Irene Bull/ Hickson

Irene Bull was one of the two receptionists at St John’s medical practice during the time of Margot’s disappearance.1 Even though Irene was out of the office that afternoon for a dentist appointment,2 it was said that DI Talbot suspected she was a liar.3 Margot’s partner, Dr. Gupta, said that she could be “cheeky” and “a handful.”4 

Strike finds a photograph of Irene in an old press report in which she is a “slight, dark girl and what he thought was probably a peroxide blonde.”5 Her hair is the same shade when Strike and Robin meet Irene for a joint interview with Irene and her best friend — also from St John’s — Janice Beattie.

“Turns out they’ve been friends since the St. John’s practice days. Irene will be delighted to host Janice and us at her house on Saturday afternoon. I think we should both go.” 7

Irene lives on Circus Street in Greenwich which, according to Strike, is a long way from Corporation Row,” where she grew up.

“Like her sitting room, Irene Hickson presented a first impression of over-embellished, over-padded opulence. Just as blonde as she’d been at twenty-five, she was now much heavier, with an enormous bosom. She’d outlined her hooded eyes in black, penciled her sparse brows into a high, Pierrot-ish arch and painted her thin lips in scarlet. In a mustard-colored twinset, black trousers, patent heels and a large quantity of gold jewelry, which included clip-on earrings so heavy that they were stretching her already long lobes, she advanced on them in a potent cloud of amber perfume and hairspray.”9 

Having a tendency to exaggerate and a desire to be the center of attention, Irene finds that Strike and Robin’s interview doesn’t quite live up to her expectations.10 Strike doesn’t suspect her in Margot’s disappearance but does suspect that she is “a liar, a gossip and a compulsive attention-seeker.”11 Irene continues to interrupt or talk over Janice throughout the meeting, and Strike thought she gave the “general impression that she feared that if she did not make a noise every few seconds, Strike might forget she was there.”12 

We also learn that Irene suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and, despite her upbeat attitude, is suffering from her condition during the interview. 

“‘Irritable bowel syndrome. It flares up. The pain is sometimes — well. The funny thing is, I was fine all the time I was away — I’ve been staying with my eldest daughter, they’re in Hampshire, that’s why I didn’t get your letter straight away — but the moment I got home, I called Jan, I said, you’ll have to come, I’m in that much pain—and my GP’s no use,’ she added, with a little moue of disgust. ‘Woman. All my own fault, according to her!’”13 

While Strike might not think Irene is a good suspect, he isn’t left with the most favorable impression of her. He is later accused by Janice of not liking her. “‘I know you didn’t like ’er,’ said Janice abruptly. ‘Irene. Don’t bovver pretending, I know she annoyed you.’”14 


1: Troubled Blood, Chapter 10
2: Troubled Blood, Chapter 19
3: Troubled Blood, Chapter 30
4, 5: Troubled Blood, Chapter 10
5: Troubled Blood, Chapter 10
6: Troubled Blood, Chapter 20
7: Troubled Blood, Chapter 18
8-10: Troubled Blood, Chapter 20
11: Troubled Blood, Chapter 21
12, 13: Troubled Blood, Chapter 20
14: Troubled Blood, Chapter 50