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Running Grave, Part Eight: A Ring Reading
Part Two Parallels, Eight's Latch, Turn, and Turtle-Back Lines, Answers to Robin's Questions, Guesses about Strike's Epiphany, and the Pizza Mystery
It just gets better and better! Running Graves’ Part Eight turned up the excitement with a Papa J - Cormoran Strike confrontation, a car chase and shooter, and, as Robin says to Cormoran after the Brewster-Edensor dialogue, “Loads of information!” In this post I’ll be laying out the larger ring parallels between Parts Two and Eight, sharing my thoughts about Part Eight’s individual ring elements, and then giving my last guesses about whodunnit before all is revealed in Part Nine. If the sun isn’t up before I’m done, I’ll put up some thoughts about Rowling’s “meaning in the middle” and other points that this long look at the structure highlight.
The Ring of Running Grave: Part Two and Part Eight Turtle-back Line
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The larger ring of Running Grave has either four or three turtle-back lines depending on whether you count Parts One and Nine or the Prologue and Epilogue as the novel’s latch. Regardless, we’re getting near the end of the story and the parallels with the second Part are stacked pretty high in the book’s next to last chapter set. If you want to review the ring notes for Part Two, they’re here.
Here are my Top Ten Two-to-Eight correspondences with notes:
Sherlock Holmes meets Piltdown Man: I wrote out an aside in my Part Two notes about the names of Niamh Doherty’s dog and husband. ‘Nigel’ and ‘Basil’ are pointers to the actors who played Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in the 1930s movie adaptations of the four Arthur Conan Doyle novels and the many short stories about this genre-defining hounds tooth cap wearer and his affable side-kick. I speculated that this was not just a playful hat-tip on Rowling’s part but a meaningful hint about “the Holmes novel that points to the killer in Running Grave or to Doyle’s spiritualist obsessions for same.” The first Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, was about the then-exotic cult of Mormonism and the dangerous zealots in their flock.
Part Eight is chock-full of revelations about Jonathan Wace as something akin to the founder of the Latter-Day Saint community, Joseph Smith, Jr., similarities including his polygamy, sex with under-age women, and grip on the minds of his faithful followers (and willingness to unleash violence against his enemies). I’ll wait until I’ve finished the book before comparing Strike7 with Holmes1 (foreshadowing: “Rache” on the wall is synonymous with “Retribution”) but there is a fun reference to Conan Doyle in the confrontation with Strike Wace hosts in his dressing room.
Strike refers to Jiang Wace at the start of their dialogue as “Piltdown Man.” The put-down here is that Piltdown Man was long considered the “missing link” between apes and human beings in the ladder of evolution. Jibe aside, the real joke is that many still think that Arthur Conan Doyle was the man behind this scientific fraud; bitter from their revelations of fraud among the spiritualists Doyle admired, the theory goes, he crafted a composite orangutan jaw, human skull, and mixed teeth that would fool the know-it-all scientists. Which it did!
Doesn’t Robin call Strike “Sherlock” in their first meeting with Prudence when they find him looking at the Kevin Pirbright murder scene photograph? [Study in Scarlet is supposedly the first detective novel in which a magnifying glass is deployed.] Strike refers to that scene and the “single word” on the wall that breaks open the case of the Drowned Prophet (more on that word below).
Deirdre Doherty Murder after Lin’s Birth: Robin interviewed Niamh Doherty in chapter 21 in which the detective learned that the Doherty father left Chapman Farm with his children but not his wife Deirdre when he learned she was pregnant with Wace’s child. Strike and Robin speculate in the following chapter that Deirdre was the woman Henry Worthington Field had seen in labor on the farm (chapter 17) — and that she was killed after the child’s birth. The great revelation of Flora Brewster’s meeting with Will Edensor in Part Eight was her eye-witness testimony of Deirdre’s death by drowning during the Manifestation of the Drowned Prophet (chapter 117).
The Pig Punishment of Abigail Glover: Strike’s conversation with Abigail Glover ends with her description of how she was punished by Mazu via the I Ching (#29!) for her not stopping Cherie and Daiyu on their way off campus: three days and three nights naked-living with the pigs, naked except for a pig mask (pp 239-240). Strike drops this bomb on “Popsicle” Papa J during their exchange in the Olympia dressing room and Wace seems surprised (chapter 112); when Robin asks Strike at the end of Part Eight, “What if someone in the church is scared we’ve found out something Wave never knew about? Something he’d be really angry about?” there are several things that this could be that I’ll discuss below. The first one that came to my mind, though, was his learning that his daughter was tortured and humiliated by his second wife, her step-mother.
Torment Town’s Flora Brewster: In Part Two’s chapter 29 (!), Strike searches online for “Drowned Prophet UHC.” He finds disturbing drawings of the Prophet on Pinterest under the rubric ‘Torment Town.’ The most detailed and bizarre is of the Prophet over the Pentagram Black Pool in which a woman with square spectacles is drowning. The artist of that drawing was Flora Brewster, who explains why she drew and posted this picture (and took it down after being queried about it by Strike) in her meeting with Will Edensor (chapter 117).
Mazu Wace’s Bubble World: Mama Mazu teaches Robin how to chant and meditate in Part Two’s chapter 26 and reads from Papa J’s The Answer in chapter 30. That lectionary devotion from the Gospel according to Jonathan was on the Bubble-World, the pseudo-reality of life among the materialists. Mama’s hatred of Lin, who is teaching Robin how to make corn-dollies, is palpable in that chapter. Mazu isn’t present at the Olympia event — only the celebrity Principals and beautiful people are on display (she doesn’t clean up well) — but she makes a virtual-reality appearance in the dressing room afterward via FaceTime that is straight out of Orwell’s 1984, the face of Big Mother. The UHC’s Chapman Farm ‘Bubble World', while we’re talking Eric Blair fiction, is more Animal Farm in the end with its pig madness, isn’t it? More on Mazu and pigs near the end…
Doctor Zhou Backdrop and Meeting: Part Two is the chapter set in which Robin travels by mini-bus to the Farm, is indoctrinated during a week-long retreat, and finally baptized into the cult in a Temple ceremony. The first thing she does is fill out a psychological profile questionnaire on the mini-bus trip (chapter 23), a profile that is compiled by Dr Zhou and shared with Robin in his luxurious office (chapter 31). He is largely off-stage in the Parts between Two and Eight, more often referenced then seen, but he makes a strong come-back at the Olympia event and during the Wace-Strike tete-a-tete afterwards. He looks good in the ceremonial robes, Strike thinks, and makes a few grandstanding remarks in the dressing room.
His background role in Part Eight, in contrast, is as great as it was in Part Two. Lin is being kept at Dr Zhou’s clinic against her will; Midge and Tasha are dispatched to find and liberate her. They find her but Dr Zhou whisks her away when Tasha makes a rookie error in trying to communicate with his hostage.
Drowned Prophet Appearances: Papa J invokes the Drowned Prophet in the basement classroom on the retreat’s seventh day — and she appears with a blessing for the group! Awed by this manifestation, many of the inquirers present take the plunge into the pentagram pool and emerge, laughing, as UHC members (chapters 34-35). Will Edensor and Flora Brewster at their meeting share a belief in the Drowned Prophet’s real after-life presence (and capacity for murder), a belief due in large part to the other-worldly manifestations in the classroom building and Temple. Robin explains the ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ Illusion to them, the stage magic trick by which this spectral image is projected from a side room. The hypnotist’s magic is dispelled.
Baptism Ceremony in Pentagram Pool: At the Olympia Event in Part Eight, Wace invites the audience of thousands to join his Universal Humanitarian Church at the end of his presentation. How do they sign up? By taking a dip in the pentagram pool that Rowella and her fellow retreat-recruits entered back in Part Two. Needless to say, Strike abstains from the ablutionary rite and mocks and threatens Wace in his dressing room.
Ritual Circle in Forest: On Robin’s first trip to the Farm perimeter’s security-camera blind-spot, she struggles to find the place and the rock — and has an even harder time getting back through the forest. On that wayward journey, she finds herself in a meadow where she stumbles over a broken stake, one of many she discovers that form a ritual circle of some kind (Part Two, chapter 36). She returns to this circle in the daylight when everyone is searching for the missing Mazu-Daiyu necklace and finds the burnt ends of rope around the broken stakes. Jaing Wace points to the tree where Daiyu’s axe is hidden, that tool being part of the magic that was done there (Part Five, chapter 69). Robin’s last thoughts in Part Eight are about these secret rituals in the woods” (chapter 121). We’re coming up on the end of the ring; I hope the circle latches up neatly with the revelation of what was going on in the forest in 1995.
The Rock, Will, Lin, and Qing: Part Two begins in the Agency office with Strike explaining how the empty, plastic rock will serve as the communication vehicle on the Chapman Farm perimeter during Robin’s mission to free Will Edensor (chapter 20). Part Eight’s first scene in the Agency office is with Will Edensor, who in addition to his daughter Qing has brought the plastic rock out with him.
Part Two ended with Robin at the rock making her first pick-up and drop. There she overhears Lin and Will having an argument in which she begs him to “increase” her so she want have to service other men. She won’t leave without Qing and Will tells her that their doing what Kevin Pirbright did — go over the fence and escape — is “insane,” akin to suicide.
[Aside: That Robin overhears this conversation in the woods is at least as unlikely as the camping trip moment in Deathly Hallows when friends of the trio appear with two goblins, all within Extendable Ear range of the invisible camp site so they can get news without revealing themselves (because the United Kingdom is such a small place, coincidental meetings like this happen all the time in woodlands…). This is the perimeter blind-spot but only for the outside of the fences; there are no cameras inside the forest. Will and Lin have chosen this part of the forest to meet, though, because, unlike every other part of the forest, it is safe to talk there? If Robin hadn’t struggled mightily to get to the spot, this may have been a credible coincidence or synchronicity. But she had. So it isn’t.]
Part Eight begins with Will Edensor escaping from that very spot, taking Qing, and looking for Lin. Most of Part Eight — well, ten of the twenty-one chapters — revolve around Will, his escape, the search for Lin, and his deprogramming via Pat, Dennis, Prudence, Robin, and Flora. If Part Seven was the Cherie Gittins Show, Part Eight is Will Edensor’s time in the sun.
Those are my first ten parallels between Parts Two and Eight, correspondences I identified just by looking at my Part Two ring-chart. Let me know the ones I missed as well as the problems you see in the turtle-back lines I’ve drawn in the comment boxes below.
The Ring of Part Eight: The Latch, the Turn, the Turtle-Back Lines
Part Eight has more chapters than any other Part of Running Grave so I confess that I was dreading the charting of these twenty-one pieces as a ring. It turns out it was pretty straight forward. There are 21 chapters which means the eleventh is the ‘natural center’ with ten before and ten after it. The eleventh chapter of Part Eight is 111, a stand-alone moment of Robin the Agency office, that has Strike chapters before and after it, both of which take place at the UHC Olympia rally, and those two chapters have chapters before and after them, both of which relate to the rally, a preview and review respectively. The remaining Turtle-Back lines fell into place easily after that, which, working my way to the bottom from the top, the opposite of my usual method, revealed the Latch.
Here are my notes on the Latch, Turn, and Turtle-back Lines:
The Latch: Chapters 101-103 and 120-121 Will insists in his coming-out-of-cult terms to the Agency that he’ll come clean about the UHC to the police after Lin is found and he surrenders himself to the police. But not until then. He makes clear, though, that he has the dirt on the cult and he is soiled by it himself. “They’re doing something really terrible in there. I didn’t realize how bad it was, ‘til I had Qing” (p 744). The opening chapters of the latch, then, end with the question: ‘What really terrible crime is being committed by the UHC at Chapman Farm that involves children, even babies?”
In the opening chapter of the closing latch, Robin tells Strike the last of the “Divine Secrets” that had been revealed by Flora Brewster in her cathartic conversation with Will in Prudence’s consulting room. “The UHC are child trafficking…. Superfluous babies, mostly boys, are taken to the Birmingham centre where they’re warehoused until they are sold. It’s an illegal adoption service: babies for cash…. From what Flora said, hundreds of babies must have passed out of the UHC by now” (p 850).
In addition to this question-and-answer coupling of the beginning and end of Part Eight, the story of Tasha Mayo’s insertion into the clinic run by Dr Zhou in order to find and liberate Lin starts in the opening chapter of the Part (101) and ends with Strike yelling at Midge after Mayo had escaped. She and Tasha have been tailing a van in which they believe Dr Zhou is taking Lin away from the clinic. Strike tells her not to, she disagrees, and he yells, “Do — not — fucking — argue — with — me,” in “a dangerous voice,” “I’ve told you what I want. Fucking do it” (p 849).
Note that the Tasho mission is very much like Robin’s at Chapman Farm. She enters a cult stronghold under an assumed identity, looks for a person who is a prisoner of the UHC, and attempts to free them. She makes mistakes, of course, and Dr Zhou figures out what is going on (especially after Wardle raids the place when Strike clues him in).
I point this out because Strike has been yelling at Midge throughout the book, always in regard to having a relationship with a client now a former client. In one of their shouting matches, she threw his affair with Bijou Watkins in his face to make the point that he was a hypocrite for saying Agency contractors could not have relationships that reflected badly on them. They reconciled, Midge apologized, and Strike did all he could to force Bijou to go silent about their two trysts.
I expect Part Nine will feature Midge responding in some way to Strike’s abusive language, though, given it is 3 AM and he fears for their lives after being shot out in a carnival ride car chase (which brought up all his PTSD with exploding vehicles), maybe he should be excused. I wonder if Kyle, the “corrective rape” prisoner at the Farm, Midge the lesbian contractor angry at Strike, and Flora who lost the child she bore while in the UHC during child-birth won’t play out-sized roles in the finale in the name of diversity or empowerment. Or Strike’s blind spot concerning hypocrisy?
The Turn: Chapters 110-112
Having just written that the turn of Part Eight is one chapter, 111, I’m going to say it is that but also the chapters just before and after it, the one describing the Wace-led spectacular at the Olympia and the other Strike’s confrontation with Papa J and the UHC Principals in the cult guru’s dressing room after the show.
Chapter 111, Robin in the Agency inner office working on the case, has elements of both the opening chapters of Part Eight and its finish. Pat gets Will and Qing four pizzas in chapter 103 and Robin is about to order pizza when she sees a figure on the street who hides on a stairwell for a basement entrance. [Pizza seems to be this gunman’s curse; a pizza delivery man interrupted his first attempt on the Agency offices in the closing pages of Part Seven.]
She spends most of that chapter studying the six pornographic polaroid photos that she found in a cookie tin at the Farm and notes a knee injury to Rosie she hadn’t seen before. Her subconscious is inspired by her reflections on the UHC picture board and she has the ideas of searching for Rosie on a Hindu-focused dating app and that she was supposed to be on duty in the children’s dormitory the night Daiyu disappeared.
In the closing chapters of Part Eight, Robin again has an epiphany consequent to staring at the pictures, a moment highlighted by it’s being the event captured in a seemingly unnecessary chapter break (chapters 120 and 121 are both in Strike’s office but Robin’s “What the hell’s going on?” acts as an odd caesura to the scene). [Robin is following Strike’s lead in staring at the board to prompt subconscious genius to show him the way; see the opening of chapter 107 where he deliberately does this.] In the last chapter she focuses on the danger to Rosie from both the Polaroid photographs and the probability that she saw Daiyu with an adult as she and her father and siblings escaped the Farm that night.
The biggest link between the Olympia event and Robin’s night at the office, though, withe the closing chapters is the just-out-of-sight presence of Phillipa and Nicholas Delaunay and their collaborative work in damage control with the UHC. Strike spots Phillipa at the Big Show, “a middle-aged blonde whose hair was tied back in a velvet bow” “right behind Dr Zhou” (pp 787-788) and she seems to have tried to get to Wace as he left the stage, “a security breach” that upset Joe Jackson (p 798), only for her to get a note to Wace in his dressing room via Jackson (p 800). She isn’t named until two chapters later when Strike mentions to Robin his seeing her in the crowd near the Principals (p 814). If I’m right in thinking that she and Royal Marine Nicholas are the team that killed Daiyu, Alex Graves, Carrie Woods, Kevin Pirbright, and Rusty Anderson, Strike is talking about the two of them in his talk with Wace when he asks, “How d’you choose the people making the phone calls?… Obviously a woman had to pretend to be Reaney’s wife to persuade the authorities to let the call through, but who spoke to him once he’d picked up?” (p 803).
In the closing chapter, Robin’s epiphany is about the collaborative efforts of the UHC and the Delaunays to shut down the Agency’s investigation and eliminate witnesses to and victims of their crimes. “There are two different sets of people after us,” she realizes, one a “clown show” and the other “pretty dangerous” (p 853). They both think that someone had to have been under the window outside the dormitory to catch Daiyu the night of her disappearance, someone Rosie might have seen as her family escaped. I think this is Phillipa as well, the woman who provided Daiyu with sweets and toys to keep her quiet about the pictures she found (she took?) and put in her tin.
They are not named, of course, but they are both visible in the turn. Nicholas, if I’m right, is the gunman on Denmark Street and the note Phillipa tries to pass to Wace is the text from her husband saying that the street door cannot be opened. Papa J asked Strike to the dressing room not only to learn what the Agency knows, but also to keep him away from the office so Nicholas has as much time as he needs to get the UHC file. Unfortunately for the failed used car salesman turned guru, Strike reveals a boatload of damning information in front of all the UHC Principals except for Harmon, including some Wace himself didn’t know (note Mazu’s denials of punishing Abigail with three days as a pig are directed to her husband: “That never happened… Never. Jonathan —,” p 807).
Again, if I’m right, the reason the gunman shoots at Strike as he, Will, and Robin head towards Rosie Fernsby’s mother’s home, is that Wace has told the shooter of Strike’s warning that he will “burn your fucking church to the ground” (p 808) if anything happens to her or Robin. Nicholas naturally followed them to Prudence and tried to murder them as they moved toward that residence.
I’m way ahead of myself here. Back to the ring signatures —
The Turtle-Back Lines
Some of these chapter paralklels across the story axis are obvious, all of them are fun.
Chapters 106-107 and 114, 116-117
In the front pair, Robin speaks with Prudence to convince her to let Flora Brewster meet with Will. Robin’s sharing of her rape experience and the nightmare of testifying afterwards makes the difference in Prudence agreeing to talk with Flora about this possibility.
In the back parallel chapters, Will has to be convinced and then, at the actual meeting, Flora is encouraged and inspired by Robin’s testimony of what happened to Deirdre Doherty at the Manifestation of the Drowned Prophet by sharing her own experience of almost drowning in the exact situation Brewster witnessed. Prudence credits her for making the meeting as cathartic and open as it was.
Chapters 108 and 115
On the front side, Robin speaks with Rufus Fernsby at the Institute of Civil Engineers cafe; on the back side she talks with Ryan Murphy at her flat. Besides both of them talking to Robin as if she is an idiot and they are the sages of patriarchy, there doesn’t seem to be any real overlap or connection besides Robin being in each without Strike until the last page of each.
The conversation with Fernsby ends when Robin shows him a photograph of his chubby twin sister under a pig mask, pudenda in the open air, legs spread. He jumps up, enraged, and shouts, “I’ll be contacting lawyers about you! he thundered, scrambling to his feet. “Lawyers!” (780).
Robin consoles Murphy in his angst about her relationship with Strike by telling him that “He happens to be dating a lawyer” (p 821). The lie serves a purpose brilliantly but is a bomb set to go off when her beaux learns she lied to him. Lies and lawyers are the link here. Fun!
Chapters 109 and 113
These chapters are the introduction and conclusion to Strike’s attending the UHC spectacular at the Olympia. In the first he explains to Robin why he is going and on the other side he tells her what happened.
Chapters 104-105 and 118-119
Best for last? This one really threw me for a loop, I confess. I share the remarkable conclusion that, if this pair means what I think, my ‘The Delaunays Did It’ theory is comically wrong.
In the front pair of chapters Robin and Strike meet with the Edensor father and two older sons to talk about the case now that Will is no longer in the UHC’s hands, the mission they were given. Both the boys are pompous princelings who patronize the detectives and raise their voices to demonstrate how right they are. James, especially, loses his bearings and, at one time, he spills hot coffee from his cup all over Robin’s front. He is almost out of control with anger that the investigation into the UHC and the search for Lin will continue on his father’s nickel.
In the back pair, Strike, Robin, and Will are tailed by a professional driver and talented shooter who just misses Strike with a shot through the BMW rear window. Only Robin’s driving skills, especially her ability to make near impossible turns at high speeds without rolling the car (moving Christ to yell at one point, “Jesus Christ!”, his first words to the newly engaged Miss Ellacott in Cuckoo’s Calling), save them.
As with the ‘Lies and Lawyers’ pair, there doesn’t seem to be any parallels here other than Strike and Robin being confronted by an angry man (I’ve been assuming that the gunman who tries the doors of the Agency and this shooter are Nicholas Delaunay), one who spills hot coffee or shoots bullets at the detectives. That’s pretty thin, no?
What would make it a very strong parallel is if the shooter is James or Ed Edensor (!), which of course would blow up everything I’ve built in my ‘Delaunay Did It’ sand castle. Here’s hoping (!) that it turns out the Delaunays have been in touch with James and brought him around to their view that Strike was endangering their families by continuing to antagonize the UHC, who are not shy of hurting their enemies. They would have something of an alliance, in which James would share everything that the Agency told his father about the state of the investigation, enabling him to stay ahead of their inquiries.
Whew! That’s it for the ring reading except for the “meaning in the middle” musings and plot point predictions. Let’s do that fun stuff first.
Plot Points: What Happened on the Night Daiyu Disappeared?
In chapter 114, Robin and Strike visit Pat’s home to speak with Will. They hear from Dennis, Pat’s husband, about a man named Fergus Macleod (aka ‘Crowley’!) who used a microchip in a pigeon race so that the bird seemed to win the out-and-back trial but “the bird never left his loft” (817). Why include this anecdote?
Because Daiyu never left the Farm the night of her disappearance. I explained in previous ring posts the speculative theory that Carrie brought a straw doll in a dress to the beach, made sure she was seen by the coffee shop owner, tore the doll apart at water’s edge, and dispersed the straw in seaweed piles. Nicholas Delaunay was on the scene as a jogger and made sure it went according to plan.
Strike all but confirmed this in the last chapter of Part Eight when he noted that Kevin Pirbright had written “one innocent little word on [his] wall, which [the detective] had seen and never thought about again” (p 862). The word “straw” was on Kevin’s wall (p 81). This realization brought Strike to the conclusion, “I think I know what happened.”
Phillipa Delaunay caught Daiyu when Carrie put her through the window and took her into the forest, killed her, and left the body to be ploughed into the Dragon Meadow. Rosie Fernsby saw Phillipa with Daiyu as the Fernsby family made their escape from the Farm that night.
Daiyu had to be eliminated to be sure the Delaunays were not cut out of the Graves inheritance because of Alex’s daughter; that was one blood test that they weren’t going to let happen. I’m going to guess that Mazu was at least as determined to insure that her child was not tested. Her position at the UHC was very much at risk if it was.
Not because the test might reveal Daiyu was a Graves or a Wace. Either one of those results had its advantages. The danger was that the test would reveal the father was Brian Kennett, husband to a woman who had serial miscarriages and a man who his wife told Robin had a wandering eye. Mazu conspired with the Dealaunays to make Daiyu disappear — and she did what she could to murder Brian as well via “abysmal” punishments.
I wonder if Wace, who supposedly does not “increase” Becca to keep the peace with Mazu, also does not sleep with his wife, whence her barrenness and her taking all the children he sires as her own. Taio and Jiang are not real credits to his genetic line. I wonder how she will explain to Papa J her piggie-punishment of Abigail after Daiyu’s disappearance.
The ritual circle in the forest with its broken stakes and burnt rope ends, the axe, the pornographic polaroid pictures in Pig face, who took them, who put them in the cookie tin, who was looking for “retribution,” the wine bottle in the picture of Gittins, Draper, and Reaney — all of that escapes me, frankly. I look forward to reading how the man who loved pigs, Brian Kennett, played a part in this and Paul Drap[er’s demise for letting the pigs out (supposedly).
Strike signed Emily’s death warrant in his exchange with Wace, I think, despite his care in not implicating people. Telling the Principals he knew Reaney overslept (803) was sharing information that only Emily could have told Robin. If she wasn’t killed after Robin escaped, she’ll be vegetable fodder soon in the Dragon Meadow, a graveyard garden that made her so averse to eating anything grown there.
I’d guess that the Royal Marine officer obliged Jonathan Wace in his desire to be free of his first wife by killing Jennifer Wace on Comer Beach. All he’d have needed to pull her under until she had a fit would be some scuba equipment and the knowledge of her swimsuit’s colors. That murder would allow the widow Jonathan to break up Alex Graves’ marriage with Mazu, a divorce that, like Alex’ pot use at Rusty Anderson’s, would alienate him from the Graves parents. Nicholas ran over Rusty when he made noises about knowing what they up to with his pal Alex. Alex died in a staged suicide because the opportunity presented itself when the Colonel posted himself outside that night and the danger of Phillipa’s brother recovering was too great. Daiyu died, as explained, to prevent the blood test.
Brian Kennett, Paul Draper, Deirdre Doherty, Abigail Glover, and Emily Pirbright were killed or crushed by Mazu. The only other people who could have figured out that Daiyu never made it to the beach, Kevin Pirbright and Cherie Gittins, were dispatched by Nicholas Delaunay. Bhakta Dasha, aka Rosie Fernsby, is someone the killers may only have come to understand was a threat to them because of Strike’s interest in her (?). I won’t be surprised if the shooter who chased Robin and almost killed Strike found Rosie at her mother’s house that night and shot or ‘moved her to commit suicide.’
There’s so much that has to happen in the remaining Part, I can’t wait to see how Rowling-Galbraith ties this up! I hope Uncle Ted shares his memories of the Aylmerton commune rescue (and Rokeby’s involvement?) and that Lucy comes to some peace when Mazu is arrested (and Greg divorced?).
Now that I’ve surveyed the plot points my slow reading of the book has made me think are plausible endings and explanations, let’s talk about the more profound stuff. Apologies if my going on about these ideas when you’ve already read the ending has been ‘hard sledding.’
Robin’s Albedo: ‘Do the Job’
When Robin learned that Carrie Woods had killed herself by hanging, she blames herself. Strike explained to her, echoing Murphy, that asking the hard questions of even fragile people, is “the job” they do (chapter 102).
When Will arrived in the office with Qing and showed he was determined to find Lin, Strike took the opening to say to Robin that these two had a chance of living a human life again because she did “the job.” She understood what he was saying, but still thought of Carrie’s two orphaned daughters and her own role in their mother’s death (chapter 103).
Strike asked Robin after she had approached and urged Prudence to help Flora Brewster come forward what had changed her mind on the subject; she had previously told Strike he was being brutally insensitive for wanting to press the Torment Town talent into testifying. “What happened,” said Robin, “is that I heard Will saying he’s convinced the Drowned Prophet is going to come and get him. And I can’t get Jacob out of my head. We’ve got to find witnesses who’ll testify against the church. I suppose I’ve come round to your way of thinking. This is the job” (p 769).
If Part Nine is the rubedo of the book, I think this realization was Robin’s purifying ablution, her real baptism in contrast with the Part Two dip in a pentagram pool. She has moved beyond sentiment and the unqualified assumption of responsibility, guilt unhinged, to a sober awareness of the front and back and value of the job she does in pursuit of the truth.
With only one Part to go, it seems that Running Grave is indeed both a ring composition taken as a whole and one whose various Parts are each rings-within-that-larger-ring. I plan to discuss the importance of this finding, should Part Nine pan out according to the story-scaffolding used in the first eight Parts, after the post charting its signature parts and its parallels with Parts One and Five.
I look forward to the finale; looking at Part One, we should expect scenes in parallel with the opening Part’s visits with
with Prudence (and the Rokeby clan?),
with Fergus Robertson the reporter,
with Bijou (and Strike’s baby bump?),
Shanker and his step-daughter (in remission?),
with the UHC Principals and celebrities Noli and Giles,
with Lucy, Greg, and the boys, (and Uncle Ted!),
with Charlotte’s sister Amelia, and
maybe a reunion of Henry Worthington-Field and Flora Brewster.
All that and the necessary explanations of the many Aylmerton and UHC deaths staged as suicide or accidental death make for some crowded chapters! I am especially intrigued by how the novel will latch up with the opening baptism reception.
I’m off to read the ending of Strike7 at last! See you on the other side.
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