Why was Owen Quine murdered in Strike: The Silkworm?

The killer’s motives weren’t entirely clear in the latest episode of the JK Rowling crime drama – contains spoilers

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After a heated chase through the heart of London private detective Cormoran Strike has solved another case, bringing the killer of novelist Owen Quine (Jeremy Swift) to justice after a thrilling two-episode storyline in BBC detective series Strike.

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However, as with previously-televised story The Cuckoo’s Calling the resolution to The Silkworm might leave a few viewers scratching their heads – so we’ve pulled together the biggest questions you may have been left with after finishing the episode. Look out for spoilers ahead…


Why did Liz Tassel kill Owen Quine?

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At the end of tonight’s episode it was revealed that Quine had been killed by his agent Liz Tassel (Lia Williams), and for quite complicated reasons. While Liz had represented both Owen and future rival Andrew Fancourt at the start of their careers, she had long wanted to put pen to paper herself, and ended up writing a vicious parody of a book written by Andrew’s then-wife Ellie that led to the latter killing herself.

Most of the world assumed the parody was by Owen, but he knew the truth – and so he used the information to blackmail Tassel, leeching off her money for 30 years and forcing her to choose him when Andrew (convinced Owen had caused his wife’s death) gave Liz an ultimatum over representing them both.

“Owen Quine had a price for keeping your secret,” Strike says in the episode. “You didn’t support that family out of pity – he blackmailed you. For nearly 30 years.”

Suffice it to say, Liz had plenty of motives for revenge.


Yes, but why did she kill him NOW?

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Well, here’s the rub. While Liz had ample reason to kill Quine, it’s left a little unclear in the TV adaptation why she snapped at this particular moment in time after suffering in silence for 30 years.

However, if we turn to JK Rowling’s original 2014 novel (written under the penname Robert Galbraith) the details are laid out a little clearer. Liz decided to act at this particular moment because Owen had just told her about his new manuscript, Bombyx Mori, which featured both a grisly death scene and digs at many of his old rivals.

Liz recognised this as an opportunity to both off Quine and implicate several of his enemies (as well as his wife Leonora, played by Monica Dolan) in his death, beginning her scheme by convincing him to stage a publicity stunt via a fake restaurant argument.

“It was your idea for Quine to make a scene in the restaurant, shout at you, storm out – and later, he’d hole up at Hogarth road while the press picked up on the row and his disappearance,” Strike told Tassel after he had discovered her guilt. “It had worked for him in the past.”

Killing Quine in a horrific, ritualised torture, Tassel then rewrote Bombyx Mori to match the circumstances of the death while simulataneously ramping up the obvious parallels with Quine’s colleagues and making it a more unpleasant attack on them. She also destroyed every scrap of the real novel she could find, removing all Quine’s notebooks and hiding his typewriter to cover up her actions and charging suspicious items to the family credit card to implicate his wife.


How did Strike work it out?

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An early clue was that Bombyx Mori, while full of horrible details and scandals of everyone’s lives, omitted one embarrassing story – Fancourt’s failure to perform sexually with Tassel, which Owen was aware of and would definitely have included in such an attack.

Tassel, however, didn’t want to include her own shame, and later a comparison with one of her old short stories by literary experts suggested that Bombyx AND the parody of Ellie Fancourt’s novel were both written by her.

“It’s all there in the book you wrote, Miss Tassel – your hurt, when Andrew rejected your writing and again when he rejected your love,” Strike explained at the story’s climax.

Strike’s sidekick Robin (Holliday Grainger) also found some pages and the typewriter ribbon from the original Bombyx Mori that had been secreted by Quine’s daughter Orlando, with the full copy later found at Tassel’s house along with Quine’s removed intestines (which, admittedly, is a bit more convincing than literary criticism).

Quine’s missing typewriter was also found in the millpond of Tassel’s friend Dorcas Pengelly, piling yet more evidence towards her guilt, while the acid she used to mutilate Quine’s body was found to have damaged her throat when she inhaled the fumes.

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All in all, then, there was a fair amount of evidence that put Tassel behind bars. You’d think that after 30 years of waiting she’d have been a bit more prepared…