Strike and Robin at Christmas

Posted on 14 Dec 2023

– Troubled Blood, Robert Galbraith

Strike’s unusual childhood makes him a perfect candidate for hating Christmas. His free-spirited mother, Leda, never put down roots long enough for a traditional family festive period and his father, rock legend Jonny Rokeby, didn’t send his illegitimate son any acknowledgement of his existence at birthdays or Christmas, something which caused Strike a lot of pain in his childhood. During his time in the army, he’d also had a couple of other untraditional Christmases, when he’d eaten foil trays of tasteless turkey in field canteens, among camouflage-wearing colleagues wearing Santa hats.

But there’s another side to Strike’s experiences of Christmas, thanks to his solid and reliable aunt and uncle, Joan and Ted, who cared for Strike and his half-sister Lucy when their mother wasn’t able to, and who always welcomed Strike’s visits to their home in St Mawes, Cornwall, for a storybook Christmas. Strike even brought his troubled girlfriend Charlotte with him one year, though they ended up in a row, and Charlotte stormed out past the family gathered around the turkey. In Troubled Blood, Strike is laid low by flu and so unable to join them. Instead, enduring a rather miserable Christmas in his flat on his own, though office manager Pat brings up his presents and, in a gesture that he finds very touching, fetches him soup on Christmas Eve.

-Troubled Blood, Robert Galbraith

Robin’s more stable family background gives her a traditional place to retreat to at Christmas – two loving parents and a hoard of brothers in the lovely market town of Masham in North Yorkshire. She likes the season enough to add a miniature Christmas tree to her desk during the investigations into the disappearance of Owen Quine (The Silkworm), and in Troubled Blood, Robin tells herself Christmas at her family home will be a wonderful break – with lie-ins and home-cooked food and hours in front of the telly. Sadly, the newborn baby keeps her awake, and she has to deal with her mother’s outrage that her ex has bought his girlfriend home for Christmas at his father’s house round the corner. The scent her mother gets her is also a disappointment, and she has to deal with her family’s suspicions about Strike and odd texts from another colleague. The following year she stays in London, sending Strike off to Cornwall to visit his uncle Ted, and so avoids her ex parading round Masham with his now wife and their new baby. She even gets a seasonal break of her own, going skiing in Zermatt over New Year with her favourite cousin, Katie, and a group of friends. Katie tells her she thought Matthew’s new wife smug, and Robin gets some peace and perspective watching the light change on the snow-covered Matterhorn from gold to peach.

-Troubled Blood, Robert Galbraith

Robin is a careful gift giver, remembering Strike’s likes and dislikes and taking pleasure in finding presents such as rare recordings of Tom Waits. Strike tends to leave his Christmas shopping late, and though he usually manages to buy his nephews and godchildren enjoyable, noise making presents that will annoy their parents, he struggles with what to buy for the women in his life, often panic buying underwhelming flowers and chocolates. His best Christmas present for Robin was a Surveillance course, delivered as they closed the investigations into Owen Quine (The Silkworm). After a bad stretch though, he redeems himself considerably with a more interesting perfume for Robin and drinks at The Ritz for her birthday as the investigations into the disappearance of Margot Bamborough were coming to a close. He also manages to arrive at Lucy’s house during the enquiry into the Universal Humanitarian Church with thoughtful presents for her sons, even if they are bought to get them out into the garden so he can discuss a difficult part of their childhood with his sister on their own.

Perhaps after the investigations into the UHC, he’ll do better at expressing to Robin how he values her at Christmas and throughout the year.