Study Guide

Cloud Atlas Part 9: Half-Lives—The First Luisa Rey Mystery (Chapters 40-60)

By David Mitchell

Part 9: Half-Lives—The First Luisa Rey Mystery (Chapters 40-60)

Chapter 40

  • Garcia, Luisa's VW Beetle, is sinking fast. With her in it. She manages to kick free and swim to the surface, but not before the Sixsmith report gets carried away in an underwater jet stream.
  • Bye-bye, Garcia. You deserved a better fate than being unceremoniously buried at sea.

Chapter 41

  • Isaac Sachs writes a bunch of intellectual pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo in a notebook, unaware that there's a bomb under his plane seat.
  • The high point of Sachs's writing is a bunch of confusing stuff about time. Also, he thinks he's fallen in love with Luisa.
  • Before we can ponder this further—BOOM! The plane explodes, taking Sachs and everyone aboard with it.

Chapter 42

  • Llody Hooks is telling a dirty joke when Bill Smoke enters the room.
  • From the back of the room, Smoke gives Hooks a hand signal. It means, "Alberto Grimaldi, dead; Isaac Sachs, dead; Luisa Rey, dead. Swindler, sneak, snoop" (9.42.2).
  • Now we know who's behind this whole thing.

Chapter 43

  • Luisa is rescued by the river from Hester van Zandt, the head of the Swannekke protestors.
  • Luisa tells van Zandt that she plans on hiding out at her mother's while she looks for an alternative to the Sixsmith report, lost at sea.
  • Van Zandt's right-hand man, Milton, agrees to drive Luisa to her apartment.
  • "I'd trust Milton with my life" (9.43.22), says van Zandt.

Chapter 44

  • Milton phones Joe Napier, saying he's got some information.
  • In exchange for some cash, he spills the beans that Luisa's still alive and that she's going to be staying with her mother. That snake.

Chapter 45

  • When Luisa enters her apartment, Javier says her Uncle Joe is visiting. They've been watching TV.
  • Uh-oh. Luisa doesn't have an Uncle Joe. She tries to get Javier out of the apartment, but Joe Napier pops up.
  • He tries to convince Luisa that he wasn't the one who drove her off the bridge.
  • To persuade her, he has a story...

Chapter 46

  • Joe Napier tells Luisa the story of how her dad saved his life.
  • Napier was one of the cops who got the call that there was a shootout on Silvaplana Wharf. He and his partner were one of the only people who responded.
  • When Luisa's dad ran by, he spotted a grenade that had been chucked in Napier's general direction.
  • Luisa's dad kicked it away. When it blew up, Napier suffered minimal damage while "Lester was a piece of Swiss cheese" (9.46.3).
  • Luisa's still wary, wondering if Alberto Grimaldi paid him to say these things.
  • Napier tells Luisa that Bill Smoke was the one who tried to kill her.
  • Before he leaves, Napier tells Luisa she should learn to use a gun. This isn't over yet.

Chapter 47

  • Before she leaves for her mom's house, Luisa has a discussion with Javier about the future. Just a little small talk. "What if trying to avoid the future is what triggers it all?" (9.47.4).
  • Javier shakes Luisa's hand when she leaves, and she wonders if it's the last time she'll see him.

Chapter 48

  • Luisa's mom is having a party. It's a blast: Bill Smoke, the guy who tried to kill Luisa, is there, and everyone is asking why she isn't married yet. Where's our invite?

Chapter 49

  • The Henderson triplets have a stomach-turning conversation that pretty much reveals how racist and greedy they all are.
  • The point: anyone who tries to reach a point of power should demonstrate how they will profit from it. Ugh.
  • Luisa takes the "against" stance in this debate: "[When a man aspires to power] I ask three simple questions. How did he get that power? How is he using it? And how can it be taken off the sonofab****?" (9.49.8).

Chapter 50

  • Luisa's mom can't believe that Luisa stood up for her beliefs. She considers it "rebellion issues" (9.50.1).
  • Bill Smoke interrupts this touching mother-daughter moment, introducing himself as Herman Howitt.
  • Within seconds, Luisa's mom tries to set her up on a date with Bill Smoke. That would end well.
  • Luisa's attention is drawn away by the news. There's been a horrible accident—Isaac Sachs's plane has exploded.

Chapter 51

  • Rumors buzz at Spyglass that the magazine is being bought out and shut down. Luisa listens to all the rumors without comment.

Chapter 52

  • Vice CEO of Seaboard, William Wiley, holds a meeting with Joe Napier. He offers to let Napier retire early.
  • Eager to get the heck out of there, Napier agrees. They're just as eager to have him gone, and they escort him off the island immediately.

Chapter 53

  • Luisa takes a trip to the Lost Chord Music Store. We guess it's her lunch break.
  • There's some wonderful music playing when she walks in, and Luisa feels like she knows it.
  • Luisa tells the clerk she's there to pick up the copy of Cloud Atlas Sextet that was ordered for her.
  • The clerk admits that the music playing is actually Cloud Atlas Sextet.
  • Even though she's never listened to it before, the music sounds so familiar to Luisa.

Chapter 54

  • Back at Spyglass, Luisa gets called into Grelsch's office. The owner of Spyglass, K.P. Ogilvy, fires her.
  • Luisa wants to know: why her? She wants to know why Trans Vision, the new owner, wants Spyglass so bad. She wants to know "[what] the overlap [is] between Trans Vision and Seaboard Power?" (9.54.17).
  • Ogilvy pretty much kicks her out without answering any questions.

Chapter 55

  • Free from Seaboard, Napier drives out to a cabin that he built with his father and brothers.
  • Every noise makes Napier paranoid, and he hardly gets any sleep.
  • Napier remembers the night he went to Margo Roker's house with Bill Smoke. Bill Smoke beat the old woman to within an inch of her life... and Napier did nothing about it.
  • Wracked with guilt, he realizes that he has to help Luisa; he can't just let her die.

Chapter 56

  • Luisa's feeling dejected about being fired.
  • At her mom's house, she reads the paper, seeing that Lloyd Hooks is the new CEO of Seaboard.
  • Luisa knows she's onto something. "On behalf of the truth […] I'm freelance" (9.56.12).
  • Looking at the woman her daughter has become, Luisa's mom seems to regret that she ended up just like her father.

Chapter 57

  • At the Snow White Diner, Luisa runs into boss—er, we mean former boss, Dom Grelsch.
  • Grelsch confesses that he made an agreement with the owners: if he admitted to have never heard of the Sixsmith Report, his wife's medical bills would be paid.
  • "We all make choices about levels of risk" (9.57.18), he tells Luisa.
  • However, Grelsch did a little digging for Luisa. Her lets her know that the CEO and Vice CEO of Seaboard are both involved with Trans World, Spyglass's new owners.
  • Grelsch also lets Luisa know that she should speak with Fran Peacock at the Western Messenger when she has all the evidence. That paper is very interested in Luisa's story.

Chapter 58

  • Jerry and the rest of the Spyglass staff help Luisa load all her stuff into her mother's sports car.
  • Coincidentally, Luisa has received an envelope. Inside it is a key to the Third Bank of California.
  • Luisa races off the bank, telling her former colleagues, "It's a small world. It keeps recrossing itself" (9.58.11). Don't we know it.

Chapter 59

  • On the way to the bank, Luisa re-reads the letter that was inside the envelope. It says it's from Rufus Sixsmith.
  • It's strange, but back in Chapter 15, Sixsmith put the report in locker 909 at the airport. What's at the Third Bank of California?
  • Luisa gets to the bank, lost in thought. She doesn't notice the black Chevy parked across the street. Dum dum dummm.

Chapter 60

  • Fay Li, of all people, is waiting with some goons inside the bank.
  • They lurk in the safe deposit box area until Luisa comes in, and they grab her.
  • Threatening Javier, Fay Li gets Luisa to hand over the strongbox, then she sends her off with her thugs. Li tells them, in Chinese, to shoot her and dispose of the body. Yikes.
  • They take Luisa away as Fay Li opens the strongbox and pulls out the Sixsmith report... which is attached to a bomb.