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Strike: The Silkworm (BBC adaptation) Part Two

Part two. At some point my commentary is probably going to dry up, because as you all know I never finished the book in detail so I won’t be able to judge how closely the show is following most of the ending. We’ll see how it goes. Also this is later than I had planned to do it because I have no motivation for this – it’s not awful the way the book was, just really, really dull.

As it turns out I was able to keep commenting until the end, since they cut just about everything that happened after I ragequit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in loten

 

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Strike: The Silkworm (BBC adaptation) Part One

This trainwreck just will not stop. Despite how much I disliked Cuckoo, I’m continuing into Silkworm. But with a heavy caveat – I loathed the book. You all know I loathed the book. I loathed it enough to quit half way through my coverage of it for you all.

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I’ve tried several times to sit down and start going through this episode and I just plain don’t want to. It’s not going to be fun. So I did some thinking; by the time I did the book I was a lot better at this sort of thing than some of my earlier series here, so we already have a detailed plot synopsis. Rather than make myself do it all again, I’m just going to watch this with as much of my attention as I can muster and note down what’s been altered from the book and if there’s any new content.

It’s not like most of you care either way. I suspect almost everyone’s just waiting for me to stop tormenting myself and carry on with Harry Potter stuff. If you are interested, I suggest you re-read my coverage of the book first so you know what the heck I’m talking about.

Part One, then: “War veteran turned private investigator Cormoran Strike investigates the disappearance of a provocative author.” Not the most interesting synopsis in the world, but at least it’s accurate.

Let’s go. Before we start, I am fully prepared to quit if it becomes clear at any point that they haven’t tried to fix any of the extremely offensive things that made me abandon the book coverage.

[I’ll interject occasionally if I have something to say but I doubt I have much to add here.]

Content warning for suicide under the cut. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2017 in loten

 

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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.

 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in loten

 

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The Silkworm: Part Ten

So being able to do the HP posts more regularly recently has got me thinking. Those books are a mess, and so much about them makes me angry, and a lot is just plain stupid, but I still enjoy it. Partly that’s just down to sharing the spork with Mitchell, of course, but the books are still genuinely fun, at least some of the time. I like some of the characters, and some parts of the plot, and some aspects of the universe. And judging by all the comments and discussion each of those posts get, you all feel the same.

And then there’s the Cormoran Strike books.

There is literally nothing I enjoy about this book any more. I hate all the characters to such an extent that I have no interest in the plot. I don’t care who killed Owen, or why. Every single paragraph just irritates me to the point where I don’t even particularly like writing the posts. And there aren’t many comments for them, so I don’t think you lot really care either.

I’ve already said this is the last book I’m going to do, that I won’t be continuing the series even though the third one is out now. I’m too stubborn to quit this, but I am going to drastically change how I go about it, for my own sanity as much as anything else. Let’s just take it as read that the book sucks; that virtually everything our protagonist thinks or says or does will be terrible, stupid or both; that he’s going to whine endlessly about his knee; that Robin’s going to continue waffling vaguely and being useless; that the plot’s going to be hastily solved right at the very end in some implausible way after a lot of love-triangle garbage. I don’t need to break down every instance of it. I’m going to speed things up a lot, I’m going to skim through and give you summaries, and keep my snark to a minimum except in special cases. I want to finish this crappy book so I can go onto something either genuinely good or at least fun to rip apart. (I don’t know what, yet.)

TL;DR – we’re trying to speed-run through a bunch of chapters per post now because this book sucks.


Chapter 28 fully supports my decision not to read this too closely. Robin whines to herself a lot, mostly about Matthew and slightly about Strike. Strike elects to go without his false leg and whines to himself about women drivers. They drive towards Devon and talk a bit about Owen’s other books and whether he was writing in some kind of weird code.

Strike’s lawyer friend phones; Leonora was taken in for questioning after the police found kinky sex photos of Owen tied up, and something else in a lock-up. Naturally we’re not told what.

They’re suddenly in a car accident, a lorry in front of them goes into a skid and hits a couple of other cars. In another book I’d appreciate this scene – Strike panics, Robin’s totally chilled out about the whole thing and takes some neat evasive manoeuvres to avoid getting involved and then calmly gets out to help other people, miraculously nobody’s killed, bla bla bla. Instead I’m wondering why this scene is even here. The whole thing takes up less than two pages from the start of the skid to the police arriving, taking their details and letting them go, so it seems to exist purely to imply that Robin’s good at stuff. It’s over too quickly to be dramatic and seems like just filler. Turns out Robin took some advanced driving classes once.

End of chapter! I like this new approach.


They get to Devon and find Chard’s house. Robin’s feeling pretty sick by this point for some reason; I think it’s meant to be a combination of delayed shock from the accident and low blood sugar since Strike ate all the snacks she brought for the trip. The Hispanic servants who pissed me off so much in an earlier chapter turn out to be Filipino, if that makes a difference to anyone, and I think are meant to be mother and son. Robin continues feeling sick. Chard has a fucking weird sounding house, full of glass walls and floors – they can see his (leather) bed in the room above them, and a crucifix made of barbed wire – and lots of polished metal. There’s a statue of a ‘partially dissected’ angel in apparently quite gory detail despite being plain white marble; Robin nearly faints and has to be taken to the kitchen while the menfolk talk.

Lots of pointless small talk takes up another couple of pages (Chard says he fell down the shiny glass and metal spiral staircase when he broke his leg, then goes off on a ramble about art) before he gets to the point; he thinks someone else helped Owen write the book and wants someone outside the company he can trust to investigate. He claims Owen didn’t know all the things he put into it, someone must have given him the information. There’s no reason on earth why he’d pick Strike to look into this, but I don’t care any more.

Robin recovers and tries to go back and join the conversation. Chard tells her to fuck off, and Strike nobly says nothing, so she fucks off. Filler, filler, filler.

Chard thinks he knows who helped Owen, and is annoyed that if it turned out to be relevant Strike would tell the police if he found proof. He’s acting very erratic during this conversation. He thinks it’s Jerry, he’s suspected it for a long time because Jerry didn’t apologise for what Owen wrote. Even Strike thinks this is weird, but then, Strike’s continuing to picture Chard naked and aroused and half rotting, so I don’t think he has room to talk.

Anyway, Chard says Jerry’s resented him for a long time. Fancourt flirted a lot with Jerry’s wife before Chard advised him not to and Fancourt threw a tantrum and left for another publisher, so now that Fancourt’s back Jerry’s blaming Chard and trying to undermine him. Chard says Jerry deliberately let all and sundry read the manuscript, was reluctant to join in any talk of legal actions, and has now resigned. Chard also says Jerry wrote his own libellous description of the Cutter in the book without Owen’s knowledge, both to throw off suspicion and to hurt his wife because apparently the stuff with the dwarf and the bloody sack refers to something Chard won’t talk about. Apparently Jerry told Owen the company was going to drop him to keep Fancourt happy, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back because Chard had offended Owen a while ago anyway.

Chard claims that when Owen brought Orlando to look around, she went to grab a mock-up of a book jacket that was on a desk and Chard grabbed her wrist to stop her and she made a big uncomfortable scene that made Owen furious. I’m frankly astounded this incident was even mentioned again; God knows Strike’s never given it another thought, and he doesn’t pause to add anything here either.

Chard thinks Liz would have been upset at how she’s written in the book, but doesn’t care. He says he warned Fancourt about the contents personally, and that Fancourt was very calm and didn’t seem bothered. Strike asks about Joe North and Chard starts fidgeting and acting uncomfortable and says all he did was turn down North’s book, which Owen also blamed him for, but it wasn’t personal.

Changing the subject, Chard asks how Strike goes about investigating things. Pretty sure he doesn’t, actually, but never mind. Strike says he works quite closely with the police – ha – and adds that the police don’t seem all that bothered by what they’ve found out about Chard so far. Continuing to act like a lunatic, Chard promptly starts helpfully rambling half to himself about all his movements in recent weeks, and does this for half a page before realising this is very stupid and deciding that the interview is over and that Strike should go now. He asks briefly after Leonora, adding an unasked-for description to show he’s never actually met her (he seems to be describing Kathryn but I can’t tell), before Strike collects Robin. She’s meant to have gone to the bathroom, but seems to be gone for a while so presumably was doing some investigating offscreen; she’s also giving Strike the silent treatment for letting her get thrown out of the conversation. Keep that up and stop harping on about men and I might start to like you again, Robin.

As they’re leaving, the young Filipino man – Manny – stops them. He says he never pushed Chard down the stairs and that Chard’s lying. I would say the plot thickens, but it’s going to take more than this.


Next chapter opens with some filler of Strike and Robin stopping at a motorway services to eat. To my absolute joy, they have a row. Strike gets all defensive about not letting Robin join the conversation and Robin loses her temper and asks what the fuck he thought he was hiring her for and why does he keep hinting about training and then talking about hiring someone else? She doesn’t want to sit around answering the phone, she wants to actually do stuff. I really wish she wasn’t trying not to cry while yelling all this at him, but I’ll take what I can get.

Naturally, Strike is utterly bewildered by this and says he never realised she was serious about wanting training and things. He then instantly contradicts himself by saying he did originally hire her to be a part of the business and not just a receptionist, but that he doesn’t see the point in paying for courses etc because he knows Matthew hates her job and assumes she’s going to give in to her master and quit. And of course he invokes Charlotte again, claiming that one of the reasons they kept breaking up was that she hated his job.

This isn’t resolved, of course. Robin doesn’t say whether she plans to quit or not and refuses to even think about it, except for a weird tangent about how Matthew never worries about her doing anything dangerous. Instead she asks for confirmation that Strike thinks she’s useful, then starts crying, then changes the subject to ask about the part of the plot she missed when the menfolk sent her away. This is why I still don’t like you, Robin. You get so close to being a decent character and then fuck up again.

Let us note they’re still sitting in the services. They could talk about this in the car while travelling, in order for Robin to get back in plenty of time to catch her train to her fiancé’s mother’s funeral, but if you think that’s going to happen then you’re reading a different book.

Strike thinks Chard’s a harmless lunatic, but isn’t sure whether Jerry was involved or not. Turns out yes, Robin did go snooping, and there’s an artist’s studio next to the staff bathroom. Translation, Rowling wanted both weird glass floors and for Robin to nose around without being noticed, so fuck common sense. Chard’s got a lot of anatomical studies in the studio, wax models and drawings and all sorts. And a painting of Manny in the nude.

They get back in the car. Strike’s lawyer friend phones again; Leonora’s not been arrested yet, but they’ve finished questioning her and they’re sure it’s her based on opportunity and her attitude under questioning. The thing they found in the lockup was a burned bloodstained rag. And Owen’s missing guts are on the news now since someone leaked it. After the phone call we somehow hear Anstis making a statement to that effect on the radio.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the traffic’s very bad, there was another accident, and Robin’s now very late and is going to struggle to catch her train. Rowling chooses to resolve this by magically making Strike an expert on driving in London, and thanks to him yelling instructions constantly Robin violates lots of traffic laws – going the wrong way down one-way streets, ignoring speed limits, that sort of unbelievably dangerous thing – before finally pulling over, abandoning the one-legged Strike in a car he can’t drive in the middle of a snowstorm, and running for the station without a change of clothes or anything else. I will concede that I’m surprised she actually makes the train, I just assumed that of course she wouldn’t.


In time-honoured Rowling fashion, we’re not told what Strike did with the hire car, or how he made it home. Next morning he’s brooding about the case and the lack of leads and spends several pages rehashing what we already know yet again, before seguing into a pointless story about a childhood friend. When they were eighteen they went to Australia to visit this friend’s uncle, and they went surfing and saw sharks, and the friend was a total moron and paddled up to touch it and lost a chunk of his forearm and most of the use of his thumb.

This has nothing to do with anything but leads to a pseudo-profound bit of bullshit about murderers being like sharks and another page or so of filler about what drives people to kill. Finally Strike decides he knows someone he can call for information – his half-brother Alexander who has never been mentioned before. Alexander, or Al, is Jonny Rokeby’s legitimate son and nine years younger than Strike, but they’ve always got along tolerably well even though all Strike’s other half-siblings on his father’s side hate him, bla bla bla. Pointless story about how Rokeby offered Strike money, via Al, to get his business started, Strike saw it as a bribe to stop him selling his story (what story? you’re not fucking famous you dick) and refused, suddenly no bank anywhere would give him a loan, he had to borrow the money from Rokeby (also via Al) and that’s why he’s always going on about not having any money, because he’s paying back that debt. If this had been mentioned at any point in the book and a half of this crap that I’ve ploughed through thus far I’d be a lot more forgiving.

It’s entirely academic anyway since Al isn’t answering his phone, so Strike just leaves him a voicemail. We haven’t been told what Al does for a living or what help he could possibly be.

Strike spends yet another page rehashing things the reader’s had repeated to them a billion times by now, in this case the suspect list, then calls Nina. She’s happy for him to come round, she’ll cook, that’s fine. Poor, deluded woman. Strike’s planning to get information out of her, stay the night, then bugger off in the morning. He makes a point of specifying that it’ll be next morning when he has to try to get away from her.

The chapter ends by telling us there’s someone tall and willowy with long fingers playing with a Stanley knife in the street outside and watching his flat. Oh, book, don’t get my hopes up.


I’m already regressing and losing sight of my new speed-running goal, aren’t I.  Robin makes it to the funeral and spends the whole time thinking about random irrelevant shit and hating herself for it.

Her phone rings during the wake and she nobly ignores it for a while, and during the cleanup checks her messages to find a super-dramatic voicemail from Strike. Crackling interference, him not talking, a couple of crashes and him yelling in pain, then some noises and the call dropping. She tries to call back and it goes to voicemail.

Chapter ends with Matthew scowling and looking annoyed, because that’s apparently more important.

Boom.


Oh, damn. Strike’s fine. Rowling couldn’t even drag the suspense out for more than half a page. Yeah, he was attacked, but nothing actually happened – a woman lunged at him with a knife, he dodged, he twisted his knee and yelled, she panicked and ran away. And somehow his phone just got knocked onto silent in the middle of the call without him realising, so now he doesn’t know Robin’s trying to call him. Stupidly contrived plot device is stupidly contrived, and also probably not actually possible unless he’s got a fucking weird phone. Anyway, we don’t get any kind of description of the woman, but he thinks it’s the young round-shouldered girl who was following him earlier in the book when he tried to ambush her and fell over.

He’s on his way to Nina’s and sulking about not being able to chase the woman – and utterly failing to consider that he probably should be calling the police to tell them someone’s just tried to stab him – and can’t feel his phone vibrating because it’s in his coat pocket. And he can’t hear it buzzing because reasons. If you really must have this stupid source of ‘drama’, Rowling, at least say the battery died; I’ll happily believe he’s too much of an idiot to remember to charge the thing. Or say it broke when he dropped it, or that he dropped it in a drain, or that he nver picked it up again after the attack. Or if you let him take the Underground and not endless taxis I’d have believed he doesn’t have a signal. You had more plausible options here.

He gets to Nina’s and lies about why he’s late, then lies about ‘forgetting’ to bring her a bottle of wine he never had, then finally notices his phone ringing and blows Nina off to answer it. He’s utterly surprised by Robin panicking because he didn’t even realise he’d called her during the attack. Oh, come on. He didn’t even fall over; how on earth did he manage to unlock his phone, call her number, end the call at the most dramatic moment, then turn the phone onto silent, then lock it again? And this entire saga has barely lasted two pages – if you’re not going to actually expand on the drama, why bother including it at all?

Nina’s laid on a romantic candlelit dinner, though the food’s burned because he was late. Strike decides to forgive her obvious irritation by telling himself that if he’d pulled this shit with Charlotte she’d have thrown the plates at him. Yawn. While they eat Nina tells him she had a nightmare about the two of them finding Owen’s guts in the bottom drawer of Jerry’s desk. She’s coming across as very upset, because until she saw the news she hadn’t known Owen died so horribly, and she wishes Strike had told her, and everyone at work’s feeling and acting weirdly now they know, and Jerry started drinking heavily again and was really angry all the time before he resigned… Naturally Strike gives no fucks and just pities himself because chicks are never quite as into him after they hear about him encountering gross stuff.

She carries on talking about Jerry; she’s not eating and keeps drinking a lot of wine. He was acting really oddly, kept insisting that Owen was mentally ill and couldn’t be blamed for the book, and was blaming Liz for most of it. Liz came to the office to talk about another author and Jerry slammed his door so hard he nearly broke the glass. And Liz looked really ill, normally she’d have yelled at him for that but she barely reacted. Nina mentions there’s an interview with Fancourt on TV tonight; Strike says he’d like to watch it and she stares at him. He thinks she’s trying to work out whether he just wants more information or whether he actually wants to sleep with her, but then his phone rings again and he answers without apologising to her (again) and she walks out.

It’s his half-brother Al, and they arrange to meet for dinner later this week.


Robin’s watching the Fancourt interview too, in the company of Matthew and her parents. Her father’s asleep, her mother’s taking notes because she’s doing some sort of literature course, and Matthew’s reading the paper. Fancourt’s rambling about how love doesn’t exist and saying some pretty terrible things about women and relationships that make it quite clear he’s a card-carrying MRA.

She looks at the paper Matthew’s reading and sees a photo of the random car crash, and says she was nearly in it. Matthew asks what the hell she was doing on the M4 yesterday and she confesses that she was driving her boss to an interview that he could have taken a train for instead of coming up to see him and help him prepare for his mother’s funeral. Understandably he’s really, really pissed, and walks out.

Robin tries to defend herself to her mother, who isn’t listening, then listens to some more awful Red Pill crap from Fancourt before he starts faking tears as he talks about his wife’s suicide. Finally she decides that maybe she might actually be in the wrong here and follows Matthew out.


Rowling’s losing interest in her side characters; we don’t see if Strike bothers to try to be nice to Nina before leaving, nor do we see Robin attempting to apologise to Matthew, but jump ahead to the next day. Robin’s back at work, she’s been crying, and she’s angry with Matthew. No, you are one hundred per cent in the wrong here, and Matthew might be a jerk but I’ve spent most of this book on his side. She makes the tea again. Strike’s got Caroline Ingles – who may or may not be the ‘brunette woman’ constantly being referred to endlessly in the early chapters – coming to talk to him soon, and wants Robin to try to track down the old guy who says he saw Owen in a bookstore a couple of days after his disappearance; he’s also having lunch with Jerry later. And he wants Robin to find out when the Fancourt interview was taped.

Turns out Caroline Ingles is actually blonde, so it’s not her, if anyone cares.

Robin says the Fancourt interview was recorded November 7th – two days after Owen disappeared, I think? I don’t remember. She wants to know why it matters and Strike says he saw something, she really ought to have spotted it first time and should rewatch it on Youtube or something. Fuck off, Strike.

Of course, now we actually get to see Robin doing stuff, now I’ve decided I hate her. The witness actually owns a second-hand bookstore, and he’s very old and shaky and has poor hygiene and first saw Owen about twenty years ago. Robin thinks this means the recent sighting was rubbish and implies that he recognised the cloak Owen usually wears, and he replies calmly that no, actually he recognised the heterochromatic eyes, he’s more observant than he seems and was in intelligence in the war. The ‘so fuck you, you patronising bint’ is unsaid but heavily implied.

For her next trick Robin decides to imply that he gets his dates confused and was he really, really sure it was the 8th? Yes, because he keeps to a regular routine and Mondays are the days he buys milk from the corner shop, which he’d just done when Owen came into the shop, and he knows it was that Monday in particular because he also visits a friend of his on Mondays and remembered telling him about Owen’s visit, and they also talked about a sinkhole appearing in Germany in the same conversation. Robin Googles this and tells him that the sinkhole appeared on the 1st, not the 8th, and for some reason this flusters him and he throws her out. Because apparently you can only discuss news articles on the day they air and it’s utterly impossible for them to have talked about it a week after it happened.

I’d like to point out that Owen bought three books, and the store owner – who Rowling didn’t bother to give a name to – remembers two of them. Why on earth nobody’s suggested just looking at the till records is beyond me.


Strike gives us two pages of the now-typical Rowling filler in describing the restaurant he’s meeting Jerry at. Jerry shows up on time but his breath smells of alcohol. He says he chose this restaurant because nobody from work comes here; he likes his former co-workers well enough but the atmosphere there is poisonous now. Jerry’s nervous, he’s babbling and keeps pushing his glasses up his nose a lot.

He thinks maybe Owen might have somehow done it himself. He knows it’s impossible, but it was so theatrical and grotesque and got so much weird publicity that it’s the kind of thing Owen would have loved. And he blames Liz, says she wound Owen up about various wrongs Fancourt allegedly did them, though Fancourt does hate them both. He describes Liz as a bitch, twisted, angry, bitter, and a bully with a scary temper. Don’t hold back, eh, Jerry.

Jerry’s pretty drunk by this point, rambling about how Owen turned on everyone. He implies that Owen knew something bad about Fancourt, not the thing with his wife’s suicide but something else, then changes the subject to talk about how Owen liked him really. Strike asks about the Cutter and Jerry says it’s just referring to some idea or bit of prose he must have cut that Owen objected to; Strike thinks the answer sounds rehearsed, but because Jerry’s drunk he can’t be sure.

Strike asks if Jerry knew anything about the book while Owen was working on it. Only the title; Owen said it was a metaphor for the agonies a writer has to go through to get to the good stuff. Was that normal for Owen, keeping everything secret? Yes. What about Jerry’s movements around the time of the disappearance? He’s been through all that with the police already, he was meant to be going away with his wife for their anniversary but they had a massive row on the way to the airport and abandoned the trip. Their marriage has been a mess for years, and now their daughter’s grown up they’re getting a divorce. Anyway, he read the book, yelled at Liz, then got on with his life; Owen wasn’t answering his calls, but he had problems of his own at work.

Chard blames Jerry for gossiping about his sexuality with Owen. Jerry says everyone’s known for years that Chard likes paintings of nude young men, that he once asked Joe North to pose for him and North refused; it’s been common knowledge for ages but Chard thinks it’s all Jerry’s fault, and he resigned because the accusations were too much.

The drunken rambling is interrupted when Jerry’s phone rings. It’s his daughter’s number, so he answers, but it turns out to be his wife; he starts screaming abuse at her and leaves the restaurant (leaving Strike with quite a high bill. Good for you, Jerry). Strike pays up and chases him outside, where he’s still yelling obscenities down the phone in quite graphic detail concerning his wife’s infidelity; he ends the call when he sees Strike, starts crying, mumbles something about how he thought Owen at least held the father-daughter bond sacred, and stumbles off.

So… the scene with the sack and the bloody dwarf, plus this, leads me to think that either his wife or his daughter got pregnant and he forced her to have an abortion? Or possibly forced a miscarriage? Or something else horrible? I’m guessing the wife, and that he thought/knew the baby wasn’t his. Or given the daughter references, maybe she had the baby, and he knew it wasn’t his, and the baby died? I don’t know but it’s likely to be awful.

Strike gives no fucks about whether or not Jerry gets home safely, because being drunk outside in a very bad winter isn’t a big deal and has never killed anyone ever; Jerry’s too drunk to talk to him any more, so that’s all that matters.


I think that will do quite nicely. Nine chapters in around the same length of time and number of words I’d usually have wasted on one. Next week should hopefully see another HP post, but no promises.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2016 in loten

 

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The Silkworm: Part Nine

So, tomorrow I’m starting night shifts, meaning that tonight I have to stay up all night to try and reset my sleep schedule a bit in preparation. Sounds like the perfect time to attempt another episode of the Baby Silk Moth of Misogyny. I want this book over with, so I’m going to try for a longer post than usual, but it’s possible I’m going to fall asleep part way through or be reduced to complete incoherence (instead of partial, as is my wont usually) so we’ll see how this goes. For the record, each chapter usually takes about two hours to go through.

Warnings: nothing in particular. Some insensitive mentions of poverty, suicide, and alcoholism, and the usual boring misogyny.


Last time, a supposedly serious injury – that he’s been ignoring with no consequences for half the book – forced Strike to actually allow Robin to take part in the plot. Unsurprisingly, though, we stay with him for the start of the next chapter, and spend a page detailing his thrilling taxi ride to a chemist to buy a walking stick. He specifies that he’s paying for the taxi using the five hundred pounds the gangster guy gave him earlier in the book to go beat up a teenage boy, and harps on about how he’s going to give that money back so he has to be careful not to spend too much; given that the still-unnamed brunette woman advanced him ten grand to follow her soon to be ex husband at around the same time, I can’t be anything approaching sympathetic. You aren’t poor, stop fetishising it. Once he’s done whining, he finally starts thinking about what he’s meant to be doing, and the taxi takes him to Fulham Palace Road where Liz Tassel lives.

He thinks ‘a fit woman’ could make the trip to Talgarth Road in less than half an hour, which is surprisingly (given Rowling’s usual ability to judge distances) pretty accurate. Given that when we met Liz she appeared to be suffering from fairly advanced emphysema – oh, I’m sorry, ‘flu’ – I don’t think it’s relevant, though. Kathryn lives closer, according to him (according to a map of London, no she doesn’t) but Strike knows the area reasonably well and is sure Liz could have made the journey without being picked up on any cameras. Around Hammersmith, past Charing Cross Hospital, right on the river? I’m not convinced, and I don’t think Strike could possibly know where all the cameras are anyway, but I need to stop arguing with every single fail or this book’s going to take years to finish, so let’s smile and nod and pretend we’re in an alternate version of London or something.

Strike judges Liz’s house and garden as shabby (one of Rowling’s favourite words, as we know) and overgrown, but if he comes to any conclusions regarding the actual crime he doesn’t say so, instead getting back in the taxi and heading off to Jerry’s house in Kensington. He spends a while poking around, peering in the windows and down the stairs at the basement flat where Jerry’s daughter lives, noting all the many houses and flats overlooking the house and deciding Jerry can’t really have managed to sneak out without being seen, then stands around pondering how exactly you get rid of human intestines.

As a result of this expert detective work, Jerry’s wife comes out of the house looking royally pissed off and announces that she’s been watching him acting really suspiciously and just what the hell does he think he’s doing? Strike lies about a basement flat for rent and waiting for the agent, and he’s lucky there apparently is one for rent and she sends him a few houses down because seriously you are the worst detective ever. It also gives him the chance to be really nasty in his mental description of her, criticising her clothing and pointing out her bad breath (that he wasn’t close enough to smell, shut up), frown lines and grey roots. None of these things would have been mentioned when describing a male character, obviously.

He ‘hobbles‘ off towards the house she pointed out and waits until she leaves, snarking about her driving, before walking down a side street and looping around to look into their back garden. He criticises that as well – what’s with the sudden horticultural bent? – and realises that, oops, maybe some of the suspects have allotments, garages or lock-ups he doesn’t know about, and that this whole enterprise is utterly pointless.

(I don’t know if allotments exist as a thing outside the UK… basically if you don’t have a garden the council can rent you a plot of land out in the suburbs somewhere next to a lot of other plots. Stereotypically the refuge of middle-class retired men to grow vegetables and sit in sheds away from their nagging wives.)

We get another page of Strike whining that his leg hurts and he doesn’t want to walk across half of London. Don’t, then, you moron. You live and work travelling around central London, there is no reason why you wouldn’t have an Oyster card. More translation – an Oyster card is a travel pass you store credit on that works on every bus, train and Underground route in London, and there are machines to put more money on them in every station. If Strike doesn’t have one then he’s honestly too stupid to live.

Anstis phones at this point to tell him that he’s an idiot. Well spotted. It turns out that Strike going back to the crime scene, where he’d been expressly forbidden to go, and then shooting his mouth off to the police officers on duty, was a fucking stupid idea. Sadly the whole scene has a distinct flavour of the mean nasty police picking on him when he’s just trying to do his best for his poor innocent client, but it’s a start. Though it’s unfortunately followed by Anstis passing on more details about the investigation despite having just told him to keep out of it, because what is consistency? He says Owen’s blood work came back clean, just traces of alcohol, and they’re sending dog teams out to a nearby land fill – the biggest in the UK – to look for a bag of intestines because there was a skip a few streets from Talgarth Road and the builders say that’s where it’s emptied. Yeah, good luck with that.

Strike surprises me at this point by acting vaguely like a reasonable human being, and phones Leonora to recommend that she gets a lawyer; not only that but he gives her the number of a friend of his. And then actually phones said friend to let her know he’s given her number to a potential client. I know, it’s shocking. I don’t expect it to last. Leonora mentions that the police are searching the house again, and Strike tells her to let them.

More whining about the cold and his leg hurting, and a long description of him finding a nice pub to have lunch in. Remember your constant complaining about not having any money, Strike? Go home and make a fucking sandwich. This pub just happens to have some photos of minor celebrities on the walls, which just happen to include one of his father Jonny. Nope, still don’t care.

Robin phones to say she’s done all her share of the investigating, because God forbid we get to actually see her doing something productive, and when she got back to the office she found a message from Daniel Chard asking Strike to go down to Devon to see him. Er, what? Strike asks, reasonably, how the hell Chard knows he exists. Cue Robin reminding him that he’s super-famous all over the country for… finding a body, in London. Which happens every few days.

‘ “He says he’s got a proposition.”
A vivid mental image of a naked, bald man with an erect, suppurating penis flashed in Strike’s mind.’

Don’t flatter yourself, mate!

Strike decides he can totally drop everything and fuck off to Devon despite being sooooo busy and soooooo poor and asks Robin to hire him an automatic-transmission car before suggesting she come to this pub and have lunch with him. Robin says they can’t afford it – seriously, yes you can, what is Rowling’s weird obsession with this sanitised and romanticised view of ‘poverty’ when she’s one of the richest people in the world and apparently used to be genuinely poor? – and Strike says he’ll charge it to a client’s account. Classy. And illegal.

This whole thing is stupid. Chard has a broken leg, he’s not confined to a hospital bed, and the police would have insisted he travel up to London to speak to them by now. There’s also no reason he would want to speak to Strike, particularly since it would look pretty dodgy were said police to find out, and why is Strike willing to go running across the country to see a murder suspect in the middle of nowhere on short notice? Has he never seen a horror film?

He goes back to staring at his daddy’s photo, which I assume is meant to add extra angst except for the part where nobody gives a fuck, and wondering why he’s so sure Leonora’s innocent. Because you’re the protagonist and therefore have to be right about absolutely everything no matter how unlikely. Don’t overthink it.

Robin shows up, and her contribution to the investigation gets just over a page, with pauses for descriptions of what they’re eating. Chard’s town house is big and flashy and has a private courtyard full of ornamental plant pots that could be perfect hiding places for random piles of intestines – actually, that’s a fantastic idea. Kathryn’s flat has lots of hiding places – bushes, communal bins, etc. – but is very overlooked and public; but there’s a medical centre right outside that might sometimes dispose of biological waste. Probably not, if it’s a small place it would be frozen and transported to the nearest hospital to be incinerated, but I suppose it’s possible.

Surprisingly, Strike actually thinks this is a good theory, which I believe is the first time this entire book he’s said anything remotely positive about anything Robin’s come up with. Unsurprisingly, this turns out to be because it’s a better theory than Anstis’ and Anstis is a meanie-face, rather than because he thinks it’s actually a good idea.

He tells her what he saw around Liz’s and Jerry’s houses, including that Jerry’s wife was pissed that he was creeping around their house peering in the windows. For some reason Robin thinks this is a weird reaction, instead of perfectly fucking reasonable, which allows Strike to say dismissively that ‘she’s a drinker like her husband, I could smell it on her.’ Still as sensitive and well-informed as ever, Rowling. Anyway, Strike says Liz’s house is a perfect ‘murderer’s hideout‘ since it’s private and barely overlooked. I refuse to waste time on Streetview investigating this, but it’s a busy area of London so I’m going to assume he’s talking out of his arse as usual.

Strike then decides that since Anstis is a meanie-face he’s going to completely disobey everything he was told and start questioning suspects properly, and calls Roper Chard to speak to Jerry. Time for another reality check – in the real world, he’d find himself arrested for obstruction and possibly conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, because seriously, stop fucking around with a murder investigation, private investigators do not do this sort of thing you fucking idiot. Sadly I suspect he’s actually just going to get a mild scolding, which will be followed by a grovelling apology when it turns out he was right all along. Robin makes a token effort to point out that this is a very bad idea and Strike shushes her, saying that he hasn’t told her half of what’s going on. Nice.

Understandably, Jerry’s fairly confused about why Strike is calling him. I’m more confused about how Strike got past Roper Chard reception, since he’d have to say who he was and why he was calling (or failing that his stupid inexplicable ‘fame’ would ensure that the receptionist already knew) and he or she would instantly hang up and rush to tell someone to contact the legal department. Strike says vaguely that he’s interested in Owen’s book and thinks it might help the case, and asks with all the subtlety of a sack full of bricks to meet at Jerry’s house to discuss it. Understandably Jerry’s not keen on this and suggests a lunchtime meeting near the office instead, because (unlike some people) he has actual work to do. Pouting, Strike agrees and says he’ll get his ‘secretary‘ to call and confirm. I assume Robin noticed this and was pissed about it but decided to be the better person and ignore it, since she just asks vacantly, ‘He’s going to meet you?’ Yes, Robin, that’s generally what that sort of conversation means. Strike says yes and adds that he thinks that’s really suspicious and suspects often want to hang around him to see how well the investigation is going. Bit of a Catch-22 there, since presumably refusing to meet him would also be really suspicious, but whatever.

Then we have a completely unnecessary half-page of Strike hobbling dramatically across the pub to the toilets (this book is weirdly obsessed with his urinary habits) and Robin implausibly noticing and recognising the photo of his father. Even though the book specifically states they look nothing like each other and it took a DNA test to prove paternity. Not only that but the book then describes at some length that Robin can’t stop staring at the photo’s crotch since Jonny’s wearing very tight leather trousers. This is disturbing on multiple levels and also utterly irrelevant filler. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be funny, or what.

Strike comes back and tells Robin the police are searching Leonora’s entire house now. They already would have, since it’s Owen’s house too and missing-persons/murder cases do generally start with looking around the person’s house for clues, but whatever. He says he really wants to talk to Fancourt, to find out why he joined Roper Chard when Owen was there too and they hated each other, because they’d be bound to meet. I don’t think you quite understand how publishing works, Strike. I assume he went to them because they offered him more money than he was getting wherever he was before, and there’s no reason whatsoever why he and Owen would meet each other there. I wonder how Bloomsbury treat Rowling? She seems to think publishers constantly throw huge parties and invite all their contracted authors. Anyway, Strike phones Liz instead to set up another meeting that the police are going to want to ask lots of nasty questions about. Strangely enough she doesn’t want him in her house either and arranges another lunch meeting, which Strike pouts over. Again, mate, people have jobs that they actually work at, and they don’t want to give up their free time to a total stranger or let him in their house.

Robin points out that he could lose his friend over this. Strike just grunts.

‘ “Don’t you care?”
[…]
“I’ve got plenty more friends.” ‘

Charming. Also rather unlikely, based on the previous book and a half.

The chapter ends with Strike saying they should go out for a beer every lunchtime, and Robin smiling happily because she’s enjoyed herself so much, it’s almost the best day at work she’s ever had, and reminding herself never to tell her fiancé (who is currently planning his mother’s funeral) about it. Sigh.

Time for a coffee-and-Youtube break. I’m calling it now, I will not in fact manage a longer post than usual, because this book is just not fun and I can only endure it in small doses.


All right, here we go again. Next morning, and wouldn’t you know it, Strike’s knee is still agonising. I’m not even angry any more, just bored. Either he’s faking it, or he’s too fucking stupid to go to the hospital; either way I don’t care. Also, it’s snowing really hard, which I assume is going to be relevant later. (It’s also not that likely. To my eternal disappointment, Britain as a whole doesn’t get much snow, particularly in the south.)

He limps dramatically down to the office, and the phone is ringing. Two clients in quick succession tell him there’s no work for him – the guy worried about the PA he’s having an affair with says she’s sick and Strike doesn’t need to follow her around until she’s better, and Caroline Ingles says she’s going to patch things up with her husband and doesn’t need him investigated any more. (I’ve lost track of whether she or Burnett is meant to be the brunette woman, but I also don’t care.)

Robin shows up, and Strike has another rare human moment, pointing out that the snow’s very bad and suggesting she can take the day off tomorrow to make sure she gets up to Yorkshire in time for the funeral. She says no, she’s booked on the sleeper train late tomorrow night, it’ll be fine. Three guesses how that’s going to turn out. You’re a terrible person, Robin. She suggests calling some other clients for work, since two have just cancelled jobs, and Strike says no.

She asks if his knee still hurts, and he says yes but that’s not why he doesn’t want to take on more clients. Er, I don’t think anyone thought it was, but okay. Robin says she knows, he wants to concentrate on the Quine case, and somehow manages to keep a straight face; Strike thinks she’s scolding him (what for?) and insists out of nowhere that Leonora will totally pay him because Owen had life insurance. This has been brought up repeatedly, but really, Strike’s the only person who doesn’t think she’s going to pay him, nobody else has mentioned any such thing, and it’s got nothing to do with the conversation.

Robin doesn’t like his tone, but not because this is a bizarre non-sequitur; she’s just annoyed that he thinks she’s shallow and obsessed with money, even though he didn’t say or imply any such thing and even though wondering if you’re going to get your salary isn’t shallow. This whole scene is weird, they both seem to be having totally separate conversations and supplying imaginary dialogue inside their heads.

It doesn’t help that she’s once again making the tea. Though she does at least have the sense to provide some painkillers, which of course just pisses Strike off, as does her offer to book him a taxi for his meeting with Liz at lunchtime. He says the restaurant is only around the corner, and Robin (justifiably) calls him stupid. He gives in with very bad grace, but really, it was sleeting all day yesterday, and the snow is settling today which means the sleet is frozen and the snow is covering ice, this is not weather to be limping with a walking stick and also you’re a moron.

Cue long description a couple of hours later of his taxi ride to the restaurant. I’m getting very bored of this. People travelling is not interesting, particularly when most of the focus is on someone whining about a sore knee that they refuse to actually do anything about. He gets there first, and when Liz arrives he notes that she’s lost weight and looks ill.

Most of their conversation is pretty boring, so I’ll skip through.

Liz thinks Leonora needs all the help she can get, that she’s never been too bright and should be trying to play the grieving widow a bit more since that’s what people expect. The police have questioned her already, and she assumes they think Owen died shortly after she fought with him in the restaurant over not publishing the book; she went straight home from that meeting and left early the next morning to stay with one of the other writers she manages, a lady called Dorcus (I can’t tell if that’s a typo or not, I’ve never seen any other spelling but Dorcas, but it’s consistently spelled with a U throughout). She obviously has an alibi for that stay, but she lives alone so can’t prove she was at home between seeing Owen and going there, and she can’t prove that she went home after coming back from the visit either. She can’t prove that she didn’t kill Owen, but she felt like doing it.

The police asked to whom she’d shown the manuscript to aside from Jerry and Fisher – nobody. And with whom Owen discussed his manuscripts while working on them – she doesn’t know; maybe Jerry but Owen never told her anything, he was a chauvinist and refused to listen to a woman even though she’s got a first-class degree in English and he was kicked out of university and she’s not at all bitter really, and also Fancourt once told him that she was a bad writer and apparently this mattered.

As an aside, they’re at what sounds like quite an upscale Italian restaurant, yet she’s ordered soup and Strike’s somehow managed to get hold of fish and chips which I doubt would be on the menu.

Strike mentions that she told him she had to choose between Fancourt and Owen, so why Owen when she obviously can’t stand him? Liz thinks for a bit, then says slowly that at the time she thought he was ‘more sinned against than sinning‘. Strike asks if it’s got anything to do with the parody someone wrote of Fancourt’s wife Elspeth’s novel (what is with these names, nobody’s been called Elspeth for decades), and Liz says Owen wrote it, and showed it to her before sending it to the magazine that published it, adding that she thought it was funny and it made her laugh. When prompted, she does say that Elspeth’s suicide was a tragedy, but adds emotionlessly that nobody could have expected it.

‘ “Frankly anybody who’s going to kill themselves because of a bad review has no business writing a novel in the first place.” ‘

Oh fuck you, Rowling. You clearly don’t give two shits about your writing these days, but you allegedly wrote the first Harry Potter book as your own personal therapy to work through your mother’s death. You must have had some sort of emotional investment in it. Writers who actually care about their work do get very involved in it, and even friendly and constructive negative criticism can be hard to take sometimes, let alone public humiliation.

But I’m wasting my breath, it’s not as if we needed further proof that this woman has no grasp of bullying and how it affects people, nor does she understand depression despite claiming to have been affected by it.

Anyway, Fancourt was angry with Owen over it. You don’t say. Owen panicked after Elspeth killed herself and denied writing it, which Liz says was cowardly of him. No, writing it in the first place was. Fancourt asked her to drop Owen as a client, she refused, and he hasn’t spoken to her since. Strike asks if it was about money, and she says no, Owen never made even close to the money Fancourt does, but she believes in free speech, ‘up to and including upsetting people‘.

Free speech does not mean freedom to be an asshole.

Liz adds that only a few days after the suicide, Leonora gave birth to premature twins and something went wrong; the boy died and Orlando was left brain damaged. So Owen was going through his own tragedy at the time, and ‘unlike Michael, he hadn’t b-brought any of it on h-himself.’ (Stuttering meant to represent her constant coughing, I think? It didn’t feature last time we saw her.)

I fail to see how Fancourt was in any way responsible for Owen’s spiteful parody driving his wife to suicide, but Liz explains that Elspeth couldn’t write and he encouraged her just to keep her out of his hair, they didn’t get along and he only married her for status because she was the daughter of an earl and he hated being lower class.

What is with all the aristocracy in this book? Half the cast are connected to minor nobility somehow. That’s really not how it works.

Anyway, Fancourt encouraged her to write her own stuff so she’d leave him alone, then didn’t have the courage to tell her it was bad and forced his publishers to take it to keep him happy. (I don’t believe any author would have that kind of clout, personally, but who knows.) Then the parody appeared a week later.

Strike mentions that Owen’s book implied Fancourt wrote it. Liz says she knows, and she wouldn’t want to provoke Fancourt. When pressed for details she explains she met him in a tutorial group studying Jacobean revenge tragedies, and that’s the kind of thing Fancourt loves – sadism, vengeance, rape, cannibalism, poisoned skeletons dressed as women (what?)… ‘sadistic retribution’.

So what did he do when she chose Owen, Strike asks? He hasn’t spoken a word to her since, he pulled out of her agency and tried to encourage her other clients to do the same, saying she was a woman of no honour or principle. Liz says that’s not true, and another reason she chose Owen was that Fancourt had done the same thing to hundreds of other writers before. Oh, well, that’s okay then.

Strike points out that she’d known Fancourt longer than Quine and that it must have hurt, and she changes the subject to say Owen wasn’t all bad. He was obsessed with virility, in his life and his writing, and in one of his books the protagonist (who is intersex, and pregnant, but Rowling exclusively uses male pronouns) has to choose between parenthood and their aspirations as a writer – ‘aborting his baby, or abandoning his brainchild‘. But even though Orlando clearly wasn’t the sort of child he wanted, he did love her.

‘ “Except for the times he walked out on the family to consort with mistresses or fritter away money in hotel rooms,” ‘ Strike says truthfully.

Yes, all right, Liz snaps, but he still loved her. I’m not convinced.

After a long silence she changes the subject, and says that the police think Owen was blackmailing her. They’ve noticed all the transfers of money from her account to his over the years. She points out rather bitterly that her professional life is all known to everyone and that she has no private life to speak of, so what could he be blackmailing her over? She started giving him money after Orlando was born, because he’d burned through everything he’d ever earned, Fancourt was calling him a murderer to anyone who would listen, and he and Leonora didn’t have any friends or family to help them out. She lent them money for baby things, and helped with a deposit on a house, and contributed to fees for therapists and specialists when they realised Orlando wasn’t developing normally, and it got to be a habit that she lent them money a lot.

She describes Owen as an overgrown child – he could be annoying and petulant and selfish, but there was something about him that made people feel protective and want to help him, and she wanted to keep believing that he’d produce another really good book someday – there was always a glimpse of something in every bad book he produced that meant she couldn’t write him off completely. And Orlando’s very sweet, she adds gruffly.

Strike agrees – insincerely, one assumes – and mentions that Orlando saw her going into Owen’s office when she visited the house last. Still no explanation of how, when the police had locked it up. Liz hesitates, obviously not happy that she’d been seen, then says she wanted to see what else Owen might have left lying around after reading herself depicted in the book, but that the place was such a mess she realised she’d never find anything and she didn’t want to leave fingerprints so she walked straight out again.

They order dessert, and apparently this upscale Italian restaurant also serves apple crumble and custard. Of course it does. Also I still don’t care. This sort of background atmosphere can work well in a conversation, it stops it all just being dialogue and helps develop the scene, but for it to work the reader has to actually be interested in the characters and what they’re doing.

Strike changes the subject to mention that Chard wants to see him, and asks why Chard’s portrayed as the murderer of a young blond man in the book. Liz says she’s not going to interpret the book for him, and he asks about Kathryn, why is the Harpy’s lair full of rat skulls? She’s happy enough to answer that, because all women in Rowling’s world hate all other women; she never liked Kathryn and hates her writing as well, and it’s all the internet’s fault for making people think they can write.

Fuck you, Rowling. Sincerely, the very high proportion of your fans who write fanfiction, or roleplay, or otherwise write about your work. Fuck. You.

Anyway, Kathryn works for an animal testing facility, hence the rats. Liz doesn’t know who the Harpy’s daughter is meant to be, or the dwarf the Cutter kills, and doesn’t know who Pippa is.

It’s now gone one-thirty a.m. and I’m interrupting this post to sing and dance a bit to Culture Club on the radio. It’s not a pretty sight, trust me, but I hope it’s marginally more entertaining than this book 😛

Strike asks about Joe North. He was from California, he was a few years younger than Liz, Fancourt and Owen, he was gay and he was writing a book about his life in San Francisco. He was a good writer, but not a quick one; he spent a lot of time partying. He was also HIV-positive and went on to develop AIDS, at which point all his friends abandoned him except Fancourt and Owen, and he died before finishing his first book.

I’m not going to comment. Rowling hasn’t handled this subject well in the past and the best we can hope for here is that it’s not mentioned again.

Joe died shortly before Fancourt and Owen fell out. Fancourt was ill and missed the funeral, Owen was a pallbearer. Joe left them the house out of gratitude for them standing by him when he became ill, but his will says it has to be used as an artist’s refuge, which is why they haven’t managed to sell it, though they did manage to rent it to a sculptor briefly. Liz doesn’t think Fancourt’s used it since the fight, and she says Owen didn’t use it in case he ran into Fancourt there. Fancourt finished Joe’s book and published it – classy move, dude.

Liz says she has to go, and Strike asks a couple more questions. Anstis told him she’d had some work done on the house? Yes, just basic repairs, she gave her key to the foreman for the duration and checked on them a few times, then gave the key back to Owen. Does she know if hydrochloric acid was used in any of the renovation?

…how would you renovate a building with gallons upon gallons of industrial-strength acid? Answers on a postcard.

She says the police asked about that too, what’s so important about hydrochloric acid? Strike says he can’t tell her that. Subtle. Shrugging, she says it was probably left there by the sculptor who briefly rented the house, he worked with rusted metal and corrosive chemicals which is why he wasn’t there very long.

Liz leaves, and hopefully leaves Strike with the bill although it’s not mentioned, and Strike goes back to the office. He plans to be nice to Robin because he thinks he pissed her off this morning, but when he gets there she tells him the car-hire people don’t have any automatic cars available and he flips out at her because he can’t possibly drive a manual with his leg and it’s clearly somehow her fault. Hasn’t she tried anywhere else?

Of course I have, she says coldly. Nobody has an automatic available on such short notice. And the weather’s going to be terrible anyway, so –

Strike tunes out and angsts about his leg and how he doesn’t want to have to stop wearing his prosthetic and go back to using crutches and waaaaa woe is him. Well then, dumbass, you should have gone to the hospital earlier so whatever this mysterious probably-fake injury is could be treated quickly, shouldn’t you.

Robin snaps at him for not listening to her, and says that she’s just offered to drive him there. Strike instantly says no, of course, though for once he has a reason – she’s got to be in Yorkshire the morning after. Fair point, that’s a long journey at the best of times, and coming from Devon you’re looking at eight to ten hours even without heavy snow. The side effect of not generally getting much snow is that when we do, we’re totally unprepared and it causes a ludicrous amount of chaos.

She insists it will be fine, and he gives in because he apparently can’t think of any other way he could possibly get to Devon.

The chapter ends on this note:

‘Owen Quine had not thought women had any place in literature; he, Strike, had a secret prejudice too – but what choice did he have, with his knee screaming for mercy and no automatic car for hire?’

I dread to think why he’s so opposed to a woman driving him somewhere. I’m sure it’s going to be a terrible reason. As for what choice he has… gosh, yes, how unfortunate. If only there was some sort of public transport available between London and Devon. Like, say, a train or a coach.

So, I’m going to predict quite a bit of the rest of the book. Obviously, the snow is going to be severe enough to delay them. If we’re very unlucky they’re going to break down in the snow and be forced to huddle together for warmth all night, in which case I’m telling you right now that I’m going to throw this fucking book out of the window and not finish it. Robin’s going to miss the funeral. Matthew’s going to (deservedly) dump her. She and Strike will not get together because Rowling will drag that out for at least another book, probably more, and throw in lots of chances to make one another jealous and probably – God forbid – a love triangle.

As for the actual murder plot, I don’t think I particularly care any more than the book seems to.

I need to stay awake for at least another five or six hours, but I can’t face any more of this stupid book right now.


Yeah, I was going to try for a couple more chapters in this post, but it’s so dull and irritating that it saps my energy. For the last several posts I’ve been planning to do shorter summaries and try to move through faster, but once I start there’s just so much to be annoyed with. I promise, if I ever manage to finish this I’ll start covering something more interesting.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2015 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.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2015 in loten

 

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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.

Sigh.

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.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2015 in loten

 

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