Tag Archives: misogyny

Mitchell’s Feminist Relationship Advice for Heterosexual Men (& everyone else too)

For better or worse I’ve ended up having way too many conversations about romance/sex/etc advice recently, so I thought I might as well collect my thoughts in one place (and just in time for Valentine’s Day too, sometimes coincidences are fun). It’s a good time for it anyway; the mainstream culture is always so terrible about these sort of things, and I think it’s especially important to push back against that in this age of the Sexual-Predator-in-Chief.

This is a serious post despite the snark.

I’m afraid this may feel disjointed in places, as it’s mainly a collection of things I’ve found myself saying or wishing I had said in response to things people have said to or around me, but so be it. I’m fairly certain the core ideas should still come through just fine. That said, I’m not entirely sure who the target audience is here: I’ve tried to keep this mostly at 101-level for accessibility but I’m not sure I entirely succeeded, and also I’ve tried to address various different stages here so it’s unlikely it all is likely to be applicable to everybody.

(And as this excellent piece I encountered the other day points out, patriarchal relationship norms aren’t good for men either. I think it’s always a worthy effort to undermine them.)

[I likely won’t have much to add, but I’m here agreeing with these points.]

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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in mitchell


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Well, fuck, America. I don’t even know what to say. I certainly wasn’t expecting to have to write about THIS. FUCK.

As I begin to write this, the results aren’t quite in yet – mainstream news networks are holding off on calling the result but a Clinton victory is looking more and more impossible. Including in Pennsylvania, where I am from, and where I honestly was shocked to see the level of Trump support but still was not expecting him to win the state (right now they’re still saying it’s too close to call, but Trump is leading).

Never mind that, Hillary Clinton has apparently conceded. Goddamn it. We’re officially in Brexit Mark Two.

(By the time the post was finished he’d won outright anyway. Fuck.)

I’ve been refraining from writing about politics for a long time, despite being somewhat tempted, because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I started trying to draft a piece on what watching the Trump phenomenon was like, as a male person who has been sexually assaulted (I don’t call myself ‘survivor’ because it was comparatively minor and I was never in danger), but couldn’t finish it. I am also ethnically Jewish – which doesn’t often mean a lot to me, as I’m an atheist, but is starting to feel more and more like it is going to matter (and not in a good way) thanks to all of the anti-Semitic dogwhistling that Trump has been promoting and voicing himself. Let us not forget that of the very few newspaper endorsements Trump received, one was from the Crusader, the official paper of the Ku Klux Klan (because apparently that is still a real thing that exists). This man is a fucking terror. He is a racist, misogynist bully and has already established himself as the sort of person who enjoys taking advantage of his (perceived? actual?) power as a celebrity to do things he would not otherwise get away with. He is also demonstrably a pathological liar. America has just decided to give that person a hell of a lot more power.

Plus the power to make Supreme Court appointments, given to a man who has already promised to find “another Scalia” and claimed he knows of 20 such people (which is almost certainly an exaggeration and a lie, but still, that is the intent he expressed). This is a sad day for anyone who has any kind of marginalised identity whatsoever, and for any white person with the barest modicum of self-awareness. And let’s not forget that the entire Republican party made that happen, by declaring by fiat that President Obama’s final year in office didn’t really count and that therefore they could block him from making any such appointment at all.

Now it’s true that the presidency is not a dictatorship. All the evidence you need for that is to look at President Obama, who was rendered ineffectual by Republican stonewalling in the House and in the Senate. But again, Americans have fucked ourselves, because both legislative houses are also under Republican majority control. I will acknowledge this: it is true that many Republicans claim not to have wanted Trump, and came out publicly to repudiate him, but it is also true that many of those who did also turned around and voted for him because EMAILS!!!! or something similarly stupid. I have no confidence in House or Senate Republicans’ not being on board with a Trump administration, because these are the people who created him, were unable to stop him, and eventually just went belly-up like the dogs they are (all due apologies to our actual canine friends). We have given this man power, and we are going to feel the effects of it.

Let’s look at some other scenarios – if any of the upcoming trials against Trump (including the child rape case, and the Trump University scam – don’t forget about these, America!) don’t go his way, and this somehow leads to an impeachment, we’ll be left with Mike Pence. A Christian fundamentalist theocrat who, in Indiana, has had women thrown in prison for having miscarriages. I am genuinely unsure whether a Pence presidency would be any improvement; as some people have already pointed out, he is less likely to start a nuclear war, but that’s about the only thing that can be said in his favour. Trump is stupid, self-serving and evil; Pence is just self-serving and evil, and has the skills to actually enact policy.

Is this what the Romans felt like, when they elected Caesar? The Germans, Hitler? How long does it take before it is obvious whether the democratic system will survive the election of a would-be tyrant? And will we like the answer once we know? It will probably be too late by then.

So let’s also remember who is to blame for this. People are going to blame Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for various reasons, and I suppose in a technical sense there are ways in which, had they acted a bit differently, some numbers might have tilted a little and the outcome could have been changed (because let’s face it, this is one of the closest elections we have ever had). People might blame the Electoral College, and there might be a bit of something to that too. But let’s not forget that half of voting America VOTED FOR TRUMP. Even if Trump had lost, that would still be true. I saw a lot of think pieces in the run-up to this election of people musing about how we’re going to deal with the angry mob Trump fomented once Trump lost, because once the explicit bigotry is out from under the rock it’s very hard to shove it back under again, and yes, that was something I worried about. I didn’t quite manage to worry about what would happen if there were just enough of them to tip the scales the other way; none of the polling data made it seem like that was at all likely, and I suspect it could be interesting to see the statisticians try to work out what it was they overlooked. But we have a bigger problem, because there are a lot of these people and they are angry AND THEY ARE IN POWER.

If you voted for Trump, I have no sympathy for you. I don’t care why you voted for him, nor how distasteful you thought Hillary Clinton was or for what reasons. This is on you. If you don’t like what he does to this country, BLAME YOURSELF BECAUSE IT IS YOUR FAULT. If you were watching mainstream media go on about EMAILS and supposed Clinton scandals that were (certainly comparatively and, I would argue, absolutely) of a severity level comparable to a tempest in a teapot, and parroting and promoting these narratives, THIS IS YOUR FAULT. If you were one of those reporters who thought Trump made such good TV it was okay to promote him over other candidates, THIS IS YOUR FAULT. If you, at any point, justified the false equivalency narratives between Clinton and Trump, THIS IS YOUR FAULT. FUCK YOU. As far as we’re concerned, if you voted for him you are also a sexist racist piece of shit.

If you didn’t vote, I have to seriously wonder what’s wrong with your priorities (obviously excluding people who were disenfranchised by ‘voter ID’ laws, ran afoul of voter intimidation, and the like; if that’s the case you have my sincerest sympathies). Could you not tell the difference? Do you just not care? I honestly think ignorance cannot be an excuse here, despite the absurd levels of ignorance I’ve found myself confronted by when talking to people about this election. THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN HARD.

And then there’s the FBI, whose baseless and partisan intervention the week before the election may well have thrown it to Trump. FUCK YOU. I don’t know what is even happening any more, but that does not bode well for the future either.

I live in Pennsylvania, which is one of the more difficult states to do early voting in (the only early voting in PA is by absentee ballot, and they don’t send the ballots in time to vote early) and in which absentee ballots are not guaranteed. I am currently in Wales, visiting Loten [hi guys; we expected our joint posts to be about wizards, not this shit]; we’d been planning this trip for a long time, and it was perhaps foolish of me not to factor election day in, but there was literally no other time we could make this work and it had been far too long since we’d seen each other. I applied for absentee ballot and – this was the mistake – because I expected it to arrive in time to vote early, I had it sent to my US address. It arrived an hour after my plane left, because the universe hates me and wants me to suffer.

So I didn’t get to vote. I didn’t get to vote for Hillary Clinton, who I enthusiastically supported and think would have made a fantastic president. I didn’t get to vote for Katie McGinty, either, who I thought looked quite promising (and now we are stuck with Pat Toomey). And Pennsylvania ended up being a very close race, one of the last states they called and, possibly, the state which pushed Trump over the 270 threshold. I’ll be wrestling with guilt over that for a while, I think. [Emotions are irrational and I’m not letting him explicitly blame himself.]

I can barely process this.

We’re all fucked.


Posted by on November 9, 2016 in mitchell


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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a Read-along (Act Four)

I sentence this play to death. Let’s see if I can follow through and finish it off. (Previous instalments: Act One Act Two Act Three)

Act four.

Scene one.

Again in the “grand meeting room” at the Ministry. Again this basically looks like Hermione’s giving a press conference for the general public (the other characters we know are present are the usual adult crowd for this play: McGonagall, Harry, Ginny, Draco, and Ron). She announces they found Craig Bowker dead, and that they learned of the prophecy and the existence of Voldemort’s child. (I find it interesting she actually used the title Dark Lord also, because that’s appeared pretty seldom in this play, most of the time people just say “Voldemort”.)

There’s a lot of talking back and forth about how little they know and how little they can do (McGonagall in particular is extremely angry with Hermione for apparently losing track of the Time-Turner again), that they’re trying to investigate (but it seems pretty hopeless). One by one, Harry, Draco, Ginny and Ron join Hermione on the stage in solidarity basically to say “we all fucked up”, apparently it’s a huge deal and shocks everyone present that Draco is supporting them.

Not much else to be said about this scene. It’s honestly just more filler, it’s not terribly written and it’s clearly trying to ratchet up the tension but I don’t think it accomplishes much.

Scene two.

Wow, I didn’t think there were more sharks left for this play to jump, but somehow this scene manages it, and in so doing clearly sets the tone for the rest of what’s still to come. Not promising, not that I was really expecting it to be.

Anyway, the setting is specified as a train station in the Scottish Highlands, in 1981. You can already see where this is going, I’m sure. That’s actually a bit of a spoiler if you’re reading the script, because they intend the year to be a bombshell reveal at the end of this scene.

Albus and Scorpius are at the train station, arguing with each other whether to try to talk to the stationmaster who is a Muggle, to find out if anyone has seen Delphi and/or what year it is. At least, they start out trying to talk about that, it pretty quickly gets sidetracked into their issues (Albus is hung up on the fact he thinks his father will blame them for this; Scorpius thinks it’s a bigger deal they’re trapped in an unknown time without wands, etc, and that Albus has odd priorities). There’s also an exchange about how Albus fancied Delphi and now feels guilty about it (so I guess they’re now trying to insist he’s completely heterosexual?).

The stationmaster interrupts them and asks if they know the trains are running late, in a very thick Scots accent they barely understand. He hands them a timetable and this gives the super shocking reveal: the date is 30 October 1981.

From this, the boys immediately jump to a conclusion, they think they’ve figured out Delphi’s plan. They think it’s because they were going on to her about how prophecies don’t need to come true, so instead of trying to fulfill the existing one she’s going to interfere with the original one (which they recite for the sake of the audience). So they decide they need to get to Godric’s Hollow to prevent Delphi killing Harry as a baby.

I have lots of questions about this, obviously. I almost don’t think it’s necessary to explain how ridiculous this is. I did check back to the previous scene, and apparently it does hint there that she’s doing something with the Time-Turner while they were struggling over it, before she breaks it, but still. It continues to amaze me how easy it supposedly is to specify dates/times to travel to on this Time-Turner, that Delphi could do something like this on a moment’s notice.

Likewise, I think we’re intended to view this as clever of Delphi, but really this is an Idiot Ball moment for her. She’s already had it confirmed that her previous strategy worked (they already brought true her prophecy, for fuck’s sake), she could’ve just offed the boys and replicated what they did to Diggory in the second task. Instead she’s going out of her way to interfere with something else, which is needlessly complicated, and she still has the boys in the same time period (again, why don’t you just shoot them).

Obviously this play is going to try for some kind of pseudo-profound parallelism in going back to “where things all began”. I’m really not sure what it’s going to be able to accomplish, because let’s face it, there’s nothing particularly special about the backstory/setup in which Voldemort tries to kill Harry, and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to be encouraging us to put that scene under greater scrutiny when the “power of love” bullshit explanations were thin and unconvincing as it is.


Scene three.

Suddenly the boys are in Godric’s Hollow. Again I have questions – how’d they know how to get there from wherever they were? How’d they get there so quickly? We don’t see them get on a train or anything, and they explicitly go out of their way to talk about how they have neither wands nor brooms. [They’re also not old enough to Apparate.]

Anyway, they walk through the city. Scorpius points out various landmarks, apparently he’s been there before but Albus never has (he apparently refused every time Harry tried to take him there). Scorpius mentions the statue that will exist eventually, which Albus apparently never knew about. They glimpse Bathilda Bagshot who Scorpius fanboys over (okay, that’s kind of cute), then see the Potter home, and see James and Lily pushing baby Harry in a “pushchair” (why don’t they just call it a pram, is pushchair an actual thing?). [Yes, a pushchair is what you call a stroller, a pram is the fancier show-off version. Which honestly James and Lily would have had, so your argument is perfectly valid.] They realise Delphi hasn’t gotten to them yet [why, what is she doing?], but also that they have no plan for what they’re going to do when she does show up.

[…why are James and Lily out with the baby? They’re meant to be in hiding. If you know bad guys are after you, maybe don’t go out for a stroll? Also, PLOT HOLE ALERT – the Potter house is Secret-Kept at this point. Pettigrew hasn’t told the boys, or the Mary Sue, where it is. None of them should be able to see it.]

Very good point about the Fidelius thing; somehow I completely missed that. Now there is some potential ambiguity here because we’re never told how that bloody spell is supposed to work. It does seem to render 12 Grimmauld invisible to those who haven’t been told the Secret, in OotP. But at the same time, the time-travel shenanigans could also just mean that, because everyone involved already know the Secret and it’s not under Fidelius in their time, they keep that knowledge when going backward (they weren’t there when the spell was cast, so under some theories of how it works they could be unaffected by it). But the play never even acknowledges the possibility (I’d have been perfectly fine if they just used a handwave like that) or acknowledges the Fidelius was there in the first place, so that’s another zero for you, writers. (And that’s even disregarding the fact that they’re supposed to be in hiding, they shouldn’t just be parading Harry about in public view without a care in the world.)

Scene four.

Harry’s office at the Ministry. This is a long scene and full of bullshit.

We open on Harry rifling through papers, trying to find any clue he missed. Dumbledore’s portrait initiates a conversation with him. Harry doesn’t seem particularly happy to see Dumbledore, and basically tells him to get lost because “[he was] absent every time it really counted”. Dumbledore spouts some platitudes about how he would have spared Harry if he could, but Harry isn’t having any of it:

HARRY: “Love blinds us”? Do you even know what that means? Do you even know how bad that advice was? My son is — my son is fighting battles for us just as I had to for you. And I have proved as bad a father to him as you were to me.

Damn, Harry. I may not care much for how they’ve written him to this point, but that’s a pretty good line, and something that probably did need to be said. In response, more self-justification from Dumbledore. We eventually get this:

[DUMBLEDORE:] Of course I loved you . . . and I knew that it would happen all over again . . . that where I loved, I would cause irreparable damage. I am no fit person to love . . . I have never loved without causing harm.
A beat.
HARRY: You would have hurt me less if you had told me this then.

I’m not sure what to make of this. I actually like that this is giving us some explicit acknowledgment that Dumbledore wasn’t perfect (never saw much of this in the main series! even Deathly Hallows’ attempt was tepid at best), and that Harry acknowledges Dumbledore treated him pretty badly. On the other hand, it just leads from that into Dumbledore spouting more platitudes about love (albeit, I think, slightly better ones than usual) and Harry admitting he loved Dumbledore too:

HARRY: I loved you too, Dumbledore.

They’re even ripping off fucking Star Wars now?

Dumbledore leaves. I think we’re supposed to have viewed this as an emotional and moving scene, but really it’s just more of Dumbledore being an arsehole. [I’m okay with that. Though it’s somewhat invalidated by people having been swearing by him as though he’s Jesus for the entire play.] Like the books, the play wants to have its cake and eat it too where Dumbledore is concerned.

Draco shows up shortly afterward, and the scene rapidly improves (though there’s still a lot to dislike).

DRACO: Did you know that in this other reality — the reality Scorpius saw into — I was Head of Magical Law Enforcement? Maybe this room will be mine soon enough. Are you okay?
HARRY is consumed in his grief.
HARRY: Come in — I’ll give you the tour.

That’s a pretty good exchange, I actually like it. But then we get this:

DRACO: The thing is, though — never really fancied being a Ministry man. Even as a child. My dad, it’s all he ever wanted — me, no.

I guess this is written to the movie canon, in which Lucius Malfoy worked at the Ministry for some insane reason? (I remember him once telling Arthur Weasley “I’ll see you at work” but it didn’t make a whole lot of sense). I tend to agree with something I once saw Arsinoe de Blassenville say in an author’s note, “it’s obvious that Lucius Malfoy’s career is being Lucius Malfoy”. He’s on the Hogwarts board and possibly the Wizengamot, he has investments, he throws money around, but he’s not the type to work for someone else (except reluctantly Voldemort) and he’s certainly not a bureaucrat. Lucius Malfoy buys politicians and bureaucrats, he wouldn’t sink so low as to become one himself.

Anyway, here comes the big reveal. The Time-Turner that’s been driving the plot up to this point was just a prototype, hence the five-minute problem. Apparently Theodore Nott (remember him?) had actually been working on commission from Lucius Malfoy, because “he liked owning things that no one else had”, he wanted it for his collection but had no intentions of using it. Anyway, Draco has the perfected version, which doesn’t have a time limit (and is also made of gold, as opposed to the other being made “of inexpensive metal”).

[Are we ever told what happened to Lucius and Narcissa? Or Molly and Arthur, come to that? It’s unlikely that all four of them are dead, and it’s less likely that none of them care about their grandsons. I can easily assume Ginny/Ron never bothered telling their parents what was going on, but Draco wouldn’t keep this from his parents. Likewise, James 2 and Lily 2 seem unconcerned about their brother.]

Nope, nothing. (Likewise, lots of people have been making noise about the absence of Teddy Lupin; lots of people are inexplicably missing who should be around.) To an extent I can understand this as artistic licence, because in a play you do need to keep the cast at reasonable levels, but it’s weird they don’t even mention these people’s existence or explain where they are (I suppose a problem in adapting books with a large cast to this medium). And there are some weird choices made (like, for instance, having Petunia and Vernon and Hagrid show up in flashbacks) that seemed unnecessary to me (though some of these are combined with other roles, admittedly), so I don’t think this defence works either.

We also get this:

HARRY: Hermione Granger. It was the reason she kept the first, the fear that there might be a second. Hanging on to this, you could have been sent to Azkaban.

Stop rewriting history, play. She said she was keeping it because she didn’t feel she had a choice, it was something new that they hadn’t seen before. Nothing to do with worrying about there being more of them. (I went back and checked.)

Draco says they couldn’t reveal they had it, because it would’ve supported the stupid rumours about Voldemort being Scorpius’ father. He goes into a monologue about Astoria; apparently it wasn’t so much that she was ill but an ancestral curse, a “blood malediction” that “showed up in her”. Much melodrama. Apparently he didn’t want to risk her health on a pregnancy and didn’t care if the Malfoy name would die out, but she insisted because she didn’t expect to live a long life and wanted Draco to “have somebody when she left”. They decided to live in seclusion in the hope that would be better for her health, but apparently that fuelled the rumours (somehow? Plenty of people live in seclusion in the Potterverse, it shouldn’t have seemed weird). Draco is regretful about this.

Draco offers the Time-Turner to Harry, he wants to go searching for their sons (he also says he’s been constantly resisting the temptation to use it to see his wife again, which is legitimately sad and a nice touch). Harry says they can’t, it would be impossible to find them. [You’re telling me the Head of the Aurors is saying there is literally no way to track specific individuals? I get that they don’t know what time period the boys are in, allegedly, but even going back year by year and casting locator spells each time wouldn’t take all that long. Harry isn’t exactly coming across as desperate to find his son.]

It would help if they explained how the Time-Turner worked (for instance, to what level of precision they can specify when to go to); I think the implication is supposed to be “we couldn’t possibly search all of time, there’s no way we’ll find anything”. Going year by year might not be enough, and day by day would probably be too daunting. That said, Harry does give up surprisingly quickly. It’s almost like he knows the plot’s going to feed him information later.

That’s where the scene ends.

Scene five.

Back with Albus and Scorpius trying to figure out what to do. Their first ideas are to tell people something (the Potters, then Dumbledore [not Snape, the only guy who ever actually tried to stop it?]) but they end up rejecting that because they’re afraid it’ll interfere too much with the future. (Finally, they’ve learnt caution! [Out of character caution!] I guess this is meant to be character development?) They realise they can’t ask for help in the past without risking changing it, so they’ll need to try sending a message to the future. [Faulty logic is faulty. They’ve never hesitated to change things before, and it’s never done anything catastrophic; what’s so special about this time?]

You’re absolutely right, the play’s weird insistence that “minor” changes don’t matter and only major ones do (e.g. they never undid Albus and Scorpius talking to young Hermione at the Triwizard, just the disarming spell on Cedric; that conversation should rightly have changed things too) plays havoc with their reasoning here. But I suppose this is an incidence of two stupids cancelling each other out, somehow.

Their first idea for that is to use Pensieve technology to implant it in baby Harry’s memory and try to set up a trigger for him to remember eventually, but they reject this because they’re afraid it’ll traumatise him. (I’m wondering how they’ve suddenly gained the knowledge and abilities necessary to do something like that, before they started on this time-travel odyssey they couldn’t even do expelliarmus.) [I wish you’d been doing a spell count, is Albus any more competent than dear old daddy?] (There actually is a lot of spellcasting in this, but you’re right, a spell count is probably a good idea. I’ll consider going back and doing it for a later post.)

Their next idea is to hide somewhere for forty years but that gets rejected pretty quickly, they think they’ll be hunted down and killed.

Albus sees Lily wrap Harry in the blanket (oh gods, here’s how the blanket becomes relevant; I told you it was a Chekhov’s gun) and realises Harry still has it (and remembers Harry said he always likes to hold the blanket on Halloween night) [Not only have we never seen this in canon, but Harry goes through multiple Halloweens throughout the series without giving his parents a single thought.]. But they don’t want him to see the message too early, so they have to do it in a way that it will only become visible when (of course) the love potion gets spilt on it. Apparently love potions contain pearl dust, which reacts with “tincture of Demiguise”, and tincture of Demiguise is otherwise invisible. Again, I wonder how they know this, because neither of them were particularly good students and this seems very specialised knowledge.

[This is stupid. If they’d done this, then the message would have already showed up when Albus first got rape juice on the blanket. It didn’t, therefore they didn’t, therefore this is impossible.]

They actually make excuses for this, along the lines that the blanket had been thrown in a corner and nobody went into that room since Albus first went missing. It’s a bit contrived, but they did try.

Scorpius remembers a “rumor” that Bathilda Bagshot never believed in locking doors, so they break into her house to “steal some wands and get potioning”. Sigh. Something about that phrase just sounds really, really stupid. [Everything about it. And why does Bathilda have multiple wands? And Potions equipment? She was a historian.]

Scene six.

We start with Harry and Ginny in Albus’ room, Harry’s blaming himself and angsting over the situation and Ginny’s comforting him (I think we’re supposed to make something of the fact she’s finally come around to not blaming him for it). Eventually Harry picks up the blanket, at first he’s upset to realise the love potion has burnt holes in it but eventually they realise it’s a message.

The way the rest of this scene is done is almost clever, Albus and Scorpius show up on another part of the stage and we cut back and forth (I’m assuming they do this with spotlighting, or something like that) between them trying to decide how to compose the message, and Harry and Ginny slowly figuring out what it says. Anyway, the message is “Dad. Help. Godric’s Hollow. 31/10/81.”

They’re filled with hope, and go to send owls to Hermione and Draco to tell them to meet them in Godric’s Hollow with the Time-Turner, they’re all going to go back.

I probably should complain about the contrivedness of this, but in the context of the rest of this bullshit play, I actually think this is one of the better scenes, just from a writing perspective.

The final line of the scene undoes most of my goodwill, though.

HARRY: Of course you’re coming. We have a chance, Ginny, and by Dumbledore — that’s all that we need — a chance.


Scene seven.

They’re walking through Godric’s Hollow, reminiscing. Apparently they’re surprised to see lots of Muggles around. At one point Ron decides to insult Draco, Hermione doesn’t care for this and we get a bunch of pointless banter; eventually she forces him to apologise. I hate Ron. (At least Ron and Draco are calling each other ‘Malfoy’ and ‘Weasley’, they seem to have maybe finally figured out the last-name-basis thing.)

They use the Time-Turner.

Scene eight.

In “a shed” in Godric’s Hollow in 1981. Albus looks up and sees all of the others. (How’d they manage to turn up in the precise location the boys were waiting for them? Contrived coincidence is contrived.)

They talk for a bit, making plans. Eventually they decide that because they don’t know where Delphi is, they need to find a good vantage point with a wide view, to stake out and wait for her. Hermione decides on someplace called St Jerome’s Church. I don’t think we’ve ever really heard of this before, but it is one of the landmarks Scorpius pointed out when giving Albus the tour in the earlier scene. [St Jerome is the patron saint of librarians, translators and encyclopaedists. Seems an odd choice.]

Scene nine.

In the church now. Albus is taking a nap in a pew, Ginny and Harry are talking about him while wondering where Delphi is.

HARRY: Poor kid thought he had to save the world.
GINNY: Poor kid has saved the world. That blanket was masterful. I mean, he also almost destroyed the world, but probably best not to focus on that bit.

Ginny reminisces a bit about the time “[she’d] almost destroyed everything”, the Chamber of Secrets incident, and apparently one of the things that helped her get over it (even though we never saw this in canon) is that Harry, while everyone else was ignoring her, decided to play Exploding Snap with her in the Gryffindor common room. She basically tells Harry that it’s the small gestures that matter, and she thinks that’s what Albus needs from him. She doesn’t think Albus knows Harry loves him.

This is actually pretty good characterisation – a surprise, for this play – and honestly, the kind of thing Ginny’s character was missing in the books. One of the complaints we always had about her is that the books never show any of the emotional fallout of the Chamber incident for her (and the other characters, including Harry, pretty much ignore her on-page in the aftermath of that), and that as a character she was very inconsistently written from book to book. Something like this could’ve gone a long way back then, if Rowling had thought it was important enough to include, and probably would’ve helped make the Harry/Ginny ship more believable.

[I’m amused that Harry’s idea of helping someone who’s traumatised is to play a game involving things exploding.]

They talk for a while and Ginny eventually has a breakthrough. She realises that if Delphi were going to go after Harry, she could’ve done it at any time, because Harry was fifteen months old here (that’s explicitly stated, which underscores criticisms we’ve had of the Philosopher’s Stone opening but that’s a matter for another time) and she had plenty of time in which to kill him. Ginny thinks Delphi actually wants to meet “the father she loves”, and just to stop him making the attempt to kill Harry in the first place because that would be an easier way to subvert the prophecy.

[Voldy would kill her for it. Best way to do this would have been to kill Pettigrew before he could tell Voldy anything, then make sure the Order knew he was dead so they could give the Potters an actual competent Secret-Keeper. Though as I mentioned earlier the writers have forgotten about that.]

Scene ten.

Same place, but now everyone’s there. I’m not sure where the others were meant to be in the previous scene while Harry and Ginny were having their moment.

Anyway, some of the others are confused by this plan, that they’re essentially planning to help make sure Voldemort kills the Potters and tries to kill Harry properly.

Albus has the first important insight, which is apparently that none of the history books record when or where Voldemort arrived in Godric’s Hollow (fair enough, there’s no way they would have known), so he suggests they have someone Polyjuice into Voldemort and lure Delphi to them. (Apparently he thinks Bagshot has all the ingredients in her basement; he seems to have forgotten it takes a month to make the stuff. Though in fairness, I think the earlier scenes which involved Polyjuice had also forgotten that.) They realise they don’t have a piece of Voldemort to use, though, so that won’t work; they decide to use transfiguration instead (apparently that works?).

There’s much ado about everyone volunteering to play Voldemort and offering their own reasoning why it should be them to do it, which I honestly don’t care to recap (except to note that Ginny’s the only one not interested, because she “doesn’t want that voice in her head again”, I actually like that they’re going out of their way to try to give her consistent characterisation from CoS). It’s pointless, and a smokescreen for what they eventually realise has to be the way to do it, they have to use Harry because he’s the only one who speaks Parseltongue and it won’t be convincing without.

There’s much angst about how horrible this will be for Harry, and how they’re afraid he could get stuck that way if something goes wrong.

***PLOT HOLE ALERT*** hey, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. How do they know what Voldemort looked like in 1981? The only one who could possibly know is Harry, who never had visual memories of him. If we’re going to take this seriously, the weird snakelike noseless abomination he returns as was nothing like his original appearance, but rather a consequence of the ritual he used to rebirth himself. He should be more human looking in 1981, more “Tom Riddle” than “Voldemort”. The play will completely ignore this.

[Facepalm. Also, Harry is totally okay with this plan? He has no doubts whatsoever about helping to kill his parents?] Much angst will ensue later.

Anyway, their plan is for Harry-as-Voldy to get Delphi’s attention, then they’ll “zap her”. (Ron’s phrase.)

They all turn their wands on Harry and turn him into Voldemort. It apparently works.

Scene eleven.

Same place. Ginny’s angsting over how she doesn’t want to look at Harry while he’s in Voldemort’s form. Albus is angsting about the fact he liked Delphi, and Ginny’s empathising with him (I suppose she does have the experience of being deceived by Tom Riddle; again, they’re actually doing a decent job with Ginny).

Delphi shows up. The others take positions.

This scene is stupid. (Fitting, as it’s the climax of a thoroughly stupid play.)

She reveals herself to Pottermort and introduces herself as his daughter. He asks for an explanation. Here’s what she gives:

DELPHI: I am from the future. The child of Bellatrix Lestrange and you. I was born in Malfoy Manor before the Battle of Hogwarts. A battle you are going to lose. I have come to save you.

This does not make the logistics of her existence work out. Bellatrix showed up on-page quite a few times during Deathly Hallows [including in Malfoy Manor] and at no point during that was she shown to be pregnant. Nice fucking try, writers. (Likewise, as we’ve seen before and will shortly again, she knows how to fly without a broom, a skill we only ever saw Snape and Voldemort use. How did she learn this? Neither of them were available to teach her, regardless of which of them we’d prefer to believe taught the other.) THIS IS STUPID.

Anyway, he asks her for proof, she demonstrates first Parseltongue and then flight. Harry pretends to be impressed and implies he’ll accept her, wants her to come closer. She’s “desperately moved” by this, comes closer. Their plan is working until the transfiguration fails (a bit gradually, apparently first his hands go, then his hair “sprouts” so apparently they’re going with bald snakeymort after all, and I was right to insist this is a plot hole [I suppose they’re assuming the Mary Sue wouldn’t know what he looked like either?]) and she realises it’s Harry. (The way this spell unravels and he turns back, it seems pretty obvious to me they originally wrote this scene for Polyjuice, which comes with a built-in time limit, but may have realised that didn’t work and changed to transfiguration as a handwave. I don’t think we’ve ever seen time-limited transfigurations before.)

A fight starts. She sees the others trying to come out of the doors and shuts them with Colloportus. There’s a bit of duelling, she’s getting the better of Harry (stage directions say she’s “far stronger”), she disarms him. (She’s a huge Mary Sue.) [I don’t know, we know Harry’s magically inept and almost never uses magic…]

There’s a bit of Harry running away while she tries to kill him, Albus “emerges from a grate in the floor”, she tries to kill Albus but misses. Albus unlocks the church doors with Alohomora. (I didn’t think this is how those spells worked, as far as I knew “colloportus” was only for shutting doors, and alohomora only for opening locks, they’re not opposites.) [Agreed. Finite Incantatem would have made more sense.]

Anyway, the others come out and overwhelm her with the power of numbers.

HARRY: I’ve never fought alone, you see. And I never will.

Cheesy. [But true. He needs other people around to actually cast spells and achieve things. Even his battle against the basilisk needed Fawkes.]

They bind her but refuse to kill her. There’s some more cheesy dialogue:

DELPHI: I only wanted to know my father.
These words take HARRY by surprise.
HARRY: You can’t remake your life. You’ll always be an orphan. That never leaves you.
DELPHI: Just let me — see him.
HARRY: I can’t and I won’t.
DELPHI (truly pitiful): Then kill me.
HARRY thinks a moment.
HARRY: I can’t do that either.

Actually, that’s pretty cold for Harry. But as I said, cheesy dialogue. There’s more cheesiness as they discuss why they can’t kill her because they have to be better than her, so they’ll bring her back to the future and lock her in Azkaban “to rot like her mother”. [Yes, that’s much more noble and merciful than a quick death. Our Heroes, everyone.]

Voldemort shows up. And this happens:

DELPHI: Father!
DRACO: Silencio! (DELPHI is gagged.) Wingardium Leviosa! (She is sent upwards and away.)

This play is so stupid.

Scene twelve.

Harry angsts that they have to let his parents die and there’s nothing they can do about it. The others tell him that he could stop it, but he won’t and that makes him heroic (Mark Oshiro called this play “an after-school special on not using time travel” and this has never been so clear). They decide they have to watch it happen [once again, Secret-Kept, they can’t see the bloody house]. We get a rehash of that scene.

Scene thirteen.

It’s the Potters’ ruined house. Hagrid shows up and finds Harry, takes him, leaves. Nothing else to say.

Scene fourteen.

There’s been a significant timeskip, because apparently that was enough closure to put on the main plot of this play (no trial for Delphi?). This play is stupid. Anyway, we’re in “disgusting epilogue” territory now.

The setting is a generic “classroom” at Hogwarts, but only Albus and Scorpius are present. This scene is deliberately aimed at destroying any possible sense you may have had that these boys could be gay and attracted to each other. “Have I mentioned I am heterosexual today?” Mark is not going to be happy. [He’s not.]

This scene is cringeworthy and, frankly, misogynistic and objectifying. They’re talking about how Scorpius asked Rose out, she turned him down, but:

SCORPIUS: But I asked her. I planted the acorn. The acorn that will grow into our eventual marriage.

SCORPIUS: Pity is a start, my friend, a foundation on which to build a palace — a palace of love.
ALBUS: I honestly thought I’d be the first of us to get a girlfriend.
SCORPIUS: Oh, you will, undoubtedly, probably that new smoky-eyed Potions professor — she’s old enough for you, right?
ALBUS: I don’t have a thing about older women!
SCORPIUS: And you’ve got time — a lot of time — to seduce her. Because Rose is going to take years to persuade.

Creepy. This is some PUA bullshit. But not quite as creepy as Rape Juice Ron. [Ick.]

There’s some irrelevant talk about Quidditch and that maybe they’re going to try to get into it despite not caring before. I don’t care now.

The scene ends with them hugging. But I don’t think any of the people who wanted them to see that are going to be happy with this scene. This scene is honestly insulting.

Scene fifteen.

The setting is “a beautiful hill”. I can already tell this is going to be full of banalities. Harry and Albus are together, reminiscing. It’s a sort of reconciliation. It’s trying to be profound but it’s really hard to care.

Albus mentions watching Harry’s parents and says he thinks they’d have liked them. Harry goes from that into a monologue:

HARRY: You know, I thought I’d lost him — Voldemort — I thought I’d lost him — and then my scar started hurting again and I had dreams of him and I could even speak Parseltongue again and I started to feel like I’d not changed at all — that he’d never let me go —
ALBUS: And had he?
HARRY: The part of me that was Voldemort died a long time ago, but it wasn’t enough to be physically rid of him — I had to be mentally rid of him. And that — is a lot to learn for a forty-year-old man.

“lost” is a really strange word choice for this, it almost sounds like Harry’s talking about breaking up with an ex-boyfriend. [Suggested drinking game for anyone contemplating reading this – shipper bingo.]

There’s some reconciliation. Harry resolves to be a better father.

HARRY: Delphi wasn’t going anywhere, Albus — you brought her out into the light and you found a way for us to fight her. You may not see it now, but you saved us.
ALBUS: But shouldn’t I have done better?
HARRY: You don’t think I ask myself the same questions?

That’s actually a decent exchange, this scene isn’t entirely garbage.

HARRY: Those names you have — they shouldn’t be a burden. Albus Dumbledore had his trials too, you know — and Severus Snape, well, you know all about him —
ALBUS: They were good men.
HARRY: They were great men, with huge flaws, and you know what — those flaws almost made them greater.

This isn’t terrible either.

Anyway, it turns out they’re actually at a graveyard; specifically, Cedric Diggory’s grave, because of course they are. Apparently Harry likes to come here to “say sorry” for not having been able to save him [once again something we never saw in canon, he barely gives Cedric another thought after the single incident of Dudley overhearing nightmares], there’s a forced parallel with Albus having seen Craig Bowker die while not knowing him well.

HARRY: I didn’t know Cedric well enough either. He could have played Quidditch for England. Or been a brilliant Auror. He could have been anything. And Amos is right — he was stolen. So I come here. Just to say sorry. When I can.

This is fucking rich coming from a play that operates on the fundamental assumption that Cedric Diggory would have become a Death Eater in any timeline in which he survived.

Anyway, they have a father-and-son moment.

That’s where things end. The entire play. I think it’s supposed to be poignant or something. Fuck it all.

Semifinal thoughts on this act:

This is some heavy-handed, contrived bullshit, to force in callbacks to the backstory of the original series and use them to create pseudoprofundity. At best, it’s playing on the emotions of invested fans of the series to create a response it hasn’t earned. At worst, it’s a bunch of redundancy that’s trying way too hard.

Delphi is revealed to be an implausible Mary Sue figure shoehorned into the canon where she couldn’t possibly exist. Rather emblematic of the play as a whole, really.

All of the queerbaiting for the Albus/Scorpius ship comes to nothing as the play insists on heteronormativity in the end, which is (frankly) utterly insulting. Not that the play’s portrayal of heterosexual relationships is any better, that’s full of misogyny and rape culture. This is a bunch of regressive nonsense that we should really have moved past in this day and age, especially when Rowling likes to claim she’s feminist and progressive. She should have been embarrassed to put her name to this if that were the case.

As it turns out, my speculation was mostly right, in that (in the end) the status quo is restored and people can leave the theatre knowing that most of the bullshit they saw was irrelevant. That leaves them free to have enjoyed the special effects (which I can’t judge, not having seen them, but the script is quite demanding and to pull off what it calls for on a stage would be genuinely impressive), and some of the character development that was forced in at the end (and the final scene does manage some genuine pathos) while ignoring the parts they don’t like. Especially after the massive downer/cliffhanger at the end of part one, I can see why this ending would be a relief, so this is my hypothesis for why many people are leaving the theatre raving about this play while everyone who reads it thinks it’s a horrific mess. (Alternatively, they’re just nuts; I’m sorry for singling this person’s comment out but their perspective is utterly alien to me.)

I won’t quite say I wish I hadn’t read it – shredding it felt good in places, and I’m happy to do this as a service so other people don’t feel the need to read it themselves and put themselves through that. Hopefully I was sufficiently thorough that you can all see the bullshit for yourselves.

[For my part I’m glad I didn’t read it, and although I do have a copy of the script I don’t plan to.]

I’m planning to do a final thoughts post in a few days, once I’m more sure how to sum up this whole experience.


Posted by on August 11, 2016 in mitchell


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The Silkworm: Part Eleven – I quit.

This is the last post you’re going to see about any of the Cormoran Strike books. This part finally pushed me over the limit. You’ll understand why in a moment – it only took half a chapter.

Content notes: physical assault, victim blaming, transphobia, rape jokes, ableist slurs, misogynistic slurs, racism, fat hatred and anything else disgusting Rowling felt like throwing into the mix. Also my excessive language, I’ve been trying to tone down my swearing but… not this time.

As expected, chapter 37 opens with Strike whining about his knee and about being poor and how he’s spent too much money on eating in a restaurant. He almost has a plot-relevant thought, about how strange it is that everyone familiar with the book is looking to blame anyone except Owen and maybe someone else did write at least some of it, but is distracted by once again encountering the woman who’s been stalking him and fulfilled happy fantasies of most of the readers by trying to stab him.

We’re treated to a nauseating paragraph about how utterly amazing Strike is, which you all have to suffer through too. I know I’m meant to be speed-running through this now, but just look at this crap.

“Strike’s pace did not falter, nor did he turn to look at her. He was not playing games this time; there would be no stopping to test her amateurish stalking style, no letting her know that he had spotted her. On he walked without looking over his shoulder, and only a man or woman similarly expert in counter-surveillance would have noticed his casual glances into helpfully positioned windows and reflective brass door plates; only they could have spotted the hyper-alertness disguised as inattentiveness.”

Excuse me while I throw up.

And it keeps going. There are two full pages of Strike walking along telling us how awesome he is and how stupid people messing with him are – interspersed with comments about his knee, and how even though it just hurts soooo badly it’s not enough to stop him being awesome. Then finally he turns into an alleyway, hears running footsteps behind him, spins around and assaults the person.

Fortunately for him it actually is the woman who was following him and not some random person running for the bus, but I don’t think that justifies a full page of him hitting her with his walking stick, getting ‘a ferocious grip that made her scream‘, putting her in a headlock or forcibly dragging her up the stairs to his office while she screams bloody murder. Of course, there are no witnesses until he actually gets to the office, when someone looks out of the room next door. Oh how I hope they call the police.

Robin lets him into the office and is understandably horrified, especially since the book informs us this woman is very young – maybe 20 – and has scratch marks on her neck where Strike grabbed her. (The book feels the need to specify her ‘white‘ neck several times. I don’t know why.)

Strike tells Robin she tried to knife him again, and orders her to call the police; as Robin picks the phone up, the woman starts crying and begging and pointing out that Strike’s just hurt her quite badly. Robin ignores this in favour of slut-shaming her.

I’m not kidding.

” ‘Why have you been following me?’ Strike said, panting as he stood over her, his tone threatening.
She cowered into the squeaking cushions yet Robin, whose fingers had not left the phone, detected a note of relish in the woman’s fear, a whisper of voluptuousness in the way she twisted away from him. “

Fuck. This. Book. (This was the start of the meltdown.)

And it gets SO MUCH WORSE.

After a lot of yelling, some more assault and battery on Strike’s part and a fucking stupid attempt at good-cop-bad-cop, it turns out this woman is the mysterious Pippa.

Although at the moment she’s actually Philip, and won’t be legally Pippa for a little while yet.

Hence Epicoene the hermaphrodite in Owen’s book, which has just become a hundred times more awful and insensitive.

Strike’s reaction to this is to stare at her Adam’s apple, which under the scratches and bruises he’s left is ‘still prominent‘.

Robin’s reaction is to try not to laugh.

My reaction was to start yelling at Mitchell.

Pippa starts crying, understandably, and these two terrible people continue their ghastly good-cop-bad-cop interrogation routine to try to work out what the fuck is going on and why she wants to kill Strike (apart from the fact that he exists, which would honestly be good enough for any jury). The single bright point is that the book is still using female pronouns.

And then somehow the book manages to become even worse, thanks to Strike.

” ‘If you go for that door one more fucking time I’m calling the police and I’ll testify and be glad to watch you go down for attempted murder. And it won’t be fun for you inside, Pippa,’ he added. ‘Not pre-op.’ “

Fucking hell, Rowling. Even for you, this is low. The yelling got worse.

Skipping past the rest of the scene, which is just filled with insults and stereotypical hysteria and a lot of bullshit I don’t want to deal with. It boils down to Pippa thinking Leonora hired Strike to frame her and Kathryn, and she’s been following Strike because she wanted him to lead her to Owen so she could kill him for the terrible way he wrote about her in his book. Owen apparently lied to the two of them and said he was writing something much different that was really lovely about them both, and then wrote Bombyx and sent it to them.

I was initially extremely sympathetic, but later in the scene Pippa calls Orlando a retard.

I quit.

I’m not kidding. I’m done. That was the straw that broke the camel’s fucking back.

I’m going to very quickly skim through the remaining chapters, and give you a brief summary of whodunit and so on. And then I am going to give this book to my father and tell him to throw it on the bonfire next time he burns some garden waste.

There is nothing this book can say or do now that would justify my continuing to read it. Rowling has literally checked every possible box of awfulness and I’m not willing to deal with it any more.

Pippa eventually escapes, and afterwards Strike calls her a ‘self-dramatising twat‘. Full fucking house, Rowling.

Highlights of the rest of the book, speed-read in about twenty minutes while ranting.

In a later chapter we learn one of Strike’s oldest friends has yet another nickname for him, this one derived from a Cornish slur for travellers/Romanies. Because it’s fine to be racist if it’s an obscure regional slur that other people won’t recognise. Their conversation involves endless misogynistic sex jokes and calling Charlotte crazy.

Brief glimpse of plot – Leonora is arrested. Kathryn had a credit card receipt, given to her by Orlando, showing that someone bought overalls, ropes, tarpaulins and a burqa shortly before Owen’s disappearance, and after Strike attacked Pippa the two of them handed it to the police. Leonora insists it was Owen’s card and she never had access to it.

Charlotte texts Strike out of the blue. ‘It was yours.‘ Don’t care, book. Later  there’s a lot more bullshit attempting to once again vilify a character who has never appeared onscreen, and I still. Don’t. Care.

Turns out Strike’s daddy knows Fancourt and is in talks with Chard about publishing his biography. Look at all the fucks I don’t give. This never turns out to be relevant and I wouldn’t give a shit if it did.

Emotional blackmail of Orlando in the hope that she happened to steal some evidence.

We finally meet Fancourt. He is true fat-shaming MRA scum who says things about Liz Tassel that make me want to do something very painful to Rowling’s nervous system. If I hadn’t already quit earlier I would have done here. And we’re still not done.

The actual plot resolution would be unbelievably annoying if I still cared. Several chapters of Strike mysteriously telling people to do things that we’re not told about, telling people his theories that we’re not told about, and generally abusing the already long-dead flogged horse.

Turns out all the shit with the Cutter was because Jerry’s daughter might not actually be his, but might be Fancourt’s. This absolutely does not justify all the shit with Charlotte.

Nina finally tells Strike to fuck off. Best bit of the book.

Lots of crap about how clever Strike is.

The final solution to the plot: there were two versions of Bombyx Mori. The version Owen wrote, and the version everyone saw, which Liz Tassel wrote. In a better book this would actually have been a decent twist.

It turns out that it was actually Liz who wrote the parody that caused Fancourt’s wife to kill herself and started this whole feud. And Owen knew and had been blackmailing her ever since.

It was Liz’s idea that Owen should stage his disappearance, and then she met him at Talgarth Road, talked him into posing for a ‘publicity photograph’ and killed him.

The whole thing is summarised in unbelievably poisonous terms. Liz’s entire motivation for all of this is because, being fat and ugly, she wasn’t laid enough. I’m not even kidding – she apparently orchestrated this whole thing out of sexual frustration and depression and a decades-long crush on Fancourt that ended badly. That is the only motivation the narrative gives her and all the depth her character gets – a sick stereotype straight from the depths of dudebro culture and modern fat hatred.

As if that wasn’t enough, over the space of two pages she breaks down and turns into a frothing lunatic talking to herself in weirdly Bellatrix terms (though not the baby-talk) and ends up a stereotypical TV ‘crazy person’.

The book ends with Liz, having been set up, getting into a ‘taxi’ driven by Robin. There’s a big dramatic car chase, and they crash. Sadly they’re both fine. Robin gets a media concussion, i.e. there are no consequences whatsoever.

Liz is on suicide watch pending trial.

She kept the original Bombyx Mori manuscript. In the freezer with Owen’s guts. It’s going to be published.

For reasons surpassing all understanding, Robin and Matthew are still together, though the very last page of the book is her and Strike flirting.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need a very stiff drink and preferably brain surgery to remove any memory of this book.

Do not read it under any circumstances.

I’m not touching anything else Rowling ever produces – unless it’s Harry Potter related, because in children’s books she can’t show her true colours and I don’t have to think about what a terrible person wrote the books that are still a big part of my life and how much she despises me and other people who look like me.

That said, there won’t be a HP post for a week or two. I need time to forget this before I can look at anything else she’s written without screaming. She has forfeited all right to ever be given the benefit of the doubt ever again and it’s going to take a conscious effort to stop my current anger with her bleeding through into our coverage of HP.

I have no idea why she decided to do this.



Posted by on February 18, 2016 in loten


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The Silkworm: Part Eight

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.

Fucking lunatic.

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.


Posted by on October 12, 2015 in loten


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Recommended Reading: Masculinity as Anxiety Disorder

This rings very true to me.

(h/t to commenter mockingbird at WHTM )

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Posted by on October 6, 2015 in mitchell


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The Silkworm: Part Seven

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.

Our Hero.

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.

Damnit, Rowling.

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.


Posted by on September 7, 2015 in loten


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