Strike makes Nina Lascelles’ acquaintance via her cousin Dominic Culpepper, a journalist who frequently hires Strike for investigative work. Nina works as an editor for Roper Chard, the publishing house that plays prominently in The Silkworm.
The chapter in which Strike first meets Nina in person is assigned this epigraph: “She is a woman of an excellent assurance, and an extraordinary happy wit, and tongue.” — quoted from Ben Jonson’s Epicoene, or The Silent Woman.
This quote describes Nina’s personality perfectly. Strike had talked to Nina on the phone before their meeting, and it’s already quite obvious that she’s a very clever and witty woman. She’s the daughter of a member of the Queen’s Counsel, which by association confers on Nina a social status that she seems to eschew.
Nina becomes very useful to Strike in his investigation of the Owen Quine murder. Also, the two “date” a few times, with Strike even taking Nina to his birthday party thrown by his sister Lucy. He seems to take a certain pride in “the act of bringing Nina with him to the family party” as a “declaration of noncomformity.” After all, Nina “was highly strung, happy to take risks and chances. She lived alone and talked books not babies.”
Physically, Nina is described as “a pale, petite girl whose dominant feature was a pair of large brown eyes…. She looked, Strike thought, like an alert and excited mouse.” It’s obvious that Nina is interested in Strike — she’s open with her admiration of him, from his expansive memory to his army medal; she wears a sexy strappy black dress for him; she’s eager to fit in with his friends (even using the term “blimey” to “demonstrate to Strike that she too could mingle happily with the proletariat”); and they sleep together several times at her home in the London area of St. John’s Wood.
Things end badly for Strike and Nina. His lack of interest in small women plus his just recently having broken up with Charlotte are stacked against Nina’s chances of landing him in a long-term relationship with her “hopeful clutches.” In the end, Strike knows he’s simply using Nina — both for her Roper Chard connections and her sexual comfort — and he quits seeing her, realizing that his treatment of her “had become cheap, shameful, and she deserved better.”