I'm going to start with the opening scene and some questions about the character we meet there: Dominic Culpepper. He is interesting to me for an number of reasons. First, he seems a bit too chummy with Strike to be just another client, even for a repeat one. Thus, I have always assumed he was an old friend of Strikes, from his pre-detective days. But, unlike Shanker, Anstis, Dave Polworth, Nick Herbert, etc. we've never been told how or when Strike made his acquaintance.
Second, he appears to be from a wealthy, or at least upper-class family; as the Chiswells showed us, the two are not necessarily synonymous. But he his spoke of as a "public school" boy, and we know his cousin Nina has an "Honorable" title.
This, at least to an American mind, makes his choice of profession interesting. I am not accustomed to thinking of "tabloid journalist" as being a particularly "upper-class" sort of profession. Certainly in the US, those types of papers have a definite taint of sleaziness, and the fact that News of the World would be forced out of business within a couple of years for illegal phone hacking, a topic Strike raises with Culpepper, suggests they are not entirely respectable.
So, assuming Culpepper is, indeed, an old friend of Strike's, where might they have become acquainted? Oxford seems the most likely possibility, but we are also told that Leda had twice enrolled Strike in expensive private schools, only to pull him out after a few terms. We know, of course, that the first time was the prep school where Strike met Charlie Bristow. Could Culpepper be an old friend from the second school?
Moving on: I love the introduction of Leonora Quine and the reversal of the opening of The Cuckoo's Calling. Before, Strike was destitute and almost without work, seeming almost dumbfounded when John Bristow shows up as an actual client. Now, he's doing well enough to ditch a well-paying client and take on a charity case. And I love the "single step" Strike takes towards the guy to run him out of the office when he calls Leonora a stupid woman. We'll see almost identical posturing when Strike runs Saul Morris out of the office in Troubled Blood.
Overall, I like the way the book is fairly quick about introducing you to all the suspects, with the interviews with Christian Fisher, Liz Tassel and Kathryn Kent, then followed by the Roper Chard party where we meed everyone else. Re-reading the part about Liz's Doberman once biting Owen, knowing the dog has just eaten and thrown up part of Owen's intestines makes me feel a bit squeamish. A bit of trivia: The Roper Chard party happened on the night the first Deathly Hallows movie premiered.
The only significant non-case interlude is drinks with Matthew, where we learn that Strike's judgement og thre guy is right on the money. Please also note that Robin is freely attaching kisses to texts, making her worry about that later in Troubled Blood a bit far-fetched.
Meeting Nina Lacelles reminded me how much I liked her at the beginning; she seemed very eager to help Strike and took a big risk by copying the manuscript for him
More to come on Thursday, including poor Marguerite!