Discover more from Hogwarts Professor
Running Grave, Part Seven: A Ring Reading
Part Three Parallels, Part Seven's Ring Elements, Its Whodunnit Revelations, and the 'Real'
Part Seven, the shortest Part in The Running Grave at only eleven chapters, ticks all the boxes in this series of Strike7 ring readings’ signature points. It has the external book-ring parallels with Part Three, the signature latch, turn, and turtle-back parallels internally, and its meaning-full middle in which we get a skiff of clues pointing to the mystery’s resolution. Part Eight is the largest of the novel’s Parts, close to twice the size of Seven, so I’m going to rush this post out in my hurry to read and chart the twenty chapter set later tonight. Here we go —
The Part Three-Part Seven Parallels
Thanks for reading Hogwarts Professor! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
There are direct echoes of Part Three in Part Seven and more subtle, suggestive ones. If you want to review my Part Three ring notes and commentary to check to see if my best guesses and red flags match up with the interior reflection in Part Seven, check it out here.
The clearest ten links from my quick comparison of my two ring charts are, in no particular order:
Insertion Report to Sir Colin to Post Escape Report (3:47, 7:90);
Part Seven begins with a restaurant meeting with Sir Colin, a meeting reminiscent obviously with their first meal together in Part One’s chapter four, during which the client asked Strike and Robin to help him get his son out of Chapman Farm and the UHC. I think it is actually a parallel, too, with Part Three’s Agency report to the Edensors because it brackets Robin’s insertion and extraction from the cult; the big parallel with the Part One taking of the case will be Will’s extraction in Part Nine, ‘Mission Accomplished.’
Uncle Ted news consequent to a medical doctor’s examination and prognosis (Part Three, chapter 40; Part Seven, chapter 90, hereafter abbreviated 3:40, 7:90);
I’m not sure what to make of the Uncle Ted subplot to Running Grave. I was hoping for much more, namely, Ted’s recollection of the Aylmerton Commune and rescuing his niece, nephew — and Leda? — from the hippies and pedophiles. Perhaps that will come in the Big Reveal of Part Nine in parallel with Lucy’s revelations of her abuse as a child in the commune doctor’s office. Regardless, we’re given a neat parallel here about Uncle Ted and his progression from Cornwall to London is almost complete.
A Howler from Lt Col Nicholas Delaunay (3:38, 7:95);
Re-reading my Part Three notes, I was surprised to see that I predicted after Strike’s interview with the Delaunays and Graves families that Nicholas killed Allie and “perhaps even Daiyu.” That was surprising because I thought I came to that conclusion based on the Hidden Murderer clue in the concluding chiasmus of Part Four, Mrs Hearton’s memory of the “posh but kind” aunt of Daiyu that she met in the loo. Instead, I suggested the Delaunays were the killers based on no evidence than a nasty exchange in the estate parking lot and an arm in the sling in an old photograph.
The telephone call in Part Seven in which Lt Col Delaunay tears into Strike for doing his job because it might upset their Children (?) would push him to the front of the line of suspects even without the Parts Three and Four red flags. Carrie Woods’ suicide a la the Hanged Prophet, Allie Graves, really makes Nicholas the likeliest of killer-suspects because Strike told him the detective partners were on their way to interview the woman during his call (great job, Cormoran!).
Seeing how flimsy the evidence was for my first suspicion and how in-your-face the Delaunays now seem as Kevin Pirbright’s, Allie Graves',’ and Carrie Gittens’ killers, I wonder if they aren’t the suspect Rowling wants her readers to think were the culprits so the revelation of the real killers comes as a shock. Who else could be the suppliers of candies and supplies to the Farm? Or the jogger on Comer beach the day of Daiyu’s supposed drowning? Phillipa being thick with Papa J back in the day per Abigail really puts the couple in the spotlight. Here’s hoping I haven’t, once again, fallen for Rowling’s trap. Isn’t the imperialist, white, male, heteronormative, Royal Marine class-bigot too obvious a villain, the prevalent Black Hat in postmodern brain-washing?
Oh, well. Until we get better suspects than the Delaunays, I’m going to keep walking into her Christie-esque mousetrap.
Littlejohn discovery as traitor to Littlejohn discharge (3:47-49, 7:96);
I shuddered, of course, as no doubt we were meant to, when Littlejohn mentioned he had some “new info on the church thing” to forestall being fired and Strike dismissed that possibility as his just “bullshitting” to save his job. More on this in discussion of the Part Seven turn. Here? Just another question-answer, start-finish, turtle-back line in the novel’s ring.
Baz interview and Abigail Glover response (3:49, 7:95);
We learned in Part Three’s bizarre ex machina appearance of ‘Baz’ in Strike’s office that there may be guns at the UHC; he claimed that Abigail Glover told him that her dad had someone he didn’t like murdered, supposedly Kevin Pirbright, and that he had a gun for such tasks. Abigail confirms that in her call to Strike; she saw guns in Mazu’s safe.
As noted above, the ‘Delaunays Did It!’ theory makes much more of Strike’s insisting that Wace’s oldest daughter reiterate her claim that Papa J had Phillipa Delaunay “eating out of his hand,” that they were on very good terms in the time frame of her visits to see her brother at the commune. Candy and pot runs? But the Part Three-Seven connection is just the Baz interview.
Will Edensor as Qing daddy (3:50, 7:90);
We don’t get much forward progress on where Lin is in Part Seven beyond Sir Colin’s okay for an insertion into Dr Zhou’s celebrity clinic. There is this parallel, though, of Robin’s visual confirmation of Will’s paternity in the chapter 50 vegetable garden scene and Strike’s breaking the news in his Covent Garden report to his client. I expect the more dramatic parallel will be in Part Eight as an echo of Lin’s scene at the Farm’s perimeter in the closing chapter of Part Two.
‘Franks’ revelations to Franks Bungled Job and Arrest (3:43, 7:93);
Chapter 93 really doesn’t fit anywhere on the Part Seven ring. It was fun to see Team Strike take out some clumsy but still dangerous perps in near-flawless team action (great for teevee, no?) but its function within the larger plot and the interior ring both elude me. I was glad to discover that it served the structural purpose of closing the Two Franks subplot in the larger ring of the story.
Belinda Bar-room Break-up to Reporting Event to Robin (3:44, 7:94);
This was the centerpiece of Part Three and is part of involved turn in Part Seven, so, the meaning being in the middle,’ this revelation to Robin that Strike is not conjoined to Bijou as an aside in a conversation about the UHC cyber-attack on the Agency must be a big deal, right? I’m not seeing it, but I suppose it opens the door for a Strike-Ellacott relationship if (when?) the Murphy plot-line goes south. I confess I’m still hoping her baby is Strike’s to make him Jonny Rokeby, Jr., and the baby Strike Two, but I understand I’m rowing against the current in looking for that link with Cuckoo’s Calling.
Piggie Polaroids Discovery to Piggie Identification (3:42, 7:97);
The least likely moment of Running Grave remains Robin’s Dickens-esque stumbling upon a cookie tin full of Polaroid snaps from the Aylmerton commune or early days of the UHC occupation, a Part Three discovery made in the UHC’s very own Room of Hidden Things. Carrie’s identification of the four people pictured behind piggie masks in various humiliating postures of sexual abuse in chapter 97, one hinting that she was the photographer (?), is a remarkable closure of that clue’s question and answer pairing.
‘Search for Carrie Initiated’ to ‘Carrie Woods Interview’ (3:40, 7:97);
Part Seven is largely about Strike and Robin’s interview with Carrie Woods who was Cherie Gittins in her spell at Chapman Farm (chapter 90). It begins with Strike asking Sir Colin’s permission to go and interview her. He then asks Robin if she will join him (91). After the disturbing “interview under caution” with the Met and Norfolk police, Robin assures Strike that she will go to Thornbury (94). The next two chapters are their trip to Carrie’s house, then they meet with her, and then they stop to talk about that interview over an ad hoc lunch (95-96, 97, 98). In Strike’s conversation with Robin in the closing chapter, the two discuss what Becca said in her police interview about Carrie and how it contrasts with their conversation; Part Seven ends with the hysterical of Nate Woods to Strike about Carrie Woods’ apparent suicide by hanging (100). That’s eight of eleven chapters; I think it’s fair to say that she is the focus of this chapter set.
The search for Cherie Gittins begins in Part Three, chapter 40, when Strike finds Carrie Makepeace, one of Mrs Woods’ various identities. The search for Carrie Woods’ killer, assuming she didn’t really hang herself, begins at the end of Part Seven. Strike having tipped off Delaunay in chapter 95 that he and Robin were going to visit her, as mentioned, has to make the Lieutenant Colonel the most obvious suspect. Her behavior when they arrive and the absence of her children suggests strongly that Delaunay has already called her with the warning that detectives are on their way to grill her and with the promise that he is coming to get her. More on this below.
That will have to do for a first review of the turtle-back parallels of Parts Three and Seven. Please share the ones I missed or your argument with the ones I’ve shared in the comment boxes below.
Part Seven’s Ring Elements
As detailed in the novel-ring parallels above, Part Seven turns around the interview that Strike and Robin have with Carrie/Cherie Woods/Makepeace/Gittins. Before I explore that Turn, though, I’m obliged to establish that its beginning and end chapters close as a latch.
The Latch: Chapters 90-91 and 100 In chapter 90, Rowling-Galbraith takes a deep breath after the preceding four parts in Chapman Farm to include the thrilling escape at the end of Part Six and she pauses to review the evidence gathered by and possibile avenues to explore in the investigation underway. There are a wild bundle of plot threads over three periods of time in the UHC’s history in Norfolk — when Strike lived on the property as a child, when the Drowning Prophet disappeared, and the present — and, as we begin the last third of the novel’s nine Parts, the author kindly organizes everything (well, almost everything) into Strike’s summary report to Sir Colin at the Rules Restaurant, Covent Garden. It naturally has corresponding points with everything in the chapters that follow, being a review of everything that has gone on before; as Part Seven is largely about the interview with Mrs Woods in Thornbury, it should be no surprise that Strike asks Sir Colin point blank for his permission, which is to say for his agreement to pay for that trip and interview, which adventure does not fall within the case’s mission focus of getting Will Edensor out of the UHC. Chapter 90 latches neatly with 100, too, in being told from Strike’s perspective; he speaks with Robin on the phone but we get significant time with him on the street and in the Agency office after they hang up.
The latch proper, though, is mostly to be found in chapters 91 and 100, the first chapter after the client-agency review meeting and the closing chapter of Part Seven. In the first Strike invites Robin to join him on the trip to Thornbury in a phone call he makes to her in her apartment; in the last she calls him on his way to his apartment and discusses all she learned about Mrs Woods from the smuggled tape of the police interview with Becca Pirbright, a chapter which ends with the call revealing the death of Carrie.
There’s a near miss of a Pizza delivery latch between chapters 92 and 100. In the chapter just out of reach, 92, Robin and her parents are waiting on a pizza delivery when PC Harding and Khan interrupt to take Robin in for questioning. The pizza guy arrives in chapter 100 at the Agency office when a bad guy (Mitch Patterson in the pay of the UHC?) is trying to get in. We have a pizza delivery failure near both the start and finish of Part Seven; make of that what you will!
The Turn: Chapters 95-97 In an eleven chapter ring, the natural center is the sixth piece, the one with five chapters before and five chapters after it; in Part Seven, the sixth chapter is 95. The topical center, though, for reasons explained is in chapter 97, in which Robin and Cormoran meet with Carrie. If we note that the latch is two chapters long in the beginning and chapter 93 has no clear parallel except with Part Three as explained above, that shifts the center to 97 naturally. The Turn, though, I think must include this center, the Woods interview proper, as well as the two chapters immediately before it. These three chapters echo the opening two and point to the single chapter finale as we expect a ring Turn to do.
In a nutshell, the correspondences between the Turn chapters and the Latch are the Carrie Woods interview, all around, the Running Grave case review we get in the car on the way to Thornbury (95) and with Sir Colin (90), discussion of Marion Huxley and Walter Fernsby as Jiang’s mystery person who has come back to the farm (91, 95), and Littlejohn’s claim in chapter 96 that he has “new info” on the “church case,” that Strike ignores and which “info” probably is visible in the surveillance tape he reviews in the last chapter (100); I’m guessing that Clive found out that the UHC is going to war with the Strike-Ellacott Agency, whence the blue track suits on people walking on the streets near their offices and the attempted break-in by a man with a gun. I’m guessing it’s Mitch Patterson or the policeman that gave the UHC the Kevin Pirbright murder scene photo.
Strike and Robin are in for a lot more trouble from the cultists than Wikipedia page jiggering by the bad guys. And Strike was forewarned in the center of the three-chapter Turn, a warning that he chose in his arrogance to dismiss as so much “bullshitting.” Considering that Strike is named for a fairy-tale giant, one who is killed by someone far ‘beneath’ him, it’s sad that he ignores the possibility that ‘Littlejohn’ may have been sent, as in the legends of Sherwood Forest, to serve Robin, let’s say “in the ‘Hood.”
The Turtle-Back Lines: Not much confusion or mystery here. The chapter parallels pretty much write themselves.
Chapters 92-93 and 99 In chapter 92, Robin has an uncomfortable meeting with the police; they come to her apartment and she gets some bad news, to which her summary reaction is “Call Strike!” In chapter 99, she goes to a police officer’s apartment and watches an interview that makes her angry and uncomfortable, after which she decides, “I just need to call Strike.”
Chapters 94 and 98 Strike and Robin meet up in chapter 94 after her interview under caution with the Met and Norfolk police to debrief. Robin needs some food and a strong drink. They discuss the ramifications of that interview and their next steps. In the opposite number, chapter 99, Robin and Strike stop on the roadside to eat — Strike is really hungry — and they discuss the ins and outs of their meeting with Carrie Woods, a full-on debrief and action planning meeting.
Part Seven, then, in conclusion, joins the previous six Parts in showing the signature characteristics of a ring composition in addition to having embedded parallels to its apposite number, Part Three, in the novel-ring.
Conclusions: Embedded Revelations
I think the structural analysis gives us strong pointers to revelations that will become much clear in the remaining two Parts.
Most important, of course, are all that we learn explicitly and indirectly about Carrie Woods. Judging by her peculiar behaviors in the interview with Strike and Robin, what she told them, and what Becca Pirbright told the police about her in the interview before the meeting in Thornbury, I think we can make a circumstantial case that:
She had been called by Delaunay or the UHC to warn her that the detectives were on their way to her place and she needed to get away. She had dropped her children off and came home only to pack some things when Strike and Robin confronted her. She wanted to run but decided to endure it in the hope that the promised rescue would arrive to whisk her away.
She would have had reason to believe that the UHC were her friends in this matter and the Agency her enemy because, per the comments Becca Pirbright made to the police, the Wace story about her had become that she was, not demonic, but a “divine vessel” who “suffered and was blameless” and the cult had every hope in the present that she would be re-joining them with her two girls at Chapman Farm soon. Becca makes the mistake of saying to the police that Cherie had “confided her purpose to me,” something she surely didn’t do with the child Pirbright before her departure twenty plus years ago.
Robin misunderstood Jiang’s comments about a person who used to be there coming back; he wasn’t talking about a person in disguise that no one recognized, that is, who was undercover like Robin. She makes this mistake because he is giving her a demonstration of how he notices things that others miss. What he has noticed, perhaps something that the person in question does not want widely known, was someone who was coming in secret to the property that Jiang recognized from his youth, someone who had not been there in a long time. This could be the Delaunays, who really seem upset about Strike’s investigation into the UHC’s history (if true, one has to wonder why they or the UHC didn’t do a search for Strike’s partner and sub-contractors so they would recognize them at the London Temple or in Norfolk).
I think, though, the more likely candidate for Jiang’s returning UHC member is Carrie Woods. Jiang isn’t old enough to remember the 1995 Cherie Gittins but, if she returned for a spell after her arrest as Carrie Makepeace (which is credible; the cult would have good reason to keep her from the police lest she tell all about Daiyu’s disappearance), he would have seen her then. The UHC Principals knew where she was, helped her find work and settle down, and probably called her back to campus to touch base with her, shower her with “divine vessel” garlands, and warn her about Strike and Ellacott.
They staged her murder as suicide and in the trappings of the Hanged Prophet both to eliminate her at last as a potential witness against them and because her death immediately after the interview with Strike and Robin makes them look very, very bad, even evil. “They grilled the mother of two little girls so aggressively and threatened her with jail if she wouldn’t co-operate and the woman just broke. Strike as good as murdered her!” The tabloid headlines write themselves.
Emily is as good as dead now, too, consequent to Strike’s sharing with Carrie that it was a Pirbright sister who told them that she gave the children “drinks” the night of Daiyu’s disappearance and that she was seen pushing Daiyu out a window. Carrie probably passed that information on to Nicholas or whoever came to “rescue” her, which damning news was a death sentence for Emily. They put her back in the box indefinitely, concocted a story about her re-location to the San Francisco center, and planted her corpse in the vegetable garden with the other bodies buried there, near Jacob her half-brother I’d bet.
Strike suspects Lin is at the alternative therapy clinic run by Dr Zhou but I doubt that. There is way too much possibility that she would be seen there or escape. She is either dead or in the Malfoy Manor basement, I mean, the Delaunay mansion wine cellar, being kept alive as a potential piece of leverage to keep Will Edensor on the side of the Five Prophets and their servants.
Carrie Woods’ account of the Comer Beach history and her comments to Mr Heaton afterwards at the inquest is a disaster of self-contradiction and poor obfuscation; everything she denies with zeal merits special attention. Her explanations of why Daiyu didn’t get out of the truck at the two stops and that she knew the woman in the cafe had seen her carry the girl to the beach, if read in this light, mean that it wasn’t Daiyu in the truck at all but a straw figure akin to the ones they sell and the Hanged Prophet larger than life piece for that Manifestation in the Temple each year. She was concerned about that patch of sea vegetables on the beach because it was really the straw figure torn apart or the straw beneath a pile of seaweed. The Royal Marine or Jonathan Wace probably was the jogger passing by that was on the scene to be sure the ‘body’ was properly dissembled and concealed by the “spirit wife.”
That, frankly, was a lot of fun for me, even though more than twenty years of reading Rowling tells me that guesses made even this deep into a book are almost certainly wrong. If I see it, then, it’s a trap, as a rule, so I hope it was funny for you, assuming you’ve read the book to the end by this point. Even if this Substack site was about guessing the ending before finishing or about speculating about future books — and we’ve done our share of that — it’s a fool’s errand and we should abstain.
What we’re about here is the reading at depth and I’m obliged before taking off for a couple of days to read and chart Part Eight’s twenty chapters to point the screaming Howler red flag Rowling-Galbraith posted in the key piece of Part Seven. That would be the interview of Carrie Woods in chapter 97.
Here’s the big passage:
“Were you punished for taking Daiyu to the beach without permission?” said Robin.
“Yeah,” said Carrie.
“I don’ wanna talk about that, “said Carrie, her voice strained. “They wuz angry. They had every right to be. If someone had taken one of my little —”
Carrie emitted something between a gasp and a cough and began to cry again. She rocked backwards and forwards, sobbing into her hands for a couple of minutes. When Robin silently mimed to Strike an offer of comfort to Carrie, Strike shook his head. Doubtless he’d be accused of heartlessness again on the return journey, but he wanted to hear Carrie’s own words, not her response to somebody else’s sympathy or ire.
“I’ve regretted it all my life, all my life,” Carrie sobbed, raising her swollen-eyed face, tears still coursing down her cheeks. “I felt like I didn’ deserve Poppy and Daisy, when I had ‘em! I shouldn’ of agreed… why did I do it? Why? I’ve asked myself that over ’n’ over, but I swear I never wan’ed — I wuz young, I knew it wuz wrong, I never wan’ed it to happen, oh God, and then she wuz dead and it was real, it wuz real…”
“What d’you mean by that?” said Strike. “What d’you mean by ‘it was real’?”
“It wuzn’ a joke, it wuzn’ pretend — when you’re young, you don’ think stuff like that happens — but it wuz real, she wuzn’ comin’ back…” (698-699)
Rowling has had characters talk about the “real” only three times I can think of in her almost twenty novels: the King’s Cross scene with dead Dumbledore near the end of Deathly Hallows, the Gates of The City of the Missed in The Christmas Pig, and in Troubled Blood’s astrology conversation between Strike and Robin.
We’ll start with the lines Rowling said she waited seventeen years to write:
“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” (Hallows 723)
I think the Troubled Blood scene is meant to be a fun reversal of the Potter-Dumbledore exchange:
“You’re being affected!” she said. “Everyone knows their star sign. Don’t pretend to be above it.”
Strike grinned reluctantly, took a large drag on his cigarette, exhaled, then said, “Sagittarius, Scorpio rising, with the sun in the first house.”
“You’re –” Robin began to laugh. “Did you just pull that out of your backside, or is it real?”
“Of course, it’s not fucking real,” said Strike. “None of it’s real, is it?” (Blood 242, highlighting in original).
In Christmas Pig, it’s the Blue Bunny who talks about what is “real” and it’s a loaded passage outside the City of the Missed:
“Do you just want to live in nice houses?” asked Blue Bunny. “Or is there another reason you want to get in?”
“Yes,” said Jack, before the Christmas Pig could stop him. “Somebody I need’s in there. He’s called DP and he’s my favorite cuddly toy.”
For a long moment, Jack and Blue Bunny stared into each other’s eyes and then Blue Bunny let out a long sigh of amazement.
“You’re a boy,” he whispered. “You’re real.”
“He isn’t,” said the panic-stricken Christmas Pig. “He’s an action figure called—”
“It’s all right, Pig,” said Blue Bunny, “I won’t tell anybody, I promise. You really came all the way into the Land of the Lost to find your favorite toy?” he asked Jack, who nodded.
“Then I’ll be your decoy,” said Blue Bunny. “It would be an honor” (169).
The Bunny’s simple declaration, “You’re real,” i.e., “from Up There,” the greater reality of the Land of the Living in which Things have their awakening in the love of their owners, clarifies these other usages. Dumbledore shares his wisdom with Harry that the maternal love which saved him, first at Godric’s Hollow and then in the Forest, is the metaphysical sub-stance beneath, behind, and within all other reality. Strike gives Robin a dose of his skeptical ignorance and nominalist first principle that nothing is real but surface appearance subject to measurement and physical sensation, mental grasp of all things being consequent to that.
Christmas Pig‘s “real” moment acts as a key to these others, one evident in the Bunny’s response to the revelation of Jack’s greater ontological status. He does a Dobby, offering to die for Jack as Jack has done in his descent into the Land of the Lost for DP, a surrender of self to near certain death in being given to the Loser he considers an “honor.” He acts spontaneously and selflessly as a “decoy,” a saving replacement in other words, for the “living boy” as Dobby did for the “Boy Who Lived.” The pathetic distraction that saved the DP rescue mission in Mislaid despite himself, crying out in desperation for his own existence, has metamorphized consequent to his experience with Broken Angel and in Jack’s example, into a heroic decoy that allows Jack and CP to enter the City of the Missed.
The Blue Bunny makes out better than the House-elf, too, and this is the key event of the book and the best evidence since the death of Lily Potter, Harry’s defeat of Quirrell, and the demise of the Dark Lord that mother’s love is Rowling’s default symbolism for Christian love in her writing. The Bunny’s choice to act as decoy, his decision to die to his ego-self, generates the life saving appearance of maternal love and its equivalent in the transference attachment a child feels for a beloved toy. The Johannine quality of the light that shines down on him from the Finding Hole and his Elijah-esque elevation nails down the Logos-love correspondence. (See this Blue Bunny post for much more on this subject; Christmas Pig is Rowling’s best stand-alone story.)
Knowing all this, when Carrie collapses with thoughts of her punishment by the Waces and the consequences of her taking Daiyu to the beach, her repeated use of the word “real,” highlighted by Rowling with italics and Strike’s specific question about what she means by it demands a thorough reading.
The surface reading is that she feels great remorse for what she did back in the day. As a mother of two children, she has come to a greater appreciation of the great loss she inflicted on the girl’s mother and father by taking her to the beach. She weeps and writhes with her grief and shame.
Strike, though, doesn’t buy any of it. His follow-up question after she regains some bearing is about Mr Heaton’s memory of his conversation with the girl outside the inquest (while his wife is in the women’s room with Phillipa Delaunay…). We know Strike thinks her story of what happened on the beach is a lie because of her saying then, “I could have stopped it.”
It seems reasonable to assume that her repeated statements that “it wuz real” are also lies.
As discussed above, she may just be delaying, playing for time until her rescuers come or hoping Strike and Robin will stay to protect her if she fears the UHC help on its way. I think she knows she is going back to Chapman Farm, that she may be separated from her children, or, worse, they may be brought there, too, and she is weeping because the nightmare that has been the backdrop of her life for two decades is now in her face. Strike and Robin are probing the cracks in her story and know way too much about “the night before,” as Kevin Pirbright wrote on his apartment wall.
All that is interesting in a speculative kind of way, but what is the importance of using the language of the “real”?
The whole book is a study of how mind-control, metanarrative and idea indoctrination by repetition, threats of isolation and excommunication with the right people, and deprivation of reasonable alternatives or edifying education,* creates a person who is incapable of discerning the truth, even of understanding that there is objective truth, of discriminating the unreal and the real. Carrie is confronted with the reality that she is going to die very soon or at a minimum life as she knows it is about to change horribly and so she drapes her agony that that this is real, this is happening to her now, by draping those phrases over the pretending she did back in the day.
*Note what Rowling writes about modern education , the schools which our children attend, under the guise of Robin’s anger about what the UHC teaches the young ones at Chapman Farm. Those “kids aren’t being educated, they’re being brain-washed!” (chapter 99).
Strike in Troubled Blood sounds like a border-line nihilist in his dismissal of astrology: “Of course, it’s not fucking real,” said Strike. “None of it’s real, is it?” He lives his life this way, frankly, until his realization at the end of Ink Black Heart that there is something real, the love he feels for Robin Ellacott. He slips with Bijou and has his “displacement fuck” as he has done with every lover in his life, alas, and which Robin has done, too, with Matt and now Ryan Murphy. Only their union, the allegorical union of soul and spirit in anteros rather than erotic love, selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional elision of I and Thou, is a means or way to communion with the Absolute, the ego-transcending Real.
Strike has rebuked Delaunay for saying truth is subjective, any man’s opinion, in chapter 95. Robin assured Emily Pirbright in the Norfolk toy shop (Christmas Pig, anyone?) that truth existed, life was not meaningless, she could recover from the UHC mind-melt.
And here, the character with the key to the Drowning Prophet mystery cries aloud repeatedly that the charade on the beach was “real.” She dies later that day in horrible fashion, a death that is real, albeit in a work of fiction. Her death, I’m confident a murder staged as suicide, a motif in the Strike series from Luna Landry, Minister Chiswell, and Leda Strike, first and last, is the reality of the death led by the living dead, those whose indoctrination to ideas not their own, ideas denying truth, freedom, right and wrong, is a suicide-murder in which the cult or anti-life culture in which we live kills us insomuch as we embrace that death as life.
Detective fiction is the story genre dedicated to revealing the hidden narrative, the true story beneath the surface one, the tale the criminal and murderer wants us to believe. Rowling is weaponizing this story-form to deliver her most challenging lesson to her readers, implicit in the Real that she shows them and which they experience in the traditional symbolism and the chiastic structure of her stories. More on that, I hope, after I finish the charting of Parts Eight, Nine, and the Epilogue.
To wrap this up, I want to write out the thought that hounded me after reading Part Seven and while charting it. The recurrent idea has been that Leda Strike’s death is tied to her time at Aylmerton Commune somehow. Strike makes an aside in chapter 91 to Robin about his mother’s default belief that if someone was “a bit off” then they were preferable somehow to someone normal, whence Shanker having been all but legally adopted by her as a son. The target audience for the UHC is not losers and idiots, remember, but the idealists they can remake into their cave prisoners (see Prudence’s conversation with Strike and Robin on this subject in Part One). Her thoughts on education were remarkably like the UHC’s.
Leda didn’t live in Wace’s UHC but a commune that prepared the ground for it, one in which paedophiles wrapped their sexual perversion and crimes against children in ideological notes about love and justice and freedom. What happened to her there? Did she learn when Lucy left what had happened to her daughter in Norfolk, say, from her brother Ted?
Could we have been imagining all along that we knew the mind of Leda Strike when she might have been suffering from her experiences within a cult? I am half-expecting this will be the mind-blowing twist of the Running Grave finale, that the blind-spot in Strike’s memory, the Norfolk commune experience, is not only the cause of his half-sister’s life choices as he learned in Part One, but of his mother’s death, a revelation for Part Nine.
On that dropped marker, good night! I’m off to Part Eight..
Thanks for reading Hogwarts Professor! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.