, carrying a holdall’ so it obviously wasn’t him because the book doesn’t call him fat.
Let’s hope it was Voldemort. That would liven this book up a bit.
An old man in another part of London says he saw someone matching Owen’s description buying books in a store on the 8th. We’re told he remembers what the man bought, but not what that is or whether the bookstore’s records/CCTV said anything. And a woman who lives on Talgarth Road across the street from the deathhouse says she saw Fancourt walking past, also on the 8th. Fancourt himself is in Germany right now and for some reason this means the police can’t ask him anything – maybe Rowling thinks phones don’t work in Germany, or that the police can only ask you any questions at all inside the police station – so they’ll have to wait until he gets back to find out what he was doing there.
Someone else on Talgarth Road actually did see Owen, on the 4th, before all this happened. Okay, we’re not told it’s Owen, but we’re told he saw ‘a fat woman in a burqa‘ carrying a bag from a halal takeaway, so it’s not hard to figure out what the book is very subtly hinting at. Totally-Not-Owen had a key and let themselves into the deathhouse.
Anstis doesn’t believe any of the witnesses, for some reason. He thinks Owen died the night he disappeared. We’re not told why, and he and Strike don’t discuss it, instead talking about who had keys to the house. Leonora did, and Fancourt has two, and Owen presumably had one. Liz was lent a key a while back and says she returned it. One of the neighbours had one in case of problems but he’s on holiday in New Zealand and has been since before Owen vanished. Leonora doesn’t know who else might have been lent one – well, of course she doesn’t, she can’t possibly know who Owen or Fancourt gave keys to.
Anstis says Leonora’s a bit odd, and mentions that neighbours saw her chasing Owen down the street screaming the night he disappeared. Oh goody. I suppose this is why he doesn’t believe the witnesses, though – the nasty closed-minded stupid police have decided Leonora did it, so now the super-awesome intelligent Strike can follow his magical hunches and prove them all wrong again. Gag. Though it does turn out that before she got married she worked in her uncle’s butcher’s shop, which would be interesting if it wasn’t an obvious red herring.
Strike fucks off at this point, pretty much mid-scene without really even saying goodbye.
Damn, this was a long chapter. And it really didn’t need to be, because the actual relevant stuff only took up a couple of pages. Time for a break.
We learned nothing useful or interesting last chapter. I’d like to think Chapter 24 will be better, but it’s not looking promising, opening as it does with Strike having nightmares about his ex-wife. He’s running through a Gothic cathedral to interrupt her wedding because he knows she’s just given birth to his child, and finds her alone and putting on a red dress at the altar and no sign of it. He asks where it is and Charlotte says he’s not seeing it because he didn’t want it and anyway there’s something wrong with it. She tells him to leave it and adds that it’ll have to be announced in the papers eventually, and then he wakes up. As with pretty much all Rowling’s dream sequences, there’s nothing technically wrong with it, but it sounds far too logical and sequential to be a real dream, though I will grudgingly admit I like the detail that in the dream Strike still has both his legs.
As usual, he spends time whining about how his knee hurts. It’s so swollen now he can barely get his prosthesis on. If that was going to happen it would have happened when he first hurt it, rather than a week or so later when nothing new has happened to strain it, and also go to the bloody doctor already or at least have the sense to take an anti-inflammatory. He’s not even taken a painkiller. He just likes whining.
From there his whining progresses to tell us that he’s figured out how Helen found out about Charlotte’s wedding. I don’t care. Please can we get back to the actual plot?
Apparently, no, we can’t. And for all that this has been hyped up as some dramatic revelation that he’s a genius for figuring out, it turns out he just goes to the office and Googles ‘charlotte campbell hon jago ross wedding‘. Stunning detective work. To cut a long story short – this crap honestly takes up two full pages – Charlotte’s on the front cover of a society magazine, so he goes out and buys a copy.
Oh, fuck this. The entire chapter is literally just him whining about Charlotte. He reads the implausibly long and detailed article and stops after every paragraph to rant to himself about how terrible she is, and there is literally nothing we haven’t heard a dozen times already. He then throws a tantrum because the article mentions him in passing as ‘Jonny Rokeby’s eldest son‘ and I’m not sure why but I really, truly do not give the tiniest of fucks. And the endless pages of this tripe finally end with him telling himself that Charlotte’s engagement, the magazine article, the photos, literally everything, was deliberately engineered by her just to spite him and if he called her now and told her to run away with him she would.
On the final page of the chapter, Robin shows up, and he tells her they’re going out to do some work on the Quine case. It’s a miracle. She points out that he has other clients and he waves this off, telling her that forensics think Owen died right after he disappeared so the two of them are going to find out where all the suspects live and go and nose around their houses to see how easily any of them could have disposed of a bag of intestines. He also wants to see ‘the old bloke’ who saw Owen in a bookshop on the 8th, but how he expects Robin to find him without a name – especially when she didn’t know he existed – is anyone’s guess.
Robin’s still a bit annoyed with him – and possibly worried that he’s talking absolute nonsense – and points out they could just look the houses up on Google Earth; he snaps at her and cuts her off mid-sentence, ordering her to find everyone’s addresses immediately, and storms off into his office, whereupon she sits and pouts that he doesn’t understand her and why can’t he see that she wants to solve the murder as badly as he does?
He doesn’t, dear. He doesn’t give a shit.
And this chapter, which also should have been entirely cut, ends with a whimper.
Robin and Strike get the Tube to their first destination. She tells Strike the old man from the bookshop is on holiday – no, seriously, how the hell does she know? Anstis never gave Strike a name or an address in the first place – and he says fine, move on to the suspects. Christian Fisher lives with a woman in Camden, and Strike says that’s no good because the killer would need ‘peace and solitude‘ to dispose of bloodstained clothing and a stone’s worth of intestines. Nope, wrong again – the average adult human’s intestines add up to about 7.5 pounds, which is only half a stone. Though everyone’s so focused on the intestines that I still have no idea if Owen’s other internal organs were also missing, so I suppose we could be looking at a stone’s worth of viscera. Anyway, I don’t know why living with someone means you don’t have enough privacy to hide something, but whatever, Strike’s clearly lost his marbles anyway.
Robin says ‘defiantly‘ that she looked at the house on Google Street View (though sadly doesn’t add ‘so fuck you’) and Fisher’s flat shares a communal entrance with three others, plus it’s miles away from the crime scene.
I’m going to stop for a moment to take a look at Talgarth Road, because I’m curious now.
Well, it’s a fucking stupid location to commit murder. It runs right underneath the Hammersmith flyover, and for part of its length is the flyover, and is surrounded by two magistrate’s courts, lots of large offices, superstores, a massive railway line, a hotel, a big shopping centre, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts… in fact only a very small part of the road is residential; the rest is pretty heavily industrial. And there’s zero chance of anyone managing to get out of there unnoticed on foot, but zero chance of anyone taking any notice if they left by car, regardless of the time of day or night.
Still, Robin’s right that Camden’s quite a distance away. She asks if Strike actually thinks Fisher’s a suspect and he says no, not really – he barely knew Owen and wasn’t in the book. Why waste time on him then? Robin, why aren’t you asking this?
They get off the Tube – I don’t know where they’re going, by the way. They haven’t actually decided who they’re looking at yet. And it’s snowing, so it might have been more sensible to stay on the Underground where it’s warm while they figure stuff out, or better yet not have left the office until they’d decided. But doing it this way means the book can harp on Strike’s limp some more. Anyway, Strike asks about Liz Tassel, who lives alone very close to Talgarth Road (and nowhere near the stop where our heroes have just got off the train, heh). Disregarding this, Strike decides they’ll go and look at her place, ‘see if she’s got any freshly dug flower beds‘.
Robin points out reasonably that the police will be doing this, and Strike says nope because Anstis thinks Leonora did it. Dude, even if that’s true, they’re still going to investigate the other suspects. How the hell does Rowling think the police work? He adds that Leonora used to work in a butcher’s, and Robin responds with ‘oh bugger‘ for no reason that I can fathom except so Strike can laugh at her Yorkshire accent (that I didn’t know she had; that probably should have been mentioned before now).
They get back onto the Tube to head towards Liz’s house. No mention of whether Robin looked at it on Street View or not, or any discussion of how serious a suspect Liz is. Instead Strike moves on to asking about Jerry – lives with his wife in Kensington, daughter has a flat in the basement of the house – and Daniel – lives in Pimlico with a couple who have Hispanic names, so Strike instantly assumes they must be servants.
I’m not joking. Robin says he lives with a couple called Nenita and Manny Ramos, and Strike interrupts to say, “Sound like servants.” It really is just that offensive.
Oh goody, racism finally rears its ugly head to go with all the other prejudices we’ve seen. At least it took longer to develop here than it did in Cuckoo. I really, really hope Daniel’s either their lodger or in a polyamorous relationship with them, but this is Rowling, so no, they’ll be servants. And no doubt won’t be able to speak English. Sigh.
Daniel also has a big manor-type house in Devon, which is presumably where he is right now with his broken leg. Fancourt is ex-directory but owns a big manor-type house in Somerset, no record of any London residence. Strike wonders where he was staying when he was spotted outside the deathhouse, and Robin forgets that she wasn’t told he was there to agree that It Is A Mystery. Strike adds that they know where Kathryn lives and know she lives alone and they’ll check out her place next, even though he’s already been there.
For the rest of the journey Strike tells Robin about the other witnesses who saw Owen and the woman in the burqa, ending with the useless observation that ‘one or both of them could be mistaken or lying‘. Yes, that’s why the police question witnesses instead of just taking their word for it, you moron. Robin concludes that the neighbour who saw the woman must be a ‘raging Islamophobe‘ because… they said they saw someone in a burqa, in Central London. Are you high? It’s probably one of the most racially diverse cities on the planet. Seeing someone in cultural dress pretty much just means your eyes are open.
The dialogue is interrupted for several paragraphs of Robin musing to herself about all the weird prejudices she’s discovered from reading the office mail since Strike became ‘famous’. A man asked him to break the stranglehold the Jews supposedly have on the world’s banks – yes, thank you, Rowling, you made your stance on that particular stereotype quite clear when you created the Gringotts goblins. It’s even weirder on the heels of the reference to sitting shiva last post, and I still haven’t worked out why that was there. A woman wrote from a psychiatric hospital to tell Strike that her family had all been abducted and replaced with clones (let us note that once again it’s a woman who is crazy). An unknown person wrote a rambling letter about Satanic abuse going on at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Et cetera, et cetera.
Robin and Strike have a brief discussion of how well a burqa would let a suspect conceal themselves, and maybe Owen’s guts were removed to hide the fact that his last meal was halal (er, guys, you can’t tell from half-digested cooked meat whether the animal was slaughtered under halal conditions or not, and you already know the guts were almost certainly removed to help hide the time of death along with all the other tricks, and anyway why the hell would it matter what he ate unless it was poisoned?). The book points out that for the duration of this conversation a woman in a hijab is sitting right next to them. Tasteful.
They get off the Tube and head towards the deathhouse, because… reasons I suppose, Strike whines about his knee and how he wants a walking stick and how Charlotte once bought him one but it was too short for him because she’s awful, and I still don’t care. He shoots his mouth off at the policemen on duty outside the crime scene (we’re told one of them is leering at Robin, which is unlikely and also irrelevant) and the two of them wander around the neighbouring houses until he concludes that the witnesses who saw the cloaked figure and the woman could perfectly easily have seen just that and might not be lying. Yes, this was definitely worth wasting half a chapter on.
They move on, and Strike finally sees fit to give us an actual useful date for all this. Owen disappeared on November 5th, Bonfire Night. Nice of someone to finally let us know. Strike says this is significant because with all the fireworks around nobody would have noticed a guy in a fucking cloak wandering about. Nobody’s going to be letting off fireworks in Hammersmith, idiot, it’s way too built up and illuminated to see them. Anyway, for some reason he thinks this means the guy in the bookshop was lying about seeing Owen there on the 8th. I think your chain of logic is missing a few links.
At this point Strike dramatically collapses sideways and says he felt something give way in his knee, and is apparently in too much pain to actually move now. Robin must still be angry with him, I assume, since she says they need a taxi to continue their surveillance work and doesn’t suggest that they go to A&E to find out what’s actually wrong with his knee. She also asks why he doesn’t have a stick, and says maybe they can find one in a chemist’s shop, before sensibly suggesting that he just go back to the office.
The two of them argue for a bit, because Strike really doesn’t want her to do anything escept presumably make tea or buy him food, but finally he agrees that they can split up and she can check Kathryn’s flat and Chard’s house while he does the others. We’re pretty much exactly half way through this shitpile of a book now, but there might be some actual detective work about to start.
I know, I’m as surprised as you are.