What to look out for in The Ink Black Heart

Posted on 4 Oct 2022

The Ink Black Heart presents Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott with a new case, centred around the fans and creators of the eponymous cult cartoon set in Highgate Cemetery. One of the co-creators, Edie Ledwell has been persecuted by an anonymous online figure who goes by the pseudonym of Anomie. Edie approaches the agency desperate to uncover Anomie’s true identity. Strike and Robin are plunged into a challenging cyber investigation,  alongside having their own complex personal and business lives to manage. Here are a few threads to look out for in the rich tapestry of their new investigation.

1. Robin and Cormoran’s Relationship

The other less-than-perfect aspect of her break had been her own tendency to brood about Strike and the incident outside the Ritz.

– The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith

Robin and Strike have built a strong friendship and business relationship over the years since Robin first joined the agency, but will their relationship change further? An awkward moment after Robin’s birthday drinks at the Ritz becomes a source of misunderstanding and confusion; once again both Robin and Strike struggle to work out what they want and what’s at risk. They throw themselves into work. Robin needs a new place to live, and has to deal with the attentions of Hugh Jacks, a sad and persistent divorced man who she met while skiing with friends over New Year. Strike is working on New Year’s Eve when he meets Madeline a fashionable and successful jewellery designer. She’s an ambitious self-made woman, so will their relationship work better than the others he’s had since he split up with his ex-fiancée, or will it follow a similar course?

2. What does Robin’s Dad do for a living?

‘He’s got forty-six letters after his name. I counted when I was a kid.’
This time Strike’s bellow of laughter was heard by the whole bar.

– The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith

We’ve learned a lot about Robin’s past since she joined the agency as well as about her family in Masham, but as The Ink Black Heat begins, we don’t know what her father does for a living. Watch out for the early revelation which so amuses Strike in the Rivoli bar of the Ritz as the partners are celebrating Robin’s thirtieth birthday.

3. The Price of Fame

‘OK, well, that doesn’t really matter,’ said Edie. ‘The point is, I co-created it with my ex-boyfriend and it’s a success, or whatever’ – Edie sounded strangely tense as she said the word.

– The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith

What is the price of success? It’s a question Cormoran and Robin run up against frequently in different ways in the book. Edie and Josh began by working with friends, many of whom they met through the North Grove Arts Collective where they lived and worked, uploading their early episodes onto YouTube. Super fans Anomie and Morehouse, creators of Drek’s Game, based on the characters in The Ink Black Heart, turn against Edie, accusing her of selling out once the series gets snapped up by Netflix. The success has brought the co-creators money and fame and a legion of devoted fans, but the success has also strained old friendships and relationships as early collaborators are left by the wayside and different individuals claim ownership of The Ink Black Heart and its devoted community of fans. Who can Edie and Josh trust now?

At the same time Cormoran is struggling with how to keep his anonymity while running a famous agency and dating a well-known woman. Robin also has to deal with the ramifications of having her picture in the newspapers and the dangers of a public profile.

4. Epigraphs

One of the children hanging about
Pointed at the whole dreadful heap and smiled…
There is something terrible about a child.

Charlotte Mew In Nunhead Cemetery (Quoted in The Ink Black Heart)

Keep an eye out for the carefully chosen epigraphs that open each chapter. Many are drawn from the work of well-known female poets like Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Christina Rossetti, to the more obscure Charlotte Mew and Felicia Hemans. Barrett-Browning’s novel in verse about female creative ambition, Aurora Leigh, is quoted fourteen times. Charlotte Mew and Christina Rossetti are both buried in Highgate, though many of the other poets quoted are not. The only man whose work is used as an epigraph is Henry Gray FRS, author of the famous Gray’s Anatomy. A quote from that volume, ‘wounds of the heart are often fatal, but not necessarily so,’ forms the epigraph to the prologue of The Ink Black Heart. He is buried at Highgate.

5. Robin Undercover

‘Looks quite good on you,’ said Pat, casting a critical eye over Robin’s brunette wig, winged eyeliner, scarlet lipstick and black suede jacket.

– The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith

Robin’s ability to disguise herself is as critical to this investigation as it has been to many of their past cases. She transforms again into Venetia Hall, with blonde wig and grey contact lenses, tweaking that persona this time to play a journalist. To find her way into the community of North Grove Arts Collective, the place where The Ink Black Heart was invented, she needs to create a new identity. Robin carefully prepares these cover identities, thinking carefully about the background of each invented identity so she can get what she wants from her targets, but watch out for when she has to think on her feet too, taking risks in the moment to press home an advantage.

6. New hires and old hands at the agency

‘You’re a bloody marvel, Pat. Plus, you make a great fruitcake.’

– The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith

Pat, the agency office manager who is inclined to be suspicious of Strike’s temper and over interested in Robin’s love life, continues to prove herself invaluable and her bravery and quick thinking will save the day during the investigation into Edie Ledwell’s murder. The problem of recruiting decent investigators to manage the work continues to be headache. Michelle Williams, known as Midge, a Mancunian ex-policewoman with a gym-toned physique is a new arrival as is ex-Met officer Dev Shah, who Pat decides could give Imran Kahn a run for his money in terms of looks. However, the amount of work to be done also means rehiring Stewart Nutley who Strike has already sacked once. As the pressures on the agency grow, the characters and commitment of all the subcontractors will be tested.

7. Strike’s Health

The condition of Strike’s stump was deteriorating. In spite of his twice-daily applications of cream, the skin beneath the gel pad remained irritated and inflamed.

– The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith

The pressure of work, alongside Strike’s bad diet and smoking are causing problems with his leg and his insistence on pushing himself harder than he should, while not taking care of his health is beginning to cause him a lot of suffering. He has always been grateful that Robin is one woman in his life who doesn’t attempt to mother him, but as the investigation continues, it becomes clear that he needs to realise his refusal to make any allowances for his leg is a problem not just for him, but for the whole agency.

8. Charlotte Ross

‘Robin, she can smell something between you and Corm, and she wants to screw it up.’

– The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith

As well as the pressures of the investigation, his love life and his health, there is another threat to Strike’s peace of mind. His ex-fiancée Charlotte Ross is trying to drag him into the midst of her messy relationship with the sadistic Jago Ross, the future Viscount of Croy, and the custody battle for their children. Ilsa, close friend to Robin and Cormoran, reckons she knows exactly what Charlotte is up to, but Charlotte is as brilliant and manipulative as ever and still as breathtakingly beautiful as she is damaging.