Guest Post: Lethal White and Strike5 — Clues to the Harringay Crime Syndicate, Digger Malley, and Securicor (Swans!)

A guest post from Serious Striker, Joanne Gray!

Did Lethal White’s Epilogue Give Hints To Book 5?

The fourth Strike book, Lethal White, starts from where Career of Evil had literally left the reader standing at the alter a moment after Robin’s wedding day “I do.” This cliffhanger gave a logical starting point for the next book, but it didn’t provide the reader with any hint on what the mystery part of Strike 4’s storyline might be.

Now that we’ve had time to read Lethal White, we know that there is no cliffhanger ending that will bridge book 4 to book 5. So it appears that we have an open field of story line possibilities when it comes to what the main mystery plot will be for the fifth book of the series.

Fortunately we do have one real place to comb for clues since Lethal White ended with an epilogue. I confess I didn’t expect to find much but it seems that there are what can be seen as several signposts planted on the last two pages of the epilogue. It will only be clear if they truly are pointing to the Strike 5 story line when the fifth book is published but until then I give for your consideration three incidences of what I believe are deliberate (albeit subjective) signposts that appear in Lethal White’s epilogue.

The following is the first of the signposts as it appears on Lethal White’s next to the last page (this signpost even has a second echo):

[Right after Strike asked Robin,] “What are your plans this afternoon?”
[Robin answers,] “I need to get that file from Andy, then I’ll ring the guy in Finsbury Park and see whether he’ll talk to us.’

I read that and stopped. “Hold on. I don’t remember this case and who’s this ‘guy in Finsbury Park’?” I wondered if I had totally turned off looking for clues since the book’s main mystery had already been solved. So I gave into the urge to flip back a couple of pages to see how I missed this case. What I found was that I had actually passed over a bigger clue. There was a page separating the main book’s final chapter 69 and the Epilogue that clearly said ‘ONE MONTH LATER’.

Well, that was a bit embarrassing, although it did clear up the question since I now knew that there was a month’s worth of our heroes lives that we weren’t allowed to see. Fair enough. Maybe this whole ‘man in Finsbury Park’ is just meant to be a bit of filler; shoptalk among the two main characters.

Moving on to the next page, the book’s very last page, it seemed a safe bet that the previous conclusion about it just being shoptalk was the right one…until, on the next to the last line I saw:

‘But soon Robin had given over her thoughts to the questions needing answers from a man in Finsbury Park.’

Okay. Another mention of ‘a man in Finsbury Park’? It certainly seems like this Finsbury Park man is someone important. Two mentions in the last two pages of the book? As Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame, once remarked:

Once is happenstance,
Twice is coincidence, and
Three times is enemy action.

Granted, we escaped the enemy action, since there wasn’t a third mention, but, in all fairness, there wasn’t another page to write it on, either. Even with “just” the two mentions, even Ian Fleming would no doubt be on full alert by its placement on the book’s last page. However it is what appears in the last place—the only place left for a third mention—the last line of the book giving us a last signpost pointing to the future, for now unseen.

The last line—the last scene and image that the writer is leaving with his or her readers:

‘Head bowed against the rain, she had no attention left to spare for the magnificent mansion past which she was walking, its rain-specked windows facing the great river, its front doors engraved with twin swans.”

With the weight and significance that this “point of place” gives to a book’s last scene—we watch the Brontesque image it paints as the heroine (Robin) now alone in the rain, walking unaware pass a magnificent mansion with “its front doors engraved” with the same image we saw on the book’s opening page of Robin’s ill-fated wedding—twin swans.

It’s an image that conjures up a bit of danger, even foreboding as she moves unaware pass the mansion. As in all good gothic tales, the house is shrouded in rain. Turns out that there’s good reason for that sense of danger and foreboding because as sharp-eyed reader Brad Bellows discovered, this mansion Robin is walking by, is in fact the rather famous, “Swan House.”

It seems likely that JKR was originally drawn to this house for the perfect bow it ties between the twin swans on the book’s first page to the twin swans on the final page. It also seems possible even probable that she was aware of the history of the building and the fact that for many years the Swan House served as the headquarters for the private security company Securicor.

Securicor has it’s own long history. A company —

“providing private security since the 1950’s to become in its 2004 merger with Group 4 Falck the “new” Group 4 Securicor, a multinational security services company: Security personnel, monitoring equipment, response units and secure prisoner transportation. Also working with governments overseas to deliver security. The world’s largest security company with operations in more than 90 countries and over 570,000 employees as the world’s third-largest private employer, the largest European and African private employer.”

An April 2014 Vanity Fair article (sporting the telling title, ‘A Chaos Company’) did a fascinating behind the scenes story on Securicor:

‘Wherever governments can’t—or won’t—maintain order, from oil fields in Africa to airports in Britain and nuclear facilities in America, the London-based “global security” behemoth G4S has been filling the void. It is the world’s third-largest private-sector employer and commands a force three times the size of the British military.’

‘Agents of Fortune,’ anyone? [‘Agents’ is the name of Blue Oyster Cult’s fourth LP, the one with their biggest hit single, ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper.’]

With Cormoran’s own Army background and now with the addition of Sam Barclay, another ex-British soldier, joining the expansion of the Strike and Ellacott Agency, we might be looking in Strike 5 at them becoming embroiled in a case involving just such a private security company which has grown to expand its clientele into the government wars. Not hard to see it also involving a drug trafficking link since it was a drug related investigation by Strike while still in the SIB that first brought Sam Barclay to Strike’s attention.

This possibility of a Twin Swans Securicor story line ties both of the previous signposts — Finsbury Park and the case file Strike and Robin discuss — neatly together since a Google search quickly reveals that “Finsbury Park” turns out to be “a public park in the London neighborhood of Harringay.”

Readers will immediately remember in the third Strike book, Career of Evil, that Harringay is the name attached to the notorious Harringay Crime Syndicate led by the criminal Godfather Terence “Digger” Malley. The mere mention of Digger’s name to DI Wardle as a possible suspect is enough for Wardle to make Digger the primary focus of the Met’s investigation into the dismembered woman’s leg. Malley and the Syndicate have that kind of reputation.

It was revealed in Career of Evil that SIB Investigator Strike had provided the testimony in 2008 that had sent Digger to prison. It is also mentioned that Shanker had once worked for Digger.

Most readers may also not know that Rowling may very well have been inspired by the real life Clerkenwell Crime Syndicate which is also lead by a career criminal named Terence—Terence Adams and his two brothers, Patrick “Patsy” and Tommy.

Are they a big deal? Oh, yeah, very big! The brothers of the Clerkenwell Crime Syndicate have “amassed a 200 million pound fortune through their brutal trade of murder, extortion, robbery and drug trafficking.” (Read more in this article from The Sun).

Both Clerkenwell and Finsbury Park are in the Borough of Islington. Long time readers of HogwartsProfessor wil recall that at the end of 2018, when JKR was still posting regularly on Twitter and posting new headers each month, she changed her Twitter header to an Illustrated News of the World print (1859) Nick Jeffery identified as St. John’s Gate in Clerkenwell.

St. John’s Gate is connected to the remnant of the old priory of the Knights of St. John—the Crusading Knights Hospitallers. I was going to say that I don’t expect to see any Knights of St. John in Strike 5—but then I remember I didn’t think I would see any actual white horses in Lethal White, either. We all know how wrong that prediction proved to be.

To return to the two signposts at the end of Lethal White: A criminal syndicate that has previous ties to both Strike and Shanker and a militarily organized private security company, could figure as the reason for a major Met investigation that they have decided to call Strike in to help because of his military background, especially those involving drug cases. [The unspoken fact for why he is being included would remain unspoken but the truth is Strike has had successes in criminal investigations that the Met got wrong or couldn’t solve.] This situation would build on the closer professional ties that we saw at the end of Lethal White between the Met and the Strike Agency when Cormoran and Robin were finally allowed into the Met’s inner sanctum.

Giving some weight to this speculation is the fact that since JKR has said that her Twitter header image is a clue to what she is working on at that time. It was around the time of the header change, 23 November 2018, that is, when she updated her Twitter header to the St. John’s Gate Clerkenwell picture, that she gave her last update to Strike book 5. This synchronicity suggests that Clerkenwell may appear in the next book.

An unexpected surprise from speculating about these two signposts in Lethal White’s epilogue has been that it brought back to my mind the company flow chart posted on the website homepage that John used in August 2017 (see here and here) for speculating about possible story lines in Lethal White. Because Robin didn’t go undercover in the third book and didn’t go in Lethal White as a PA to the office described, it was then widely speculated that the flow chart had only been a preliminary plan by Strike and Robin for a job they lost when the severed leg showed up on their doorstep. 

However, since this flowchart actually shows ex military personnel in the business office that Robin was planning to go undercover as a PA and if it turns out that the next book does deal with a militarized private security organization, maybe parts of that particular group of people will figure in the story after all. Time will tell if the chart will remain a dropped case, red herring or finally emerge as a possible piece of Strike5.

Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below about the Digger Malley connections suggested by the Clerkenwell Crime Syndicate and Rowling’s twitter header, as well as the Swan House link with Securicorp and a possible Met investigation of a Crime Syndicate/Mercenary Army collaboration in Strike5!


  1. Joanne,

    I have to say that your linkage of Securicor with B.O.C.’s “Agents of Fortune” album is the moment my mind sort of snapped alert.

    You raise an intriguing avenue of possibility. Allow me to add to the intrigue. the one criticism I could find myself thinking of is, “What would such a plot development do to Dr. Louise Freeman’s idea about an academic setting (possibly Oxford, in keeping with Strike’s past there) as the main backdrop for Book 5?

    I decided to type in Securicor and Oxford University into the search engine to see what might happen. One result that stuck out like a sore thumb was the OUP’s Trading and Ordering page.

    Give a particular notice to one name in particular among the list of companies the Press uses to handle it’s overseas shipping. It can be located in the paragraph under the heading: “For Customers Outside the UK”.

    This gives your theory more than a bit of weight, I think. It also “may” provide a neat bridge between your ideas and Dr. Freeman’s.

    In this scenario, Malley’s syndicate could have found a way into the University’s system as an outlet for illegal drug smuggling. What better way to accomplish this then by using a phony security firm as a front for an illicit “shipping lane” between smuggling points?

    Just a thought.

  2. Joanne Gray says

    Wow Chris you made a really wonderful find of a link between Securicor and Oxford University! I didn’t even think to look for one.

    It will be really interesting to see if the plot of Book 5 combines the great idea of Dr. Freeman of the plot involving Universities and have a tie to the Harringay Crime Syndicate with the involvement of a fictional version of the Securicor Private Security company presented in this post.

    I am more eager than ever to hear something about the progress on Book 5 and the good news is that just the other day (when her production company Bronte was holding the Read Through of the scripts for the BBC Lethal White production) JK Rowling finally posted a Tweet on her Twitter site—after a six-month hiatus. It gives me hope that she might be about to give us a long delayed up-date on Strike 5. Someone even Tweeted a question asking her if she was going to give us another game of Hangman to guess the title of the fifth book. Since the term Hangman was actually a clue in itself, I think she might have to come up with a different fan game for people to guess the title for Strike 5. She could even have the added pleasure of giving us a game that has nothing to do with a clue about the book—a piece of wicked misdirection. Of course we will suspect that and wonder which it is—a clue or misdirection? In fact that thought makes me think of the scene in the Princess Bride where the villain is trying to guess which cup was poisoned—the one in front of him or the one in front of the hero? [Spoiler—they both were!]

  3. Joanne,

    Thanks for the kind words. All her recent activity on Twitter makes me wonder if the whole silence isn’t simply a case of having to please several conglomerates at once, instead of being able to just write to leisure.

    I’ve said this before, yet I do worry that all the major artists are entering a time when they will have to appease certain corporate demands in order to see even a half of the artistic products they’re interested in get any kind of green light .

  4. Hi Chris,

    I do agree that the commitments to the big corporations (and they don’t come much bigger than Warner Brothers) can eat up a lot of a writer’s time and energy. I hope we will hear that she found some time during these last six months to work on Strike 5 (while free of Twitter–another big consumer of a writer’s time).

    I’ve been looking a how the fifth Strike novel could echo Harry Potter 5. Trying to match the fifth HP’s main story points to what I think might be their counterparts in Strike 5. Since ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ has a Harry Potter verses the Ministry of Magic main theme, I made my theory around Cormoran and Robin working with the Met–which I think is the echo of the Ministry of Magic in the Strike series.

    But it’s the second big story point–the revelation of the true link between Harry and Voldemort in HP 5, which is proving more difficult to come up with a similar echo for Strike 5. What could possibly compare to the Harry finding out the whole truth behind his shared connection to Voldemort? Since he finds the prophecy hidden in the Ministry of Magic and if the Met really is the comparable echo–will Cormoran find something hidden there that reveals a traumatic personal truth–he’d really preferred not to know?

    I’ve come up with something I think might work but I really need to write it out and see if it can fly on its own rather than write it here. Thank you for all your interesting comments–I really enjoy reading them.

  5. Joanne,

    When it comes to the way in which the Strike series as a whole can echo the Hogwarts saga, I often find that it helps to keep in mind that this can be done in a number of ways that may be less apparent than a strict one-for-one physical plot level resemblance.

    For instance, there is no Hogsmeade in Strike’s world, yet he does have encounters that parallel or mirror Harry’s adventures in different ways that nonetheless contain echoes that never entirely resemble the earlier books so much as they point back to them. Even when these echoes are present, another thing to keep in mind is that Rowling’s strategy with Strike is to present them as inverted mirror images of HP cast and situations.

    For instance, instead of Gilderoy Lockheart, we have the pitiful and abusive Owen Quine. In much the same way, while I don’t expect Strike to meet with any Dolores Umbrage stand-in, I also think he doesn’t need one. Charlotte would serve as the perfect one-woman monkey wrench for a lot of his plans. In a similar way, I think Strike receiving Leda’s copy of “Agents of Fortune”, and discovering that it is a clue would be enough of a thematic echo that points back to the HP prophecy. It’s just that this time it’s an inverted form of that scene.

    That said, I’m still curious to hear what further thoughts you might have on all this. One detail that just struck me about your current article centers around the dramatic potential of Robin going undercover to infiltrate a drug smuggling operation. It just occurs to me that it amounts to sending a woman into the least healthy place that she can go. Robin would be heading into a smuggler’s paradise. That means gangsters, which, in turn, means that the customers she meets there could best be described as animals wearing human suits. The reason for pointing this out is that you’ve just highlighted a plot potential in which Rowling (if she chose to go there) would have more than enough room to go to some even darker places than Career of Evil.

  6. Chris,

    You are very right about the echoes not being a direct copy of one for one from the HP to the Strike series. However, I do think that the major plot points/the larger aspects of the HP 5 storyline will have to echo somehow from HP to the Strike 5 storyline. This is why I mentioned the big reveal that happens in Order of the Phoenix (Ministry of Magic’s prophecy) revelation of the real relationship between Harry and Voldemort needs to be echoed somehow in the 5th Strike novel.

    Something about Strike’s past has to at least be revealed to him in book 5: A deeply buried memory of real importance. If it pertains to Leda’s murder then it could mirror the long ago past trauma Billy Knight in Lethal White, but being the reverse since Billy can’t forget and Strike doesn’t want to remember. But book 5 needs to see something big and deeply buried in Strike’s subconscious become untethered and float into his conscious mind.

    I think this is very likely because Strike book 3, ‘Career of Evil,’ contained some very clear information about Strike’s thoughts as he passed by the places where his mother had died. He felt uneasy and aware that his normally sharp memory was unable to pull the information—and though he didn’t acknowledged it to himself, he sensed the reason why, that this real place of long ago bad memories would dredge them up to the light.

    I do think that there will be more undercover work in the next book but I think there will be some way that Barclay and Strike will be doing the undercover this time. After all Strike has experience in that area and Barclay has experience in drugs and after Lethal White—he also has experience in undercover work. I think JKR will find a way for Strike—even though he’s now pretty well known–to let him get out of the office again and do what he really wants to do. He will make sure Robin has something just as good but I see him taking Barclay with him on any drug case. At least this is what I hope—he deserves to have a real outside case after Robin getting all the undercover “fun” in the last book.

  7. Joanne,

    I’m not sure if you missed this the first time, however it turns out I actually did try and figure how there an echo of the prophecy reveal in Strike 5. It was your casual mention that Al Rokeby might show up in that outing which triggered the idea in my head (so thanks again for that).

    All that Rowling would need to do is to have Al drop by casually with a package for Strike. Al could make sure Strike knows the package is a delivery from Jonny Rokeby. Al could try and be a little cryptic, such as relaying that their dad wants make sure Strike knows that if there’s anything he needs, his phone number can be found in the package as part of the delivery. I almost want to say this hypothetical situation should arrive as the mid-point turn of the fifth book, because it would make a neat story pivot. Aside from that, what would happen in this delivery scene is that Strike would just take the package, and then shrug it off on account of he’s busy with the Harringay Syndicate.

    The way the package could act as a prophecy would be if it’s unwrapping and reveal took place in a setting reminiscent, yet different in detail and outcome from the fifth meeting in Dumbledore’s office in “Order”. In this “potential” scenario, Book 5 would feature another epilogue. In this one, Strike has successfully concluded the case, and is alone unwinding in his office/make-shift apartment. Nothing seems to be happening until he remembers that Al left him a package from Daddy Dearest. With an internal groan, Strike could take the package, he decides to knuckle down and take care of what he thinks is just some minor unfinished business.

    He takes the package, unwraps it. It’s record, which is puzzling. An old B.O.C. album. He’s puzzled as to why an erstwhile relative would want him to have some battered old LP. Then he notices something about it. Maybe it’s his mom’s initials on either the album sleeve or a carved into the record itself. Either way, Strike begins to realize that he’s holding his mother’s copy of “Agents of Fortune”. As Strike studies the record and its container, he comes to the slow realization that what he’s got in his hands isn’t just an old memento, but a clue to Leda’s death. Such a scenario has the advantage of at least supplying the opportunity for the gut-punch to the memory that you’re looking for. The scene and the fifth book would end with Strike fishing his dad’s phone number from the package, and with a perfect sense of resigned dread, would dial the address. The last few sentences could be Strike asking to be allowed to “speak with Mr. Rokeby please”.
    Book 6 could then pick up with Robin, Strike, and the readers, for that matter, meeting face to face, and maybe even making himself their client with a similar strategy to that as Bristow in “Cuckoo”. If you’ve already heard all this before, apologies for sounding like a broken record.

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