“The bloke who told me who’d stabbed that police informer, remember?”
This is how Strike first describes Shanker to Robin. Shanker is all this and more.
The first time Robin sees Shanker, she’s alone at the office, so his appearance terrifies her. He is described as “gaunt and pale, his head was shaven, a few freckles were scattered across a broad nose and his mouth was wide and thick lipped. Tattoos covered his wrists, knuckles and neck…. A deep scar ran from the middle of his upper lip towards his cheekbone, dragging his mouth upwards in a permanent Elvis-style sneer.”
But Strike later assures Robin that Shanker would never hurt her. He might rob her blind, but he wouldn’t harm her.
Shanker and Strike (who Shanker calls Bunsen, for reasons Strike no longer remembers) met when they were teenagers. Strike’s mother, Leda, took Shanker in at their Whitechapel squat after he was hurt in a gang street fight, and she looked after him (as best she could) while he healed. He ended up staying around, becoming fiercely loyal to Leda and somewhat of a brother to Strike.
As adults, Shanker and Strike are old friends, but mainly business associates of sorts. Shanker is Strike’s connection to London’s criminal underworld, providing him useful information and intel — such as the whereabouts of Jeff Whittaker. But “Strike never forgot what Shanker was, nor did Shanker ever forget what Strike was,” as they work on opposite sides of the law. And it’s always business — Strike pays Shanker for every service performed. As Strike says to Robin, Shanker “does nothing for nothing.”
Robin keeps this in mind for later….