This review is mostly going to be me responding to some of my own thoughts from my first review, with some extras thrown in; for example, how I was considering raising this to five stars because I loved Robert Glenister’s narration so much. I love the dead tree versions of this book, but the audio adds another level. Highly recommend if you are so inclined. (I’m leaving my rating at 4.5, rounding down, for now, because of the ending. See below.)
Spoilery discussion of several plot points below.
So firstly, having now re-read this, I can state with approximately 99% surety that Strike firing Robin was not a ploy. He was genuinely angry with her, and unless the narrative is hiding something from us, or being deliberately misleading (which I seriously doubt), that was an action that was very much real at the time it was made. A lot of people have commented on my review over the last few years saying he only fired her to keep her safe, but no, that’s not it. I think I am going to agree that the thing with selling the story to the reporter, and advertising so blatantly for Robin’s replacement, THAT was a ploy. Strike had calmed down enough to think somewhat rationally by that point. He knew if he advertised their falling out, Robin would lose her appeal to the killer and he would leave her alone. Strike was taking advantage of the situation his firing of Robin created, but the initial firing itself was something that actually happened. No doubt he wants her back, and that’s what the phone message Matthew deleted was all about, but we’ll have to wait to find out until Lethal White for sure.
I pretty much stand by the rest of my thoughts. I love Robin in this book. She and Strike make some significant errors with one another, and become terribly communicators by the end of the book. They also let their personal feelings for one another and what’s going on in their lives affect all their decision making. It’s just a big clusterfuck of emotions, basically. Robin doesn’t want to become that useless, scared person again, and resents anyone trying to protect her, because of that. She never explains to any of them, not her mother or Matthew or Strike, just exactly why she’s so adamant about remaining at work. Maybe it’s too difficult for her to articulate. In addition, she becomes extremely upset by the idea of the little girl Zahara living in the same house as the child rapist, Brockbank. She is enraged at Strike for what she sees as a refusal to help someone in dire need, someone in trouble very much as she was once in trouble.
And Strike doesn’t explain his reasons to Robin, for the most part. He’s so worried about keeping her safe, he just tells her what to do and doesn’t think about any of his requests will affect her. His heart is in the right place, but it’s patronizing as hell. With the Zahara situation, there was no reason he couldn’t sit Robin down and first of all listen to her and why she was so upset, and second, explain all the reasons they couldn’t attempt a rescue for the girls. Instead, they all come out after the fact, after it’s too late and all the damage is done, and Robin is ashamed and angry and hurt.
And lastly, there’s the ending. This is the reason I can’t up this to five stars until I read Lethal White. What the heck is that ending even going for? It’s very unclear. Is Robin going to leave Matthew at the altar? Was Strike just going to get his partner back or did he have something else in mind? (He’s very clearly attracted to Robin, but knows he should keep it professional, at the same time his attraction to her definitely magnified his rage with the firing incident.) Will Robin stay married to Matthew until his thing with the message deletion and the rest of his asshattery is revealed? It’s just, that smile at the end, it’s so open-ended! It could just be a little happy ending tip of the hat, letting us know they will mend their relationship, or it could be more. I don’t like the ambiguity. So, 4.5 stars it remains.
Lethal White is in the can, so here’s hoping for a late 2018 release date. I need some answers.