Before Troubled Blood was published, one thing I was really hoping for was a chapter where Robin begins to reflect on her feelings for Strike, in the same way that Strike first does in chapter 40 of Career of Evil. I would often discuss with my fellow Strike fans the desire for a ‘Robin version’ of chapter 40, so I was thrilled when I finally got to read chapter 45 of Troubled Blood and realized my hope had come true. (As a brief reminder, Robin is in Leamington Spa in search of Paul Satchwell when a case of mistaken identity leads her to reflect on her feelings for Strike.)
When it came time to record the episode of the podcast that would cover chapter 45 (It’s All Greek to Me), I began to think about the similarities of these two chapters and realized that it’s not just that they’re both somewhat acknowledging their feelings, but that there are parts of each chapter that are directly comparable to the other. Deciding a further comparison was needed, I opened up both of my books and set them side by side.
Here is what I found:
They both think about what the other has done for them professionally:
“She had helped him claw his way out of near insolvency, worked to make his business successful, learned on the job and now asked nothing more than to be allowed to stand beside him while that business crumbled again, and to fight for its survival.” Career of Evil, Chapter 40
“She’d worn a deep channel on the beach as she walked up and down in the dark, finally deciding that the answer was “no,” that what she felt was a mixture of friendship, admiration and gratitude for the opportunity he’d given her to embark on a once-dreamed-of career, which she’d thought was closed to her forever.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
They both have “if I’m going to be honest” moments:
“Robin’s helpfulness, her solicitousness, her fascination with what he did, her admiration for him personally (if he was going to be honest with himself, he should do it thoroughly) had been balm to those wounds that Charlotte had inflicted, those internal injuries that had long outlasted her parting gifts of a black eye and lacerations.” Career of Evil, Chapter 40
“In truth (why not admit everything to herself now, when she was so tired, her defenses lowered?) she was aware of only two moments in four years where she’d been sure that Strike had seen her as a desirable woman, not as a friend, or an apprentice, or a younger sister.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
They both mention the other’s physical appearances:
“She was nowhere near as beautiful as Charlotte.” Career of Evil, Chapter 40
“…and nowhere near as handsome, with his broken nose and hair he himself described as “pube-like,” as Matthew, or even Morris…” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
They both make a list of cons (starting with ‘almost’):
“Almost angrily, he added together those things he knew and had observed that marked her as profoundly different from him, as embodying a safer, more cloistered, more conventional world. She had had the same pompous boyfriend since sixth form (although he understood that a little better now), a nice middle-class family back in Yorkshire, parents married for decades and apparently happy, a Labrador and a Land Rover and a pony, Strike reminded himself. A bloody pony!” Career of Evil, Chapter 40
“Almost scared now, she forced herself to think about how bloody aggravating Strike could be: grumpy, taciturn and ungrateful, and nowhere near as handsome, with his broken nose and hair he himself described as “pube-like,” as Matthew, or even Morris…” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
They both have a “that was all” moment:
“She’s making a fucking huge mistake, that’s all.
That was all. It wasn’t personal. Whether she was engaged, married or single, nothing could or ever would come of the weakness he was forced to acknowledge that he had developed.” Career of Evil, Chapter 40
“She liked her partner; she admired him; she was grateful to him. That was it. That was all.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
They both reflect back on special moments:
“He could remember exactly what it felt like to have his arm around her waist as they had meandered towards Hazlitt’s Hotel. She was tall enough to hold easily. He did not like having to stoop. He had never fancied very small women.
Matthew would not like this, she had said.
He would have liked it even less had he known how much Strike had liked it.” Career of Evil, Chapter 40
“The first had been when she’d modeled that green Cavalli dress for him, in the course of their first investigation together, when he’d looked away from her as a man would if shunning too-bright light.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
“The second moment, far more painful to remember, had been when she’d stood at the top of the stairs at her wedding venue, Strike below her, and he’d turned when she called his name, and looked up at her, the new bride.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
And the moments of “yet” and “except”:
“Yet he liked her face. He liked her voice. He liked being around her.” Career of Evil, Chapter 40
“Except… she remembered how much pleasure it had given her to see him sitting in Notes Café, after a week’s absence, and how happy she was, no matter the circumstances, to see Strike’s name light up her phone.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
So, what could this all mean for The Ink Black Heart? Given the clear parallels between Career of Evil and Troubled Blood, looking at The Silkworm for possibilities is a good place to start.
My favorite chapter of The Silkworm is chapter 30 where Robin confronts Strike in Burger King about what he was intending when he hired her permanently. Robin is feeling insecure about her place with Strike and whether or not he wants her as a partner. Is it possible that we’ll see something similar in The Ink Black Heart in a romantic setting instead of a professional one?
Another chapter that has parallel potential is chapter 50, the final chapter of the book. Strike and Robin become official partners when he gives her the gift of a surveillance course, he calls her ‘partner’ and seals it with a kiss (to the hand). I’m very much keeping my fingers crossed for the other kind of partners in The Ink Black Heart and for another kiss (not on the hand).
Let me know what you think in the comments below! Do you see any other comparisons between chapters 40 and 45? And what chapters in The Silkworm do you think might make great parallels in The Ink Black Heart?