Warning: contains finale spoilers for Strike Series 5
The farting was plot-relevant! Oh, me of little faith. What first appeared to be a dubious tonal choice for the scene in which Cormoran and Robin conducted a murder witness interview through a parping orchestra of old lady guffs turned out to be a pivotal clue. The farts and the murders were caused (if not committed) by the same person!
That person was former nurse, current psychopath and serial poisoner Janice Beattie (played in the present day by small screen powerhouse Anna Calder-Marshall), a killer who displayed her murderous trophies just as flagrantly as Dennis Creed, and who evaded capture for far longer. Janice and her cupboardful of poisons were making pal Irene Hickson unwell, hence her rotting-sheep-in-a-ditch flatulence. In case anybody missed a detail in the Troubled Blood finale, here’s how it all played out.
What Happened to Dr Margot Bamborough?
Janice, a nurse at her GP surgery, drugged her and suffocated her to death because Margot rightly suspected Janice of being a serial poisoner. Janice was a psychopathic killer who routinely poisoned people, many fatally. Why did she do it? “Sometimes it’s to make them grateful after I looked after them, sometimes it’s because they pissed me off, and other times I just liked watching them go,” she told Cormoran, adding, “It would have been nice to have killed you though. That would have been a special one.” She almost did kill Cormoran, when she pulled her signature move by sending him a box of poisoned chocolates at Christmas, after he started sniffing around her false identity as Beth Spencer, the Athorns’ fake social worker. Good job he only ate the one.
Back in the 1970s, Janice was poisoning her colleague Dr Brenner (hence the ampoule found in his drink), her neighbour Steve Douthwaite (played by Confessions of a Window Cleaner’s Robin Askwith), and her own young son Kevin. Janice was obsessed with Steve and murdered his married girlfriend by forcing her to drink bleach and framing her death as a suicide to clear her out of the way. She also planned to murder little Kevin, whom she made ill by poisoning special “drinks” so that she could be with Steve unencumbered by a child, but stopped when Steve ran away. Margot treated Kevin for what seemed to be his chronic illness, which is what aroused her suspicions. Janice tracked Steve down to a holiday camp and killed his next girlfriend by drowning her in a swimming pool, which is why Steve changed his name again and fled to Skegness.
Poisoned Chocolates, the Athorns and the Concrete
Janice sent Margot an anonymous box of poisoned chocolates that Margot was too suspicious to eat, so Janice poisoned a doughnut that receptionist Gloria fetched for the working-late GP. Margot left work on the day of her disappearance drugged, struggled with Janice by the phone box (as per the witness report) before collapsing and being dragged by Janice to the nearby Athorns’ flat.
There, Janice had prepared a sack of concrete and bribed drug addict Gwilhelm Athorn to let her put him and his family to sleep while she killed Margot. Janice encased Margot’s body in concrete and stashed it inside the Athorns’ ottoman, which is where Robin found it decades later. When Gwilhelm came around, he walked in on Janice killing Margot, so she told him that he’d done it with magic, which he believed and told his learning disabled wife and son, hence that weird rumour.
Janice kept framed photographs of all her victims on the wall of her flat, including Steve’s two girlfriends, Margot, and many, many more. The series ended with her facing trial and her son Kevin willing to testify against her for having poisoned him as a child.
So, It Wasn’t the Riccis or Dennis Creed?
They had nothing to do with Margot’s disappearance. Nico Ricci and his son Luca were responsible for the murder of Carnival Club waitress Kara Wolfson (as seen in that horrible Super 8 snuff film), and Dennis Creed had killed several women as well as schoolgirl Louise Tucker, but it was Janice who killed Margot. Creed merely alluded to having killed her to boost his sick serial killer ego. The so-called written confession about the victim with medical training that Louise’s father was given from Creed’s room was just vague posturing from his memoir.
Cormoran manipulated Creed into giving him a clue to the location of Louise Tucker’s remains, which Robin solved through her knowledge of astrology and astronomy. “M54” is in the constellation Sagittarius, aka The Archer, and Creed had dumped Louise’s body in a well at The Archer hotel, which is where her body was found decades later, bringing closure to her father Brian.
What About the Necklace?
Margot’s real locket having been buried in concrete with her inside the Athorn’s ottoman, Janice bought a replica and sent it to Margot’s daughter Anna in an attempt to make her think that her mother was still alive – part sick game, part attempt to make her stop trying to investigate the disappearance.
Was There Anything to DI Talbot’s Occult Theory?
Only that it connected Margot to Steve’s two dead girlfriends as victims, leading Cormoran and Robin to Steve Douthwaite/Jacks/Diamond, which eventually led Cormoran to deduce it was Janice committing the murders.
The Return of Izzy Chiswell
Troubled Blood featured a call-back to Lethal White with a cameo appearance by Christina Cole as Izzy Chiswell, the daughter of murder victim Jasper Chiswell in Series 4. In that story, Robin used her fake posh persona Venetia Hall to infiltrate the Chiswells’ parliamentary world, and she and Cormoran eventually proved Izzy’s brother Raff as guilty of their father’s murder. In this series, Robin uses Izzy’s contacts to pull strings at the Home Office to allow the Dennis Creed interview at Belmarsh.
Johnny Rokeby and Carl Oakden’s book
Not only did Cormoran lose his Aunt Joan, the woman who raised him following the death of his mother Leda, in Troubled Blood, but his absent father Johnny Rokeby revealed that he’s suffering from bowel cancer. Rokeby reached out to Cormoran several times this series, inviting him to the 50th anniversary celebrations for his band, and using half-brother Al to try to convince Cormoran to come into the Rokeby fold. Even Uncle Ted, Leda’s brother, told Cormoran that Joan wanted him to unite with his biological father.
Throughout, Cormoran stayed resolute and told Ted that he was always the only father he’d ever had. Rokeby’s sudden appearance though, shook Cormoran enough to prompt a drinking session, and the subject was raw enough for him to spark out grubby writer Carl Oakden when he provoked him over his parents’ relationship.
Oakden dropped the bombshell in the Troubled Blood finale that he’s now writing a book about Cormoran, which may recur in series six, adapted from The Ink Black Heart.
Matt & Sarah, Saul, and Cormoran and Robin’s Future?
Series 5 finally saw the end of Robin and Matt, as their divorce went through and she learned that he’s planning to marry his pregnant girlfriend Sarah (with whom he cheated on Robin multiple times). Robin took it well and was very mature about the whole thing.
Robin also dealt with the unwanted attentions of contractor Saul, who undermined her authority, sent her an unsolicited dick pic and jumped out at her at work “as a joke”, which went down like a lead balloon. After giving him a fair chance, she fired him, with the support of Efficient Pat (Ruth Sheen). Might that decision come back to bite her?
The series concluded on a note of almost-romance for the two sleuths, after their shared intimacy eating mushy peas on the beach in Skegness, and the night of the accidental black eye, the whisky and the and curry. Cormoran made up for half-arsing Robin’s birthday and Christmas presents by getting her that pony (inflatable and tied to a ribbon), and taking her shopping for pricy perfume and dinner. With festive lights twinkling and piano music tinkling, the pair almost seemed about to kiss, but instead Strike hugged Robin and told her that she was his best friend. Given his unresolved family issues, drink problem (see: the dinner party) and inability to control his temper which accidentally landed Robin with a black eye, that’s probably for the best. Until next time.
Strike: Troubled Blood is available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK. It will air on HBO Max in the US at a later date.