Family Ties: Guessing the Ages of the Ellacott Brothers

Timeline mistakes are par for the course in the Cormoran Strike series, but Career of Evil seems to have more than its fair share. Donald Laing alone would make your head spin, but on my latest re-read I realized there is also some minor inconsistency in the lifelines of Robin’s brothers.

We know she has three:  Stephen, the eldest, and Martin and Jonathan, who are younger. The question is, is it possible to deduce anything about their ages, relative (pardon the pun) to Robin?

Stephen is perhaps the easiest.  Robin remembers racing him to choose the preferred donkey in Skegness as a child,  which suggests he isn’t too much older than her;  I would estimate one to three years at the most. The biggest inconsistency in his story that I have found, so far, is his marital status circa 2011. In early April, on Robin’s trip to Masham for a wedding dress fitting, Robin reflects that her parents would be paying for half of Steven’s wedding in “six months time.” Yet, less than three months later, at Robin’s Lethal White wedding reception, Jenny introduces herself as “Stephen’s wife.” If they moved up the wedding, Robin clearly did not go to it. Maybe they caught a glimpse of the bills for Robin’s nuptials, and decided to elope.

What about the younger two? Both are old enough to go out drinking after Mrs. Cunliffe’s funeral in The Silkworm, meaning they are at least 18 in January 2011. In Career of Evil, Martin, the second-to- youngest, is old enough to bet on horses. We are also told that he is the only Ellacott sibling not to attend university and to still live at home, and is considered a bit of an “underachiever” because of this. This suggests he is at least in his early 20’s, so my best guess is that he is somewhere between 1-5 years younger than Robin, who was 26 at that time.

This leaves Jonathan, the youngest. He is enrolled in university in spring 2011, which means, assuming he is in his first year and started right after secondary school, that he is about 19, seven years younger than Robin. He has to be early in his college career at this point, because, by the disastrous Valentine’s Day 2014 of Troubled Blood, he is in his final year. However, most degree programs in the UK are three years in length, meaning, if Jonathan was a freshman in 2010-2011, he should have graduated in 2013. This suggests he is either in a longer-than-typical degree program, that he flunked a semester or two’s worth of classes, or that his own university career was interrupted. It also means he was only about 12 when his older sister was raped; perhaps that is why he was clueless enough to blab about it to his friends.

So, the Ellacott brothers have a timeline that mostly makes sense, but there are still a couple of head-scratchers.


  1. Ouch! That wedding date for the Stephen Ellacotts is a great catch, Professor Freeman.

    I think it merits a place on the Top Ten Strike Flints, not quite Donny Laing first meeting date quality but as good or better than, say, Strike’s at-first-sight recognition of an archaic, exotic handgun in Lethal White, a “revolver” that becomes a “rifle” several paragraphs later..

  2. I can’t exactly remember in which book this is mentioned, but I think it says that Martin is a year younger, because Robin reflects that her role as “easy child” may have been also a consequence of Martin (according to her the most difficult of her brothers) to be born one year after herself.

  3. Louise Freeman says

    You are right, Beth. I think that was in Troubled Blood. I am re-listening to Career of Evil now and that prompted the post.
    If Martin is still living at home at 25, he probably is earning the title of “underachiever.” That also leaves a pretty big gap (6 years) between him and Jonathan.

  4. I wouldn’t take the 18-year cutoff too seriously. I’m from the country next door (Ireland) which has a similar drinking culture to the UK and somewhere before my 17th birthday bartenders stopped querying my age. I present as supporting evidence Strike reminiscing about the Victory being his ‘real local’ and the first place to serve him alcohol underage.

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