By Marty Ellacott


Welcome back to my analysis of parallels between The Ink Black Heart and the opera Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner. In yesterday’s Act 1, I gave a short summary of the opera and discussed Strike’s and Tannhäuser’s entanglement in a toxic relationship.

Return to the Wartburg

Tannhäuser Act III, undated set design.

After Tannhäuser’s departure from Venus, the knights / singers of the Wartburg find him kneeling in front of a Madonna, praying full of tears and remorse (act 1, scene 4).  Once they recognise him and renew their friendship, they try to make him come with them to the Wartburg but at first he refuses, wanting to repent on his own (“Be reconciled with me and let me go on further!”). 

Just like Strike after his separation from Charlotte, when he refuses his friends’ offers to let him stay with them: “There were friends all over London who would welcome him eagerly to their homes, […] he preferred grim solitude, a Pot Noodle and a sleeping bag.” (CC, part 1, chapter 7).

When Tannhäuser agrees to come to the castle with his friends, they ask where he’s been. Not wanting to lose their favour, he lies: “I have journeyed in far-distant realms – there where I never found response nor rest.” He also lies to Elisabeth when she poses the same question: “Far from here in broad and distant lands. Deep forgetfulness has descended betwixt today and yesterday” (act 2, scene 2). 

Strike does the same both after his separation from Charlotte and during his relationship with Madeline, although for very different reasons: “He had not wanted to tell Anstis, and he could not face telling anyone else” (CC, part 1, chapter 7), because he wants to avoid “face-to-face sympathy and post-mortems” about Charlotte (CC, part 3, chapter 7).

Like Tannhäuser with Venus and Elisabeth, his sole aim in lying about Madeline is so that Robin doesn’t know about her, although Strike’s lies to Robin about swapping jobs without apparent reason (IBH chapter 7) and getting a takeaway with a rucksack (IBH chapter 12) are laughably transparent.

In the Wikipedia article on Tannhäuser, there’s a paragraph that suggests Tannhäuser actually wants to reveal his secret: 

“Many scholars and writers on opera have advanced theories to explain the motives and behaviour of the characters, including Jungian psychoanalysis, in particular as regards Tannhäuser’s apparently self-destructive behaviour. In 2014 an analysis suggested that his apparently inconsistent behaviour, when analysed by game theory, is actually consistent with a redemption strategy. Only by public disclosure can Tannhäuser force a resolution of his inner conflict.” 

A similar paragraph on the German Wikipedia page gives more details: the “public disclosure” is meant to be Tannhäuser himself revealing that he stayed with Venus, which is self-destructive behaviour because it makes him lose Elisabeth and the good-will of his friends. He does it because during the singer’s contest, Tannhäuser is in a dilemma (inner conflict): If he loses, he loses Elisabeth’s hand, if he wins and marries Elisabeth, he deprives himself of the possibility of repentance and redemption.

As I will show later, I don’t believe that this is Tannhäuser’s reason for revealing his stay with Venus. Nor do I think Strike tells Robin these stupid lies because he wants her to know about Madeline. Look at the stupidest and most transparent lie he tells Madeline: 

“‘Who was that?’ asked Madeline. ‘Room service,’ said Strike. ‘No, it wasn’t,’ said Madeline, while Robin stared down at him with accusatory eyes. He had a strong feeling both women knew exactly what was going on: yielding ill-advisedly to the impulse of the cornered male, he attempted to brazen it out. ‘It was.’ ‘Corm,’ said Madeline, ‘I’m not stupid.’” (IBH chapter 75). 

And nor is Strike. In general. But here I think, as with Robin, he’s just getting complacent and too caught up in his own denial. In any case, as Ilsa puts it, “he wants to get his end away while [Robin] stay[s] available”, and certainly does not want her “to feel free to go and shag CID officers” (IBH chapter 28).

During Tannhäuser’s absence, Elisabeth has wondered about the feelings his songs awoke in her: (“help me unravel my heart’s enigma!”, act 2, scene 1) and isolated herself from the other singers and their hall (“For, when, in haughtiness, you left us, her heart closed to our song […] she ever shunned our circle!”, act 1, scene 4).

Robin, too, ever since the hug with Strike in LW, asks herself if she’s in love with him, on three occasions that we know of, each time away from London and away from Strike: alone on the beach on the Maldives (LW chapter 3), alone in the The Old Library in Leamington Spa (TB chapter 45) and alone (presumably in her hotel room) in Zermatt (IBH chapter 4). On each of these occasions, she is trying to avoid another man: Matthew on her honeymoon, Morris throughout the whole of TB and Hugh Jacks in Switzerland.

Elisabeth tells Tannhäuser about her feelings: “But what a strange new life your song conjured up in my breast!”, which is followed by a mutual declaration of love: “Praised be the hour, praised be the power that has brought me such sweet tidings.”

Even though such a declaration is yet far away for Strike and Robin, their friendship, after Strike’s distance because of her rejection in front of the Ritz, seems to be getting back on the right track with Robin’s encouraging behaviour, and with her spontaneous hug when learning that she’s got her flat. Or at least Strike thinks she might not find him entirely disgusting: “Strike, realising he was grinning foolishly, consciously repressed his smile. He could still feel the warm shape of Robin’s body, pressed briefly against him” (IBH chapter 20).

But doom will soon arrive in the shape of Venus / Charlotte.

Singers’ contest

Singer’s Contest, Master of the Codex Manesse, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When Landgrave Hermann finds out about his niece’s love for Tannhäuser, he initiates a festival with a singers’ contest, solely to enable Tannhäuser to win Elisabeth’s hand as a prize (no intended similarities with Ilsa’s arranged dinners to bring Strike and Robin together). The task is to explore the true essence of love.

Wolfram von Eschenbach sings about love being like a well that refreshes the heart but must be protected from all human interference: 

“And behold! Before me a miraculous spring appears,
[…] it revives my heart.
And never would I sully this fount,
Nor taint the spring in wanton mood:
I would practise myself in devotion, sacrificing,
gladly shed my heart’s last drop of blood.”
(act 2, scene 3).

When Tannhäuser answers, according to the stage directions, ‘[he] seems to awaken from a dream: his haughty mien now changes to an expression of ecstasy. He stares fixedly at nothing. […] an uneasy smile indicates that a strange magic has taken possession of him. […]  He hardly knows now where he is, and […] he is especially oblivious of Elisabeth’. This looks like Tannhäuser is still under Venus’s spell – or drugged. 

Strike, too, thinks of his infatuation with Charlotte as an addiction (see “Tannhäuser in The Ink Black Heart, Act 1”). He’s also haunted by her in his dreams (CC part 1, chapter 7, SW chapter 24, LW chapter 52, TB chapter 72) and almost seems to suspect magic is involved: “As he slammed his way out into the street, he felt as though he was pursued, as though Charlotte had projected after him a succubus that would tail him until they met again” (LW chapter 50).

In his song, Tannhäuser accuses Wolfram and his fellow singers of having “woefully misrepresented love”, if they think “worship is due to such marvels” that you’re not allowed to touch. Instead of the chaste admiration from a respectful distance, he claims that only in enjoyment (by which he means sex) does he know love. Tannhäuser prefers to “ever refresh myself at the source” because “the fount is inexhaustible, as my longing is unquenchable!”

By drinking of the well and thus disturbing the water, Tannhäuser acts like the nineteen-year-old Strike on his first ever seeing Charlotte:

photo by Tolu Olarewaju on Unsplash

“He had never seen anything so beautiful in his life […] Strike had been visited by precisely the same urge that had come over him as a child whenever snow had fallen overnight […]. He wanted his footsteps to be the first to make deep, dark holes in that tantalisingly smooth surface: he wanted to disturb and disrupt it” (CC, part 3, chapter 7).

The argument about enjoyment of sensual (profane) love on Tannhäuser’s side and courtly (sacred) love from the other singers appears like the conflict that rages in both Strike’s and Robin’s minds between their mutual attraction and their fear that sex will ruin their friendship (which is sacred for them). Her “no” to his attempted kiss is a “no” to risking the friendship (sacred love) for what she believes to be a one-night-stand, or meaningless sex (profane love) on his side. Strike fears that a relationship with Robin wouldn’t work and answers her “no” with meaningless sex with Madeline.


The True Essence of Love

Strike’s belief that a relationship with Robin “goes wrong” (TB chapter 58), and his unwillingness to “[give] a name” to his feelings for Robin (IBH chapter 25), are probably rooted in the fact that his ideas of “love” and “relationship” are still so negative that it seems natural he doesn’t want to connect them with her.

This links the singers’ contest with Robin’s and Strike’s fight against their feelings for each other: While Robin answers her query if she’s in love with him untruthfully, Strike doesn’t even ask himself the question. Which makes his denial greater than hers.

So the singers’ contest also reverberates in Strike’s ideas about love and relationships being challenged, mainly by Robin. Actually, in LW, TB and IBH, Strike seems to have to explore and understand the true nature of love / relationships (=compete in the contest) in order to advance in his future relationship with Robin (=win the prize).

Let’s go back to Strike’s reasons for leaving Charlotte:

1. Pain, a substantial part of love in Strike’s mind (see “Tannhäuser in The Ink Black Heart, Act 1”): When Madeline makes a terrible scene after her launch, Strike is reminded of “life with Charlotte; of screams and thrown objects, outbursts of irrational jealousy and accusations of every vice. […] The difference had been that he’d loved Charlotte, in spite of it all. Without love, such behaviour held no appeal whatsoever for Strike” (IBH chapter 52).

In his relationship with Charlotte, Strike experienced a lot of pain, but the consequence of it, i.e. of every blazing row, was always that “Charlotte would walk out, and only after she came back […] would the row be discussed” (TB chapter 42). This is also what Strike believes Robin will do after their Valentine’s Day row in TB. He expects her to make the first move and either apologise herself or start “negotiations”, by giving him “an essay on her various grievances” (TB chapter 42) and demand he change. But by keeping silent, she teaches him to actually think about what she accuses him of, realise she is right, make the first move himself for a change and call her to apologise.

This is a different kind of pain, as, unlike Charlotte, who fights to “know she’s alive” (LW chapter 9 and IBH chapter 25), Robin, with whom “he got on […] better than he’d ever got on with any woman” (TB chapter 22), and who actually soothes his pain (“he might be able to walk more comfortably if he were talking to Robin”, IBH chapter 93), only rows with Strike about important things: His insensitivity, his irrational desire of wanting to keep her safe from the same dangers he puts himself into, whether or not to save a child…

So, the kind of pain Strike learns about and for which the Tannhäuser in him possibly longs, is not the one that Charlotte burdens Strike with when she sends him suicidal messages in TB nor the constant fights for their own sake, but the one where you challenge each other in order to permit each other to grow, thus strengthening the relationship instead of making the “trust in each other […] more fragile” (SW chapter 23) until there are ”more cracks than substance” (COE chapter 40), as happened with Charlotte.

Only in Strike’s last scene with Charlotte in IBH, he seems to have understood that, when he tells her: “Love’s one long fucking chemistry experiment to you. You’re in it for the danger and the explosions” (chapter 87). 

2. Children: Charlotte’s lies about a possible pregnancy (see “Tannhäuser in The Ink Black Heart, Act 1”) made Strike leave her in the first place. When Charlotte comes back into Strike’s life in LW, she actually is pregnant, which gives him a convenient reason to reject her attempts to get him back. On her statement “’All that’s kept me going through this pregnancy is the thought that once I’ve had them, I can leave” (LW chapter 50), he tries to appeal to her sense of responsibility (“‘They’re going to need you, aren’t they?’”, LW chapter 50).

But he does not yet understand what her pronouncement should tell him about her character. Maybe because he is still too deep into the idea he shares with Charlotte, of not wanting children because his own birth was unwanted (“‘I’m an accident. I’m not inclined to perpetuate the mistake”, TB chapter 58).

When she stays with her children, Strike seems to believe that Charlotte has developed motherlove after all (“‘Kids come out of you. Men don’t understand what that is’”, TB chapter 8).

After Strike’s involuntary punch in the American Bar in TB, Robin, who got herself sacked by trying to save two little girls (COE chapter 55), gives him her own, much more empathetic reasons for not wanting children (“‘I can’t see myself having kids while doing this job. I think I’d be torn ’”, TB chapter 58) and dismisses his theory as “‘bloody self-indulgent’” (TB chapter 58), pointing out that he “’can’t let [his] whole life be coloured by the circumstances of [his] conception‘” (TB chapter 58).

In his last scene with Charlotte in IBH (chapter 87), when she doesn’t try to protect her children from Jago’s violence, Strike finally understands that his pull towards her was entirely based on an illusion: that they shared “certain inalienable principles” and a “a desire to refashion [their] corner of the world into a saner, safer, kinder place” (IBH chapter 87), in other words: empathy. Which was probably one of the virtues he invented for her in order to justify his attraction to her looks (see “Tannhäuser in The Ink Black Heart, Act 1”).

3. Freedom: As he is tired of Charlotte’s possessiveness and endeavour to change him (see “Tannhäuser in The Ink Black Heart, Act 1”), Strike is keen on staying single at first, and later having no-strings relationships. When Robin, during their Valentine’s Day row (TB chapter 41), accuses Strike of lack of respect and appreciation, he is astonished, because so far, ”she was the unique woman in his life who’d never tried to change him” (TB chapter 41). Other women “often expected you to understand that [that] was a measure of how much they loved you” (SW chapter 8).

He has to learn that true freedom does not mean that he can do whatever the hell he wants, but that he is free to be the person he is while respecting others. In the talking-to Robin gives Strike about not taking care of himself, she makes this clear:

“‘I’ve never nagged you about you looking after yourself,’ […] ‘Not once. It’s your life, and your body. But the day you told me I had to get therapy, you said it wasn’t only me who’d have to live with the consequences if I got myself killed.’ […] ‘You are this agency. It’d be nothing without you. I’ve never told you to rest up, or stop smoking, or eat better. It wasn’t my business – but now you’re making it my business” (IBH chapter 100).

As Ilsa tells Robin: “’I don’t think he’s ever met any other woman who has wanted him to be free to do what he does best’” (IBH chapter 28). And by the end of that book, I hope Strike has given up his view that “‘a stable relationship means some kind of prison’” (IBH chapter 28).

During Strike’s relationship with Charlotte, he dismisses his friends repeatedly telling him “‘That’s not love, what she does to you’” (LW chapter 52). But a year after the separation, he seems to start doubting his own love for her: “He had called what he felt for Charlotte love and it remained the most profound feeling he had had for a woman. In the pain it had caused him and its lasting after-effects it had more resembled a virus that, even now, he was not sure he had overcome” (COE chapter 23). By this, he practically admits that he does not really know true love.


A Real Relationship

Even after having learned so much from Robin, Strike still has strange ideas about relationships. His constant refrain throughout IBH that “he’d genuinely tried to give the relationship with Madeline a chance” (IBH chapter 70), shows how very caught up in his old habits he still is. Yes, he spends more time with her than with Lorelei, with whom he did not want to spend “two nights in a row” because it would “lead into true intimacy” (LW chapter 11). Yes, he meets Madeline’s son Henry whereas he did not want to meet Elin’s daughter, because he wanted to avoid “the status of ‘Mummy’s boyfriend’” (COE chapter 39).

Minnesänger Bernger von Horheim (Codex Manesse, early 14th century)

But the first ingredient for “a real relationship” he can think of is that “the sex was good” (IBH chapter 70). Apart from her beauty, her other “endearing, even admirable” qualities (IBH chapter 70) are only named once: That she is “entirely self-made”, “commit[ed] to what she [does]”, “passion[ate] for her business”, feisty about “people who underestimated her because of her accent and background” (IBH chapter 8), and the apparently amicable relationship between Madeline, Henry, Henry’s father, and the latter’s new family, which he finds “very grown-up and civilised”, (IBH chapter 13).

When next he tries to kid himself into believing that “he’d tried”, Strike thinks about having “turned up when he was supposed to, given her flowers when it was appropriate, listened to her work worries and had what he believed to have been mutually exciting sex” (IBH chapter 76).

The empty gesture of the flowers about which Robin has shouted at him in TB, remains in his repertoire of supposed relationship-requirements. “These were the things you did for the woman you were sleeping with if you wanted to keep sleeping with her, and Strike was keen to keep sleeping with Madeline” (IBH chapter 13). This applies to the flowers as well as the other things: to him, a relationship seems like a contract he has to fulfil in order to get sex.

Which brings me back to Venus, whose relationship with Tannhäuser is all about sex. It also is a selfish love (“Seek your salvation – and find it never!”), as opposed to Elisabeth’s altruistic, self-sacrificing love (“What do I matter? But he – his salvation! Would you rob him of his eternal salvation?”). The same goes for the love Strike has known: Charlotte gives him pain for her own enjoyment, Robin for his growth. Charlotte uses her children, Robin tries to save them. Charlotte tries to form Strike after her wishes, Robin “like[s] him just the way he is” (IBH chapter 28).

On some level, Strike knows this, but he is not able to spell it out. When he compares the beautiful antique, but too short Malacca walking stick he got from Charlotte with the cheap but practical one from Robin, “Strike felt he might be on the verge of coining an aphorism about what seemed attractive in times of trouble versus what a man actually needed, what was of value as opposed to what cost a lot, but his tired brain […] refused to turn neat phrases” (IBH chapter 29).

Ilsa sees the origins of his “odd ideas about relationships” in Strike’s childhood and the polar opposites Leda and Joan: “He spent his life bouncing between two extremes: man of the house and too much responsibility whenever he was with Leda, but little boy who had to mind his Ps and Qs when he was with Joan” (IBH chapter 28). Joan seems to know that very well: “I wish,’ she added, after a short pause, ‘you had someone to look after you.’ […] ‘Pretending you don’t need things … it’s just silly,’” (TB chapter 31).

In contrast to that, “Leda, who lurched from lover to lover, and whom he had sometimes had to physically protect as a teenager” (TB chapter 22), selfishly shoved her children back and forth between London and Cornwall (TB chapters 1 and 4) whereas Joan, with “practical kindness” (TB chapter 31), took care of them, trying to do what was best for them, sometimes risking a row, like when Leda was “amazed and angry that such definitive steps as enrolling him in school had been taken in her absence” (TB chapter 4).

Joan is worried about Strike’s health: “‘I wish you’d stop smoking,’ she said sadly.” (TB chapter 4). And like many of his other self-destructive habits, this one might just as well stem from Leda: “‘Have you tried smoking yet, Cormy?’ she’d once asked vaguely, out of a haze of blue smoke of her own creation. ‘It isn’t good for you, but God, I love it.’” (TB chapter 4).

Joan’s dying words “‘ … you’re … good man.’ […] “‘ … helping people … ’” […] “‘I’m proud of you.’” (TB chapter 44), express that she gave him what he didn’t get from his parents (“‘I wanted to look smart, so he’d be – so he’d be proud of me’”, TB chapter 58). And although she never met “that Robin girl” she predicts Strike is “gonna end up with” (TB chapter 1 and 58), Joan seems to know exactly that with her empathy, her genuine care for his wellbeing and the fact that she doesn’t need the protection or “fixing” all the other women did (IBH chapter 28), Robin is much better suited to him than Charlotte. Or Madeline.


Still Under Her Spell

Tannhäuser and Venus, 1901 by John Collier

The argument between the singers about enjoyment of sensual love on Tannhäuser’s side and courtly love from the other singers escalates, until Tannhäuser, enraptured (according to the German stage directions), sings his song of praise to Venus and thereby reveals that he has been in her cave.

So, in spite of all his efforts to repent, Tannhäuser is still under Venus’s spell: she sort of speaks through him in order to get him back, which is reflected in the music (repeating the themes from Tannhäuser’s departure in act 1, scene 2). Charlotte has the same motive but doesn’t need magic; she tells Robin about Madeline herself (“‘Corm’s girlfriend,’ said Charlotte […] ‘Haven’t you met her?”(IBH chapter 25).

Charlotte’s arrival in the office shows that Strike, too, is still under her spell: “For a full minute Charlotte looked up at him, and he found her appallingly familiar, fatally desirable and utterly enraging” (IBH chapter 25). To me, these are the three indicators for Strike’s continuing infatuation with Charlotte: familiarity, beauty and drama.

Strike thinking he “knew her better than any other human being” (LW chapter 52), shows his belief that they “shared a similar core” (IBH chapter 87), both having had traumatic childhoods, and probably how much she reminds him of Leda.

It is also symbolised by him recognising her perfume. This image has been used at the end of SW to express the beginning familiarity between Strike and Robin: “The place was small and cheerful and it smelled of her perfume, which he had never noticed much before. Perhaps a week without smelling it had made him more sensitive to it” (SW chapter 50). 

When Tannhäuser later, after his return from Rome, looks for a way back into the Venusberg (act 3, scene 3), he recognises Venus’s presence by her scent (“And do you not breathe sweet perfumes?”).

When Strike meets Charlotte again after two years, he hasn’t forgotten her scent either. It even follows him into his dreams (“She trailed Shalimar and black chiffon behind her”, LW chapter 52). Which makes the scene in the Italian restaurant another sign that Strike is far from over Charlotte: “She leaned in, too, her tear-stained face the most beautiful he had ever seen. He could smell Shalimar on her skin” (LW chapter 50). And drama-loving Charlotte is still able to push Strike’s buttons: “’Don’t you dare fucking blame me,’ he said, in spite of himself. Nobody else did this to him: nobody even came close” (LW chapter 50).

Even in TB, where I was fooled by Strike changing his mobile number, declaring best friendship to Robin and remembering Mazankov and Krupov (as symbols for marriage), Strike admits to himself that he is not over Charlotte yet:

“He thought of all the things he could have told her, which would have given her hope: that he’d wanted to call the hospital, that he’d dreamed about her since the suicide attempt, that she retained a potent hold over his imagination that he’d tried to exorcise but couldn’t” (TB chapter 72).


Intermission: Wolfram von Eschenbach

Statue of Wolfram von Eschenbach User: Jarlhelm, CC BY-SA 3.0 

There is one character of the opera that I have not yet really talked about: Wolfram von Eschenbach, the knight and minstrel whose song compares love with a pure spring: He is not only Tannhäuser’s good friend but also secretly in love with Elisabeth (“Thus vanishes, for this life, my every gleam of hope!”, act 2, scene 2).

Now, he’s not your classic opera rival who would duel Tannhäuser, or plot to separate the lovers. He’s a really good guy. He respects Elisabeth’s wish not to be accompanied by him and helps Tannhäuser so much, he’s almost too good to be true. Sound familiar? Thought so. Ryan Murphy.

We haven’t seen Murphy sing yet, but as a Met officer, he is a good representative of Wolfram the knight.

When the singers meet Tannhäuser after his departure from Venus and first suspect him of still being their enemy, only Wolfram sees the regret and remorse in Tannhäuser’s face and convinces the other knights that he’s still their friend (“Oh, do not ask! Is this the bearing of arrogance?”, act 1, scene 4). When Tannhäuser refuses to go back with them to the castle, it’s Wolfram who convinces him by telling him that Elisabeth loves him (“Was it by magic or by pure might that you achieved the miracle of captivating the most virtuous of maids?”, act 1, scene 4). When the row during the singing contest starts, before Tannhäuser’s revelation, Wolfram’s renewed contribution brings quiet to the room (according to the stage directions act 2, scene 4). When Elisabeth prays for Tannhäuser during his pilgrimage, Wolfram wishes for her prayers to be fulfilled (“Will he come back with the pardoned? This is […] her prayer – You Saints in heaven, may she see it consummated!”, act 3, scene 1). 

Ryan Murphy helps Strike and Robin a lot in their investigation: he shares information, some of it confidential, about the “out-of-control Alsatian on Hampstead Heath” (IBH chapter 26), Edie Ledwell’s phone (IBH chapter 26), the Halvening / Wally Cardew (IBH chapter 43, 48, 62, 89) and Phillip Ormond (IBH chapter 72, 89). He looks the other way when Strike hits Thurisaz. “‘I – er – I’m aware I’m self-reporting an assault here,’ said Strike, […] ‘I didn’t hear you,’ said Murphy”, (IBH chapter 43). And he calms Pat after the bombing of the office. “Strike knew Murphy had taken the measure of Pat’s state of shock by his calm response”, (IBH chapter 71). 

When Elisabeth doesn’t find Tannhäuser among the returning older pilgrims, and prays for her death so she can pray in heaven for his redemption, Wolfram asks her to let him go with her (“Elisabeth, might I not bear you company?”, act 3, scene 1) and respects her refusal. On her departure, he senses her imminent death and sings a beautiful aria asking the Evening Star to greet her when she passes on her way to heaven ( When Tannhäuser comes back and wants to return to the Venusberg, it’s Wolfram again who tries to stop him and reminds him of Elisabeth, the thought of whom saves Tannhäuser from temptation (act 3, scene 3).

After Robin’s near-death experience attempting to save Oliver Peach, Murphy asks Strike to greet her from him (“‘give her my best’”), which Strike conveniently forgets (IBH chapter 62). Later, Murphy asks Robin to let him accompany her (“‘Want a lift?’”, IBH chapter 71), which, unlike Elisabeth, Robin accepts. And so far, he has not tried to keep Strike from any kind of temptation. Although he has not actively promoted a relationship between Robin and Strike, his date with Robin makes Strike realise he loves her. 

If my theory is correct, in a future book, perhaps after a short relationship, Murphy will realise Robin loves Strike and not only quietly let her go, but remain friends with both of them, and maybe even tell Strike about Robin’s love.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Or he might have an understudy for that: Pat Chauncey. I know, she’s not in love with Robin, but she’s not so bad for the part. For one thing, she’s got the right vocal range: baritone- “she heard Pat singing along, in her raspy baritone: Once I was a funky singer, Playin’ in a rock and roll band …”, (TB chapter 63). Then she likes Robin a lot: she puts some thought into her birthday gift (TB chapter 12) and stays with her after she finds out about Edie’s murder “because she seemed to feel that Strike was being insufficiently solicitous towards his partner” (IBH chapter 12).

And she’s become a really good friend to Strike: Bringing him soup when he has flu (TB chapter 29), baking fruitcake for him (IBH chapter 46 and 107), “[carrying] bags of food up the stairs for him”, (IBH chapter 43) and defending him against the subcontractors’ resentment about Strike’s impairment and the potential terrorist threat. “‘He didn’t fall over on purpose,’ snapped Pat from her desk behind them before Robin could answer”, (IBH chapter 43). 

Only with the matchmaking, she still gets it wrong. In TB, she’s trying to set up Robin with Morris. In IBH with Hugh Jacks. Let’s wait and see what she’ll do once she finds out about Robin and Strike.

— Curtain —

End of Act 2

Check back in tomorrow for Act 3 where I will discuss Jonny Rokeby, Tannhäuser’s and Strike’s quest for redemption, and the inevitable conclusion.


8 thoughts on “Tannhäuser in The Ink Black Heart – Act 2

    1. I hope so, too! Although in some productions of Tannhäuser, Wolfram is interpreted as not such a nice guy after all. Sometimes, he rapes and/or kills Elisabeth. And once, he goes with Venus into her cave, which is depicted as an opium den. For Ryan Murphy, this would mean a relapse into his alcoholism. But I choose to trust in JKR referring only to Wagner’s words here, rather than how the stage directors fill the gaps.

  1. I second the part about “Murphy as helper”…although when I see the name Wolfram, I think only of poor Wolfgang!

    1. Yes, I had thought about the similarities of their names, too! Maybe this is why the dog was called Wolfgang because I fear he has only ever been destined to make Strike jealous. On first reading TB though, I wondered if he was named after Wolfgang Dienst, who did editing and post-production on some of the audiobooks.

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