Killers of the Flower Moon ~ by David Grann

I’d been so tempted by this book but for some reason I waited and waited until finally it got nominated for the National Book Award.   Then I waited some more.  Why? Because the narrator was NOT going to be to my liking.  I listened to a sample and read the reviews – nope.   But it stayed on my wish list until I really didn’t know what to read next and I also figured maybe if I got the Kindle book along with the Audible version I could handle it.    Well –  that worked pretty well after I got through the first third of the book.

killers
*******
Killers of the Flower Moon
by David Grann
2017 / 340 pages  (Kindle) 
read by Anne Marie Lee, Will Patton, Danny Campbell  8h 53m
rating: 8.75 /  historical true crime
(read and listened)
*******

This is a very good book.  The audible experience almost ruins it but, as a whole,  not quite.   The thing is that although Anne Marie is a totally poor fit,  –  like a little chirpy bird telling a really grim story – the second narrator is Will Patton.   Oh be still my heart,  yes!  He’s one of my favorites (from James Lee Burke books).   And I wasn’t familiar with Danny Campbell so that was neutral.

I understand the point of the producers trying this book with three narrators.  The book is divided into three major parts  called “Chronicles.”  They are; . “The Marked Woman;”  “The Evidence Man:”   and “The Reporter.”

“The Marked Woman”  focuses on a woman named Mollie Burkhart, a resident of the Osage settlement town of Gray Horse whose family was decimated by the murders of 1924.   Mollie’s sister was one of the first Indians killed in the disaster.   The producer’s idea was that this part of the story would be narrated by a woman’s voice.   Great idea – wrong woman.   This section is really good in the book – it has photos of the family and biographical details about their lives.  But more than 20 other people were killed in this horrific series of murders –  most of them Osage Indians,  newly rich from an oil boom.

  • Epigraph by Don DeLillo

I kept going and when I got to “The Evidence Man” (this is from the book) – the voice changed to that of Will Patton.  Oh,  I smiled and smiled.  He reads with a bit more southern drawl than a native Oklahoman and he’s considerably faster than Lee,  but it works – kind of – better anyway.    Patton is also overly dramatic – to my tastes anyway.  This part tells the story of FBI lead agent on the case,  Tom White,  and his investigation of the whole mess under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover and the newly formed FBI.  There are several threads, many names and more than one trial as well as a bit of the aftermath for a few of the individuals as well as the FBI.    This is page-turning.  And the last lines are a foreshadowing cliffhanger.

Chronicle Three, “The Reporter,”   is the 1st person story of Grann’s research and other matters.  He reports on his actual visits to some of the locations and interviews with a few relevant people still living – descendants of the Osage families affected.   He also tries to follow some leads on the several unresolved associated murders and in so doing reveals that there were many more murders than the 24 counted by the officials.  The total was “in the scores if not the hundreds.”    The main motive was to get the headrights from the victims,  often wives and children.  According to one agent,  there was a “culture of killing”  and it went from between 1907 to 1923 and beyond,  maybe into the 1930s.  That period of time was not called the “Reign of Terror” for nothing.  This Part is like a long epilogue but it gets the story up to date and in a way makes the story alive and be relevant.

There are plenty of photos in the book and the source notes are very good –  Grann did a lot of research and uses extensive primary and unpublished sources.

http://www.history.com/news/the-fbis-first-big-case-the-osage-murders

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The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

I read this just because I felt like it –  a book about a private investigator and gypsies just sounded intriguing.  And I was familiar with the author having read  The Tenderness of Wolves years ago,   so I thought I’d give this one a try.

invisib
*******
The Invisible Ones
by Stef Penney
2012 /  432 pages
read by Dan Stephens  – 11h 23m
rating:  A- /  literary crime
*******

The book opens with Ray Lovell in a hospital bed having no idea how he got there.   He knows he’s a private investigator and most other personal information,  but nothing specific whatever about what happened to him to get him in this situation.    He remembers bits about what he was working on.   A man named  Leon Wood had asked him to investigate the disappearance of his daughter Rose who had been missing for seven years.  At the time of her disappearance she’d got married to a man named Ivo Jenko.

The complicating twist is that Leon and Jenko are both from  gypsy (Roma) families and this means that virtually no non-gypsy investigator will be able to get close enough to the case to get any information.  It just so happens that Ray is gypsy although not immediately connected – his father left a traveling group and married a non-gypsy after which he assimilated into English society.   Ray was brought up in a pretty conventional manner.

All this takes place in a few chapters alternating with a secondary  plot line about a gypsy boy named JJ who is living with his mother and family on a patch of land still occupied by “blood.”    JJ speaks to us in 1st person as he tells about how he and his family take care of Ivo’s motherless son,  the 7-year old Christo who has a rather unusual genetic disease.  JJ also wonders about who his father is and which girl at school can help him.

Ray Lovell gets involved with the family while he investigates,  then  bones are found and  JJ gets food poisoning.  It’s a tangle of twists and turns with the ending being a total surprise and it ain’t over until it’s over.

This is  NOT a page-turning crime thriller but there are twists in the plot which cause the reader to bolt upright and speed along for awhile.    Mostly it’s the story of the search for a young gypsy woman but it’s also an exploration of  lives and loves  in a proud,  poverty-stricken,  ingrown family of people culturally different from their neighbors.

The theme of  “otherness” pervades every plot thread.

Dan Stephens does a remarkable job of narrating.

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The Ex- ~ by Alafair Burke

I’ve been avoiding Alistair Burke because I love the work of her father,  James Lee Burke, so much (most recently read The Jealous Kind / 2016) and I was afraid of comparison assuming she’d come up short.   I was wrong.

Burke is not her father’s writer – she’s her own.  The stories are legal crime (my favorite genre) and there’s no attempt at literary value which James Lee has in abundance.

exbur

*******
The Ex-
by Alafair Burke
2016 / 304 pages
read by Xe Sands
rating: B+ / crime (legal)
*******

Olivia Randall is surprised to hear from Buckley Harris,  the daughter of a long ago ex-fiance telling her that her father,  Jack Harris, is missing.   Buckley  is the daughter of Jack and his wife Molly who was killed in a mass shooting.

After Olivia checks it out she finds Jack is being interrogated about a recent killing –  of the father of the young man who, three years prior,  killed Molly in a mass shooting.   It looks very bad for Jack.   But there are many other people who probably wanted the shooter’s irresponsible father dead –  including his other son and other victims. Besides, there were two other victims along with that father.   And how about if Jack really is guilty – or Charlotte,  a good and very helpful longterm friend,  or Buckley herself?

Jack wants Olivia to represent him because Olivia is certain he could never have done that – it’s just her gut feeling.  Besides,  she still feels guilty about the way they broke up.

The characters are well developed,  the plot has good twists and turns,  Burke writes nicely.  The thing which I didn’t really care for in this one was the narrator and I think it affected my view of the whole.   If I read another one it won’t be narrated by Sands.

 

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The Evangelicals ~ by Frances FitzGerald

Once again FitzGerald plums the depths of a fascinating but highly complex subject,  this time  the  Christian Evangelicals of the US.    In using that term, the the author means the “Christian Right” in politics,  but the progressives are also mentioned along with other kinds of  Christian evangelicals.

The basic material covers the individuals of the movement from the time of Jonathan Edwards, before the American Revolution,  to those involved in the Tea Party and the primary elections of 2016 with,  in an epilogue,  the election of  Donald Trump.   Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Baptists and the Pentecostals are the focus with some space given to Catholics and a few independents.   The ideas of the fundamentalists as well as the more mainstream evangelists within those denominations are observed. .
evangel


*******
The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

by Frances Fitzgerald
2017 / 740 pages
rating:   9 /  general nonfiction
******* 

Frances FitzGerald,  whose Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and other prizes back in 1979,  does an admirable job of addressing the subject.   The book is thorough,  well organized  and deeply researched,  The writing is clear and reads smoothly.   For the most part it’s a joy to read even if it is long,  although it does seem to get a bit bogged down during the time of the G. W. Bush administration when there were so many names and groups and activities involved.   Other than that it’s a highly engaging and very informative read.    From her own site: http://www.francesfitzgerald.net

The point of the book is basically to provide a framework of understanding how this group developed,  what it’s  about, and how it is split in some ways. Today it includes close to a quarter of the US population –  but it’s changing in composition.

Going by her prior books and her articles for the New Yorker,  Fitzgerald is generally a political liberal, but certainly not anti-Christian or anti-church.  It feels there is some sympathy for the progressive element.  (And I totally get this!)

Again,  what FitzGerald means by “evangelicals” is the political Christian Right.   Most Protestant churches claim to be evangelical in some sense – a huge part of their mission is to spread the gospel – the “good news”  and to make converts.  But some denominations are more evangelical and/or  hold more conservative political views than others.  Furthermore,  some Catholics are quite conservative.   Fitzgerald,  like the mainstream press,  determines the evangelical Christian churches as being the Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists,  Pentecostals, and some other smaller groups.  She doesn’t address the Black churches either because their whole history has been different.

Within those denominations there have been movements to and away from the “fundamentalism”  we know today –  the inerrancy of the Bible,  dispensationalism, anti-modernism, premillenialism, the ministry of healing and so on.   The denominations and sects of the various churches have had schisms and splits then rejoined and split again based on the beliefs at the time or a powerful leader.

Also there has been movement to and away from the “progressive” stands and attitudes  these churches and their leaders have taken in the past.

The Evangelicals tells that story from the First Great Awakening of pre-Revolutionary  America (1740s)  to the election of Donald Trump (in the Epilogue). .  It’s a long and complex tale with many characters and ideas which are profoundly interwoven in US history but seem to,  once again, have burst on the scene.

One point is that the early evangelicals have changed enormously from their beginnings when they thought of themselves as being revolutionary – against the establishment churches and in the 19th century many of them became “progressive”  when they were working for the betterment of society.  Today they are more of a backlash to the culture wars of the 1960s and 70s.

Fitzgerald keeps what could have been a dry tome fascinatingly readable by avoiding in-depth explanations of the theology and detailed biographies of the major players although plenty of each is provided.  Also the generally chronological structure with appropriate breaks in subject works to keep the narrative flowing.

The first 230 years,  from 1740 or so until 1970 are covered in the first third of the book and make for fascinating history.   Jerry Falwell leads up to the half-way point, Reagan’s first  inauguration,  in the narrative.  After that point there is not so much attention to linear history (although it’s there) as there is to topical issues, like intellectual backup,  and biographies like Pat Robertson.

For what it’s worth – the “Christian Right”  actually began in the very early 1970s – midpoint in the book.

Here in the midsection of the book FitzGerald pretty well covers it all – from the uneducated Latinos in LA to the upscale ivory tower intellectuals like Francis Schaeffer,   from the relatively sedate Billy Graham to the many bombastic small town southern preachers,  from the old school revivals to the Prayer Breakfasts of Reagan and the organizers like Jerry Falwell and finally,  from the big shots we’ve heard about in the media to a lot of people we’ve never heard of bulking up the various agencies and committees and foundations and other formal and informal groups and associations all struggling to get the agenda of the Christian Right,  in its many facets,  into action.

Chapters:
Introduction
1 The Great Awakenings and the Evangelical Empire
2 Evangelicals North and South
3 Liberals and Conservatives in the Post–Civil War North
4 The Fundamentalist-Modernist Conflict
5 The Separatists
6 Billy Graham and Modern Evangelicalism
7 Pentecostals and Southern Baptists
8 Evangelicals in the 1960s
9 The Fundamentalist Uprising in the South
10 Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority
11 The Political Realignment of the South
12 The Thinkers of the Christian Right
13 Pat Robertson: Politics and Miracles
14 The Christian Coalition and the Republican Party
15 The Christian Right and George W. Bush
16 The New Evangelicals
17 The Transformation of the Christian Right

FitzGerald  was interviewed about  The Evangelicals by Christianity Today .

Fitzgerald:  “Rewriting American History” https://aplangrocksthefreeworld.wikispaces.com/file/view/11.3.14RAH.FitzGerald.pdf

Interview with NPR:   https://www.npr.org/2017/05/02/525452958/why-white-evangelicals-are-splintering-politically

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/04/20/where-evangelicals-came-from/

 

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The Man Who Loved Children ~ by Christina Stead

About a year ago I read Christina Stead’s The Little Hotel (1973) and really appreciated it.  But I found out that her book,  The Man Who Loved Children,  was really Stead’s magnum opus, making the Time magazine “Best of All Time”  list  in 2010 and so it went on my wish list.   A few months ago one of my reading groups was nominating books for November and I suggested  The Man Who Loved Children.   Here I am.   Yes,  it’s a terrific book.  It’s powerful and difficult but it’s NOT for the faint-hearted.

manwholoved.jpeg

*******
The Man Who Loved Children
by Christina Stead
1940 / 528 pages
read by C.M. Herbert
rating –   /  literary classic (US/Australia)
*******

One interesting tidbit about the book is that it was written while Stead was still newly arrived in New York City and she was using her childhood in Sydney Australia as her inspiration.  Stead’s US publishers thought the setting should be American to attract American readers.   They had her go that way and she used some kind of fictional Washington DC area as the locale.

Well,  in some ways it doesn’t work so well,  the language and family just aren’t “American,”  they’re more like Australians.  It reminds me a bit of Peter Carey’s Illywacker or Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (which I adore).  And the “American” locations don’t work all that well either.   But I’m well enough versed in Australian fiction – from Patrick White and  to Tim Winton  and even Christos Tsiokas and Bryce Courtenay – they all write about strange Australian families.

But on the other hand,  it’s very American considering Stead’s political views and the  e US of the 1930s – the Great Depression.  The time frame is probably 1928 through 1933.    And it’s about a family which is really unlucky and gets unendurably poor during the Great Depression.  The whole situation of that family is not too far afield from the way Stead grew up in Australia.   In fact,  it’s an exaggerated,  but pretty thinly disguised bio of  the author. 

At the outset of the novel we have Sam Pollit, the eponymous main character,  who has a wife,  Henrietta who was from a very well-to-do family.  The children in the home include Louisa (Louie) who is about 11 at the outset,  from Sam’s prior marriage.  These three characters are the main pivots of the book – they’re full and complete characters come to life on the page as much as any of Faulkner’s.  Sam and Henny are deliberately created as complete and thorough opposites while Louie is in some kind of middle space struggling to keep peace between the two adults,  but she finds herself in the middle of a life and death between her parents as well for own personhood

In this struggle Louie is hampered by exaggerated feelings of worthlessness and ugliness and angst thanks in large part to the treatment of her parents who see her as fat, lazy, unattractive, bumbling, and foolish – essentially worthless.    For all her pathetic appearance,  she does have a friend or two at school and a teacher takes her under her wing.   She emotionally closer to her father,  but begins to see where he is her abusive and manipulative jailer more than her protector.

Filling out the cast are the four young boys, Ernie, Tommy, Sam and Saul,  and another girl, Evie which Henny and Sam had together plus an assortment of extended family members and friends.  These are sketched more generally but Ernie and Evie come through nicely.

How can this ever have a funny moment?  I don’t know how Stead did it but it does.  Maybe it’s from my familiarity with other fictional Australian dysfunctional families – maybe there is something comical about the way dad struts around and invents a language and so on.  He tries to keep everything light and he’s charming and it works.

They live in a shambly house along with Sam’s poor,  unmarried sister Bonnie who helps with chores.   The uppity Henny is not happy with any part of the arrangement –  she doesn’t like the children – (although I suspect she loves them) – and she loathes her sister-in-law.  She despises her husband.   She’s not a likable character at all.

Sam is sent to Malay as part of his job leaving Henny at home to manage the children.  Although Sam sends what he can,  they have little to no money,   There is a chapter devoted to Sam’s time in Malay where he shows himself to be a very loving although naive man.  When Sam returns home  the action continues with mostly mayhem and bad luck including the onset of the Great Depression.

Sam goes into some kind of bizarre denial about everything, all is well,  the kids are brilliant, the day is fun,  and he’s not helpful.  Henny gets worse after the new baby which was born just after Sam’s return (a “female problem?”) .

As Louie the bookworm tries to hold the family together she tries to be obedient and loving in the face of abuse from both parents.  Her step-mother treats her like a servant to be yelled at and called names while  her father generally puts her down by making fun of her although she is supposedly his favorite.

Family life goes on through several years when the main problem is there is no money.  Henny borrows and sells things,  Sam borrows and spends.   There are other dilemmas and problems such as school and troubled in-laws.

Themes –   Ah yes!   Poverty,  abuse,  families and dysfunction with secrets and infidelity and denial and economic stresses to the point of hysterics and talk of homicide and/or suicide sprinkled though the narrative.

Feminism is obvious in the 21st century but it wasn’t originally intended as such. Evie’s being raised to be a wife and other “roles” developed are not quite pointed – they were a part of life as folks knew it.  But Henny screams about the “rights of women,”  too.  (Stead was not pro “women’s lib” of the 1960s.)

The language in much of the book is often really hard to read or listen to what with invented rhymes and names and words,  but other times it’s pitch perfect for upscale US hip in the 1930s (as far as I know) and I suspect there are other places where it’s immaculately rendered – the South Pacific for one thing.  And that’s to say nothing of Louie’s writings.   The language –  the ways we don’t understand each other,  and the ways we do.  Stead is a master.

Another theme might be capitalism which has resulted in the mess of the Great Depression which is the direct but unstated cause of the family’s economic misfortune but the spending habits of  Sam and Henny are deeply problematical.

Symbolism, the deeper I got into the book the more I was aware of.  There’s the fish and the water to start with – and the treasures Sam brings back from Malay.   I think this book needs several readings to get a grip on all this.

On the downside it’s too long although I’d be hard-pressed to decide what parts to cut. The tension builds perfectly the way it is.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/jun/10/featuresreviews.guardianreview29

Franzen in NY Times – essay

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christina_Stead

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1965/06/17/domestic-manners/?pagination=false

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/the_book_club/features/2001/the_man_who_loved_children/_2.html

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Mothering Sunday ~ by Graham Swift

I’ve read several books by Graham Swift and enjoyed them all,  Waterlands most but the others as well,  Last Orders;   Wish You Were Here;  The Light of Day.    I know what to expect of Swift and he’s not disappointed me yet – but nothing I’ve read has lived up to Waterlands, either.

mothering.jpeg

*******
Mothering Sunday: A Romance
by Graham Swift
2016/194 pages  (Kindle)
rating  9 / literary historical fiction
*******

Jane Fairchild and Paul Sheringham are lovers but it’s an impossible match because society in 1924 was not usually tolerant of gentlemen and maids getting together.  He’s using her in his own way but she seems not to object,  not for the most part, anyway.

The trouble is he’s getting married to Emma Hobday, an appropriate young woman from a family with money and that likely will be the end for Jane and Paul who have been seeing each other for about seven years.   Jane will continue to work for the Niven family down the road and Paul will move somewhere with Emma.

On their last day together Paul meets Jane at the front door of his home and the morning is spent in his bed with all the other family members gone and waiting for him.  After he leaves Jane wanders the house naked for awhile,  but finally, after the telephone stops ringing,  she too leaves.   This has been,  as the epigraph suggests,  her Cinderella ball.

Swift has crafted a truly beautiful tale (the term is used deliberately)  of romance,  but it’s way more than that – it’s also about writing and books and truth and social class and love and women and mothers and men and loss and grief and so many things all packed into a lovely slender volume.   I think I might be reading it again.

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The Cuckoo’s Calling ~ by Robert Galbaith

So now I’m rereading a crime novel and I never do that (and can’t say that anymore).   I do love this series by Galbraith – the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling.   I don’t know what I expected when I first read it, but certainly not that I’d actually be rereading the first of the series – and maybe all 3 which have been released to date.

The actual reason for the read is that a group (4-Mystery Addicts) chose it for a discussion  – but that really just gave me the opportunity.   (Fwiw,  I’ve only read the 1st book of the Harry Potter series  – if I’d been 10 years old I would have gobbled them all up as they came out but I was closer to 50.)

cuckoo.jpg
*******
The Cuckoo’s Calling
by Robert Galbaith
2013 /464 pages
read by Robert Glenister – 15h 54m
rating:    A+
*******

I know the flaws.  It’s too long and there are too many exotic characters,  but still…  there is a pull here and I really enjoy the book.   It’s different in some way – or really it’s Strike and Robin who are the draw because for all their personal problems,  they’re never depressing like so many single cops and detectives.   They tend to be humorous and fun,  almost cheery.

 The characters of the book other than Strike and Robin are really rather exotic to me.   I know nothing about the lives of the fabulously rich and rock-star famous.   And it was a kind of small twist to see a PI try to clear up a suicide making it into a homicide. The solution was unusual, too.   So this time it was more familiar and I paid more attention – even knowing the ending,  I wasn’t too clear on the hows and whys.

Cormoran Strike  is a disabled veteran of the wars in Afghanistan – he has a bad leg as a result,  but because he was in the police during his military service he’s set up shop as a private eye in London.   He needs a new secretary from the temp agency but the agency is not making enough money for that.  He’s engaged to a very rich woman but it’s a rocky relationship.  Strike’s father is the famous Rokeby but they have no contact – his mother is deceased.

Enter Robin Ellacott,  age 25,  who is well-organized, self-motivated, intuitive and a bit of fun.  She’s engaged to the straight-laced business-oriented Matthew and he’s not happy about her working for Strike.  Strike gets a first client whose adopted sister, Lula Landry,  is a world-famous model found dead after falling or being shoved out of the window of an upscale condo.  The police determined it was suicide but Lula’s brother is not convinced –  he thinks someone pushed her and hires Strike.

Strike interviews a lot of people and sneaks around some while Robin is amazing in whatever capacity she finds herself in.

The main characters –  from Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cuckoo%27s_Calling#Characters

  • Cormoran Strike is a struggling private investigator. He has few clients, a large debt, and is obliged by a recent break-up to sleep in his office on Denmark Street. He lost his leg in the Afghan war.
  • Robin Ellacott, aged 25, is Strike’s temporary secretary. She has has recently moved from Yorkshire with her boyfriend and becomes engaged the night before the novel begins. She is enthusiastic about detective work, is very intelligent, competent and resourceful. She reveals a number of surprising talents as the story unfolds.
  • Lula Landry (Talullah Bristow), a 23-year-old model who died in a fall three months prior to the events of the novel. The object of Strike’s investigation is to determine how Lula died.
  • John Bristow is Strike’s client and Lula’s adoptive brother.
  • Charlie Bristow is John Bristow’s brother and a boyhood friend of Strike’s. Charlie died when he fell into a quarry when he was around nine or ten years old. Charlie was about six years older than Lula Landry (Bristow).
  • Alison Cresswell is in a relationship with John Bristow. She works as a secretary for Tony Landry and Cyprian May in their legal practice.
  • Tony Landry is Lula and John’s maternal uncle. He disapproved of Lula’s lifestyle, and raised objections to Lula’s adoption in the first instance. He has a difficult relationship with his sister.
  • Lady Yvette Bristow is Lula and John’s adopted mother. She is terminally ill during the events of the novel, and her relations with Lula were strained.
  • Sir Alec Bristow is Lady Bristow’s late husband. He founded his own electronics company, Albris. Sir Alec was sterile and could not have children of his own. He and Lady Bristow adopted three children: John, Charlie, and Lula Bristow. Lula was adopted when she was four years old, shortly after Charlie’s death. Sir Alec died suddenly from a heart attack.
  • Cyprian May is a senior partner at the law firm where John Bristow works.
  • Ursula May (Chillngham) is Tansy Bestigui’s sister and Cyprian May’s wife.

Lula’s social circle: 

  • Evan Duffield is Lula’s on-off boyfriend, an actor with documented drug problems. He was the initial suspect in the media at the time of Lula’s death, but has numerous witnesses to an alibi. He argued with Lula before her death.
  • Rochelle Onifade is a homeless friend of Lula’s, whom she had known since her teenage years in an outpatient clinic.
  • Guy Somé (Owusu) is a fashion designer, and had a close (though platonic) relationship with Lula. He is the one who calls her “Cuckoo”. He was in Tokyo in the week leading up to her death and is an astute character witness.
  • Deeby Macc is an American rapper who was supposed to arrive to stay in the apartment below Lula’s in Kentigern Gardens on the night of her death.
  • Kieran Kolovas-Jones is Lula’s personal driver who has aspirations of fame as an actor.
  • Ciara Porter is a model, and a friend of Lula’s.
  • Freddie Bestigui is a film producer and neighbour of Lula’s. He is difficult to contact and has a reputation for being difficult and abusive. He and his wife Tansy are in the process of a divorce.
  • Tansy Bestigui (Chillngham) is Freddie’s wife and a key witness, claiming to have overheard some of the events on the night of Lula’s death. Her plausibility is an issue for the police, and initially for Strike. She is the sister of Ursula May.
  • Bryony Radford is Lula’s personal makeup artist and one of the people she meets on the day of her death.

Lula’s biological family:

  • Marlene Higson is Lula’s biological mother. She sells her story to the press at every opportunity and lives in much poorer circumstances than Lula’s adoptive family. She had two sons after giving birth to Lula, but Lula was not interested in helping Marlene find them. Both were taken away by social services.
  • Dr Joseph “Joe” Agyeman , Lula’s biological father. He met Marlene Higson as a student. Later an academic, specialising in African and Ghanian politics. He died five years before the events of the novel.
  • Jonah Agyeman is Lula’s biological half-brother, serving in the British Army in Afghanistan.

Cormoran and Robin’s friends and family: 

  • Lucy Strike is Cormoran Strike’s younger half-sister, Strike attends her son’s birthday party during the novel. Strike describes her as judgmental, and craving a desire for suburban stability. He admits to being fonder of her than almost anyone else, though their relationship is often strained.
  • Jonny Rokeby is Strike’s famous pop-star father and has only met him twice in his lifetime.
  • Leda Strike is Strike’s mother, a ‘supergroupie’ of Jonny Rokeby’s. Although an habitual drug user, she died of a heroin overdose (a drug she had not previously used) when Strike was 20. He has always suspected his stepfather had something to do with her death, though few agree with him.
  • Charlotte Campbell is Strike’s longtime, rich and mercurial fiancée, from whom he finally splits as the novel starts.
  • Matthew Cunliffe is Robin’s fiancé and works as an accountant. He proposes to Robin at the beginning of the novel. He does not approve of her working for Strike, whom he initially considers to be a shady character. He is described as being tall and “conventionally good looking”.
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