Study Guide

Cloud Atlas Part 3: Half-Lives—The First Luisa Rey Mystery (Chapters 21-39)

By David Mitchell

Part 3: Half-Lives—The First Luisa Rey Mystery (Chapters 21-39)

Chapter 21

  • Luisa has a difficult time convincing Dom Grelsch to let her follow the story.
  • It doesn't make any sense that Sixsmith would have a typed suicide note if his suicide were a snap decision.
  • Grelsch says, "So, […] everyone got it wrong except Luisa Rey, ace cub reporter" (3.21.19). He obviously didn't read the header of this section, calling it "the first Luisa Rey mystery." Our money's on her.
  • Luisa responds, "If Bob Woodward had told you [about Watergate] would you have said, 'Forget it, Bob, honey, I need eight hundred words on salad dressings?'" (3.21.24).
  • Then Luisa plays the dad card, saying her dad once told her that Dom Grelsch was the most daring reporter anywhere in the mid-60s.
  • Grelsch isn't happy about it, but he agrees to let Luisa pursue the story. Luisa: 1. Seaboard: 0.

Chapter 22

  • A man at the Lost Chord Music Store receives a call from Luisa Rey. She's looking for Cloud Atlas Sextet by Robert Frobisher.
  • The music store man manages to track down a copy—"only five hundred records pressed" (3.22.1)—and says he'll call her when it comes in.

Chapter 23

  • Bill Smoke is scoping out Luisa's apartment, but she doesn't notice him. She's too busy lost in thought about Sixsmith's letters.
  • Reading Sixsmith's letters bring back memories, memories Luisa knows she shouldn't have, because they belong to a man who lived over 40 years prior.
  • As Luisa steps onto the elevator, the building super tries to tell her that a man went up to her apartment twenty minutes ago, but she doesn't hear him.

Chapter 24

  • The uninvited guest isn't Bill Smoke. Thankfully, it's Hal Brodie, Luisa's ex-boyfriend. They do a final division of possessions. He takes his things and leaves.
  • Luisa goes into the bathroom and looks at herself in the mirror, specifically the comet-shaped birthmark in the exact same place that Frobisher says he had one.
  • Luisa tries to tell herself that "coincidences happen all the time" (3.24.26).

Chapter 25

  • Luisa tries to get access to the Swannekke Island protestor camp, saying she's a journalist for Spyglass magazine.
  • "Shouldn't you be writing about the latest adventures of Barbra Streisand's nose?" (3.25.8).
  • Before Milton, the snarky guard, can kick Luisa off the premises, an elderly woman named Dr. Hester Van Zandt lets her come inside.

Chapter 26

  • Van Zandt tells Luisa about Seaboard's power. Not only can they do whatever they want; they can buy the media to cover things up.
  • Luisa tells Van Zandt that she believes Rufus Sixsmith wrote a report condemning the HYDRA reactor.
  • To illustrate just how far Seaboard will go (murder, for example), Van Zandt tells Luisa about Margo Roker, an activist who owns the land the protests stay on.
  • Some "burglars" broke into her apartment and almost beat her to death. Her hospital bills are so high that her family is considering selling the land to Open Vista, a real estate company owned by Seaboard. The plot thickens.

Chapter 27

  • In the Seaboard offices, Alberto Grimaldi, Bill Smoke, Joe Napier, and Fay Li have a meeting. The topic: Luisa Rey. She's making them nervous.
  • After Fay and Joe leave, Grimaldi expresses concern about Lloyd Hooks and tells Bill to arrange an "accident" for Luisa.

Chapter 28

  • At the Swannekke Hotel bar, Isaac Sachs contemplates shredding the Sixsmith report he has in his possession. Hmm, the Sixsmith Report—sounds like a Robert Ludlum novel...
  • On second thought, Sachs thinks of all the damage that could happen if he keeps the report a secret. "Dare I cross that line?" (3.28.1).
  • Meanwhile, Sachs watches as Luisa Rey enters. He flees from the woman he thought was Megan Sixsmith.
  • Luisa takes his seat and "watches yachts in the creamy evening blues" (3.29.4).

Chapter 29

  • Lloyd Hooks is telling Alberto Grimaldi a story. Grimaldi's time is too important for this, so he rehearses an imaginary speech in his head.
  • The topic: power. The point: the rich deserve to get richer, and the poor deserve to "live and die […] as livestock" (3.29.2). Yeah, he's a charmer.

Chapter 30

  • Luisa "plays the ditzy reporter" (3.30.1) to get on Fay Li's good side and prove she's not a threat.
  • Fay Li formally introduces Luisa to Isaac Sachs, who agrees to answer all of her questions.

Chapter 31

  • The interview with Isaac Sachs is more like a date than an interview. Sachs flirts with Luisa, Luisa talks about her VW Beetle's name. (It's Garcia, if you were wondering.)
  • After the interview, Sachs reveals that all the scientists involved in the reactor were pressured into keeping their big mouths shut. Sixsmith is the exception.
  • Luisa tells him that if she had proof, she'd go public with it.

Chapter 32

  • The next morning, Sachs is supposed to meet Luisa for breakfast, but Joe Napier shows up instead.
  • He tells Luisa that Sachs was called away to Three Mile Island that morning on urgent business.
  • Even though it's Saturday morning, Napier agrees to give Luisa a tour of the facility.

Chapter 33

  • In the reactor room, Napier wonders how he got himself into this mess. Why did it have to be Luisa Rey? He knew Luisa's father and remembers her as a six-year-old. "Who dreamed up this sick joke?" (3.33.9), he wonders.

Chapter 34

  • While Napier's giving Luisa the grand tour, Fay Li snoops around Luisa's hotel room.
  • Fay finds nothing and leaves right before Luisa returns. Then she calls and invites Luisa to dinner.

Chapter 35

  • Over a yummy lobster dinner, Fay smooth talks Luisa, saying that she can be of big help in helping Luisa find the Sixsmith report.
  • "Men invented money. Women invented mutual aid" (3.35.16), she says.
  • Luisa can't believe that Fay would cooperate with her and wonders if she should trust her or not.

Chapter 36

  • Luisa's phone rings in the middle of night, waking her up.
  • It's Sachs. He tells her that he "gave Garcia a present to give to [her]" (3.36.7). Remember, Garcia is her car.
  • Luisa wishes Sachs a safe flight and decides to get the hell out of Swannekke.

Chapter 37

  • Joe Napier's listening to the bug in Luisa's phone, but he has no clue who Garcia is.
  • Bill Smoke calls, demanding to know who Garcia is. Napier has a bad feeling about what's going to go down, and he makes a mad dash for Luisa's hotel.

Chapter 38

  • As Luisa flees the hotel, she has a strange glimmer of déjà vu from another life: "Robert Frobisher doing a dine and dash from another hotel" (3.38.1). Perhaps it's a glitch in the Matrix?
  • In her car trunk, Luisa finds the Sixsmith report stashed in a black garbage bag. She crams it under her passenger seat.
  • Looking in the rearview mirror, Luisa sees Joe Napier running for her. She puts the VW into reverse and high-tails it out of there.

Chapter 39

  • Bill Smoke is on Swannekke Bridge. He goes to the guard station and overrules Napier's order to block Luisa from leaving. "You will raise the barrier for the VW and let me follow" (3.39.6).
  • As Luisa crosses the bridge, Smoke slams into her with his Chevy. The VW smashes through the railing and plummets off the bridge.
  • Talk about a cliffhanger!