Mia Thompson: The Mysterious Aussie Gaffe-fixer of Cuckoo’s Calling

Last October, I started a Twitter-based read-along of all the Cormoran Strike books, sponsored by our fellow Serious Strikers from Strikefans.com.  Some of the group who had read the books in print earlier had chosen to listen to Robert Glennister’s outstanding audiobooks this time around. Imagine my surprise when, during the Cuckoo’s Calling review,  someone asked “What happened to the Australian saleswoman at Vashti’s?”

“What Australian saleswoman at Vashti’s?” asked I, and several others. 

There are many continuity errors in the Harry Potter series, and some of the more egregious (such as James emerging first from Voldemort’s wand in the climax of Goblet of Fire) were corrected in later editions. But this was the first I had heard of a change in a later edition of a Cormoran Strike novel. 

Who is this mysterious Australian lady, about whom those of us who read the earliest edition of Cuckoo’s Calling had never heard?  Find out after the jump.

Her name is Mia Thompson, and she was invented to correct a flint that none of us at Hogpro caught (despite our best efforts), namely, that a will requires two witnesses in the UK. Lula’s will, therefore, signed only by Rochelle,  would not have been valid, even if the authorities had accepted the signature of a dead witness, and were willing to accept Strike’s word about where and when he had found it. He could, after all, have palmed a piece of Lady Bristow’s stationery and faked it during the search of her wardrobe.

If her hand-written will leaving all to her biological brother, Jonah, was declared invalid, and assuming that end-stage cancer patient Lady Bristow was doomed to expire before a probate hearing could be held, this would leave nasty Uncle Tony Landry as Lula’s closest relative, and the presumptive heir of her fortune. And it is a stretch to believe that Tony, astute lawyer whose adultery has just ruptured his very lucrative law practice, would not seek every legal means to invalidate a shaky will that robbed him of the 10 million. 

Mia first comes up, though is not named, when Robin is trying on the too-small black dress in the Vashti fitting room. 

“Did you say Lula Landry was here actually the day before she died?”

“Oh yeah,” said the girl with pink hair. “We had trouble with her and one of our girls. Mel gave her the sack for it, didn’t you, Mel? I can’t remember her name now…she was Australian…”

“And she had it coming,” said the tattooed redhead, who was holding up a black dress with lace inserts. “She was always pestering the famous customers. She barged in here on Lula without so much as a by-your-leave. I heard her do it, I was in the cubicle next door.”

“She–followed–Lula–in here?” gasped Robin, as she was inched into the black dress by the combined efforts of the three assistants. “When she was changing?”

“Well–Lula was on the phone–but that’s hardly the point, is it?” asked red-haired Mel.  “She marched in here with a random outfit Lula hadn’t even asked for, just so she could ask Lula if she could get her a job as a makeup artist.”  …

“What happened then?”

“Talk about brazen!” said Mel, indignantly, and in an Australian accent quite as bad as Robin’s she said “‘Oh, I just thought you’d look so lovely in this, Lula, and by the way I’m trying to break into the makeup game, can I give you my details?’ Blah, blah, blah.”

“What a cheek!” gasped Robin…”I bet Lula told the girl where to get off, didn’t she?”

“Well, no, actually, because–Lula was in a bit of a state when she–no, she took her details just to get rid of her. I do love that coat on you, I really do,” said Mel, suddenly reverting to a more professional and less gossipy tone. 

Robin suspected Mel saw her own shameless eavesdropping as justified if it had exposed the unprofessionalism of a colleague. 

Over her McDonalds meal with Strike, Rochelle also, with prodding, spoke of Mia. 

“Some silly Aussie cow come shoving in, askin’ to do Lula’s makeup or sumthin’,” said Rochelle. “Stepped on my effing foot, never mind me.”…

“Yeah, I heard about that. The girl got sacked for it afterwards.”

“Good,” said Rochelle. 

“Lula was pretty nice to her, though, wasn’t she? asked Strike. “Didn’t she take her details?”

“That wasn’t–” began Rochelle, but she stopped short. “It was only to get rid of her.”

Strike questions her about the blue paper later.

“Maybe it were a shopping list or something?”

“Yeah, that’s what the police thought. You’re sure didn’t notice her carrying a bit of paper, a letter, an envelope?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

“Where did she write down the Australian girl’s details?”

“She didn’t write ’em. The girl did. Back of a till thing.”

“A receipt?”

“Yeah,” said Rochelle. 

We know, of course, that Rochelle is lying here, since her blackmail of John Bristow would come to an end if anyone discovered the contents of the blue notepaper.

Once Strike discovers the will, he notes the mysterious salesgirl’s writing on it, as well as Rochelle’s. 

Below was the unfamiliar name of Mia Thompson, who had given as her contact address a house in Adelaide. A deep fold just above Mia Thompson’s signature told Strike that she had almost certainly not seen what she was signing. The fact that she had given Lula contact details in Australia suggested she had known her days at Vashti, and in London, were numbered, knowledge that had perhaps emboldened her to burst into Lula Landry’s changing room and ask for assistance with a new career. 

Mia’s ultimate fate, and what it meant for Lula’s will, were revealed in the epilogue, as part of the information dump that was Strike’s meeting with Jonah Agyeman.

Mia Thompson had already been tracked by the press to her parents’ house in Adelaide, where she had confirmed, in a blaze of publicity, that she had no idea what she was signing that day in the changing room. The will, in consequence, was invalid. Nevertheless, it seemed certain that Lula’s last wishes would be honored by her family. The dying Yvette Bristow was of the same opinion as the news-reading public: if anyone was going to inherit a fortune, it ought to be the young soldier, not the uncle who was now known to have concealed crucial evidence in his niece’s murder, and to be a philanderer to boot. 

None of the above text is present in the original edition. This was a far more extensive error correction than any that J.K. Rowling did for the Harry Potter books, involving the addition of an entirely new character and rewrites of at least four chapters. It also makes Robin’s assistance at Vashti all the more valuable. Strike now knows that Lula was “in a bit of a state” and that there was paper and a writing implement in the fitting room with her.

So, a precedent has been set for correcting errors in later Cormoran Strike editions. This raises the question, will (or have?) any other continuity errors in the Strike series (see here and here for some examples) also be corrected in subsequent editions? If so, which are the most important to fix?

For me, the most jarring is Robin’s claim in Troubled Blood to have only been to two funerals in her life, conveniently forgetting Mrs. Cunliffe’s in The Silkworm, after all the drama that caused and the strain it put on Matthew and Robin’s relationship. Unlike the Lula’s will witnessing gaffe, it would only require a few sentences to correct. Untangling Donald Laing’s timeline would require going through the entirety of Career of Evil with a fine-tooth comb, but most of the corrections would be numerical. That would certainly be of help, along with resolution of many of the date-based questions that have arisen. See here and here for examples.

Serious Strikers, please comment with exampled of gaffes you would like to see fixed.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a good way of checking for other corrections, except to buy recent paperbacks of the other novels.



  1. I’d like to definitively know if Lucy is 2 or 4 years younger than Strike!

  2. Nice! I recently listened to the audio book and knew that it seemed different, but I didn’t remember the Australian sales assistant at the time. I do remember about the assistant barging in now. It would be nice if they fixed the audio book. (Did they go back and mostly fix Ilsa’s name in Strike 5? I think the narrator got it right most of the time in the copy I downloaded from the local library.)

    I would vote for Donald Laing’s timeline as I got him and Noel Brockbank really mixed up the first read through and I think it was at least partly because of that.

    Although the funeral thing is pretty annoying when Matthew’s moms death and funeral is such a big part of Silkworm.

    And any of the Robin/Strike relationship inconsistencies in Troubled Blood would be nice fixes too. The kisses on the texts and had Robin acknowledged that Rokeby is Strike’s father. It could, it theory be an incorrect memory, but we’re always told that Robin and Strike have such amazing memories.

  3. Fascinating, Louise! My three notes:

    Robin tries on an accent in phone conversations with the temporary secretary agency in ‘Cuckoo’s Calling,’ doesn’t she? Annabel from Australia who winds up sounding as if she is from South Africa. It’s almost as if The Presence meant to include the pushy Australian in the storyline and was highlighting her importance with this role-playing Robin does.

    Curious that, even with the ‘fix,’ the will is still invalid because Mia Thompson was unaware of what she was signing. I don’t think Tony Bestigui would be next in line for the inheritance if the courts ruled it invalid — and who cares what the public thinks about to whom the money ‘should’ go? Marlene Higson, the biological mother, would be first in line for the fortune, not Cuckoo’s sort of uncle or step-brother, right? I’d love it if Marlene inherited the money (or even a large part of it) and we get to meet her again in Strike7.

    [Aside — looking back at Cuckoo after ‘Christmas Pig,’ I am struck by the mothers in the storyline and the variety of the roles they play: Marlene, just mentioned, Strike’s mother Leda, and the adoptive mother Lady Yvette Bristow. There’s not a stable one in the lot — no Lily Evans Potter or Molly Prewett Weasley here, a woman whose unconditional love and fierce determination to protect her children is something of a cipher for divine love. Unless therre’s more about Leda’s death that we do not know (which of course there is).]

    Australia figures in ‘The Silkworm’ with a mention of a horrific crime — ‘Did you never hear about the Australian woman who skinned her lover, decapitated him, cooked his head and buttocks and tried to serve him up to his kids?’ — and Dave Polworth’s uncle living there and it being the location of the oldest mate’s Chum encounter with a shark. Perhaps there is more to that potentially life-changing encounter than we have been told, as well, something that might inspire Dave to do something bold because life is short and tenuous. In ‘Lethal White,’ Down Under gets two mentions because of the Australian nurse that the Chiswell grandfather had married, diminishing the family fortune, and the painting that is mentioned by the appraiser as “Australian folk art.” Nothing much in that, except that the notes give us a Books one and four mention which could mean a re-appearance of an Australian woman in Book seven — with the Polish cleaning woman!

    My three gaffes for clean-up would be (1) the bizarro decision of John Bristow to keep Rochelle’s phone (and Strike’s confidence during his interrogation that ‘of course he kept it’), (2) the biggest gaffe in ‘Calling,’ at least as I see it, namely, that Jonah Ageyman and John Bristow are seen in close proximity as they run away from the scene of Lula’s death — there is simply no way that Jonah does not have a lead of several city blocks on the actual murderer and the odds of them following the same path are relatively slim — and (3) Strike’s inspiration to try Charlie Bristow’s death date as the combination to Lady Yvette’s floor safe. I think your ghost post on ‘Cuckoo’ explains that last one, perhaps, Louise, but it’s still an over-reach somehow, as important as Easter is to Rowling’s stories.

    Again, great discussion, Louise! It’s good to hear that there is a clean-up effort being made. This series is in many ways superior to the Potter books in design and it’s a shame that Rowling does not have the editing and continuity help she needs to get it right the first time.

  4. Louise Freeman says

    Lula was adopted by the Bristows, and Marlene’s parental rights terminated when Lula was taken into care. When it was thought Lula died intestate, didn’t her fortune go to her adopted mother and brother? I remember Guy Some saying something about John being more generous now that he’s got Cuckoo’s money to play with.

    In any case, I think the termination of Marlene’s rights would preclude any claim she had on the estate. Legally, Lula was 100% Bristow and 0% Higson. I believe neither her biological brother or mother could automatically inherit, hence the need for Lula to explicitly name Jonah in her will.

  5. Louise Freeman says

    I think Robin’s mom Linda is the closest we have to a good mother in the entire series, along with Leonora Quine. Even Lucy seems overly indulgent of her boys and not in control of them. Shanker grew up motherless. All three of the Career of Evil suspects had messed-up homes, with the mother abusive or absent. We didn’t meet any good mothers in the Chiswell family (not really knowing how Fizzy treated Flopsy, Pringle and whatever elf-name they gave their third). Billy’s mom died when he was a small. Flick’s estranged from her parents. As for Troubled Blood, I thing we can put Janice on the list as the worst mom so far in the series. Margot is the only one who had a chance of being that type of mother, but she also died when her child was one, but possibly could have been a protective spirit. Paul Satchwell’s mom killed her disabled child, so she may take 2nd place.

  6. I’m not sure if this is technically a mistake, but in Lethal White, it’s never clear to me where Fizzy, Izzy, and the late Freddy’s mother is, Jasper Chiswell’s first wife. It sounds like she’s still alive but she’s barely mentioned, even after Jasper Chiswell’s death. Robin and Strike genuinely don’t attend the funeral, so we don’t know if she is there. (That seems like a delicate area of etiquette, but is seems like she might want to support her daughters and grandchildren. Not that she would qualify as a good mother either.)

    These books are so complex, it would take a team of people to keep it all straight!

  7. Talk about putting your foot in your mouth — I criticize Rowling for not getting her facts straight in a comment in which, as Louise has shown, I am just dead wrong about who should inherit Lula’s money.

    Apologies all around and a ‘Thank you’ to Louise.

  8. Wow, what a major correction! I really don’t think it is necessary. As has been pointed out, given that Mia Thompson was tricked into signing, that *still* doesn’t make the will valid. I’m sure it could be possible to posit that Lula, in her heightened emotional state after having tracked down her new brother and discovered her existing brother is a murderer, wrote the will without knowing how many witnesses she needed and hadn’t yet had time to run it past her lawyers. So the very final note in which Lady Yvette Bristow acknowledges it is invalid but declares she’ll abide by it anyway is more than sufficient.

    John Bristow’s a lawyer. He knows the rules and has an interest in establishing the validity of that will. The only thing he knows is that Rochelle signed the will, but he does not know if Lula had a chance to get a second signature after Rochelle departs the scene. If Rowling *really* wanted to make that point, she could have inserted a line somewhere in the final chapter mentioning that one of the purposes of Bristow’s search for the will was to establish who else had witnessed it.

    I would now like to mention a plot point from the beloved British drama “Downton Abbey” (note spoilers). In series 4, a letter is found which a character wrote to his wife shortly before his own death, explaining he wanted her to inherit his fortune AND WAS INTENDING TO START PROCEEDINGS TO ALTER HIS WILL. He dies shortly after so he never has the chance to do anything else. The letter is examined in a court of law and it is concluded that it shows sufficient testament-related intention on the part of a person of sound mind, and is therefore deemed sufficient as an actual will.

    Obviously I don’t know how many legal liberties the writers of Downton Abbey took, but isn’t it possible that Lula’s will might have been deemed to suffice anyway? I think this would be plausible enough to render any corrective intervention unnecessary. I rest my case.

  9. Louise Freeman says

    Very good point, Elisa. I wonder if the point of Mia wasn’t to spare Strike accusations of having faked the will, as evidence to bolster his case against, or even entrap John Bristow. Lula seems to have told no one apart from Rochelle that she’d even tracked down a biological brother. All her phone calls to him were on Rochelle’s phone. Once John was established as the murderer, Tony Landry could have accused Strike of conspiring with Jonah to steal Lula’s estate, and, without Mia to testify that she had written on that specific piece of blue paper in Vashti’s, there would be no way of proving that Strike himself didn’t steal note paper and fake the will. He couldn’t deny that he needed the money, and Jonah would have been motivated to share with him. Speaking of the phone, does one need the physical phone in hand to check records? I would think that, if you knew which number (Strike knew Rochelle’s) or which account (Bristow’s were paying the bill) the police would be able to access the records and confirm the phone calls between Jonah and Lula. Does it matter if the phone is in the safe or at the bottom of the Thames?

  10. My audio book does not have the change but my kindle version does. I listened to the audio not that long ago and did not recall the change so I went back again. Very interesting to make a change like that that really did not matter in reality.

  11. I suppose that the point about Strike faking the will makes sense, just. Tony and Yvette can testify to the possibility of John having killed Charlie, and there’s still the question of why John would have asked Alison to lie… also of course there’s still Rochelle’s phone, which John has bafflingly decided to keep… and the fact that he showed up in Strike’s office e with a knife… all in all, I don’t think it would have been considered very likely that Strike is a conspirator to pervert the course of justice.

    Real life is never as clear cut as a crime novel, and this is a “classic” crime novel. The rules state unequivocally that, in terms of the remit of the investigation in question, the detective must be whiter than white. If Hercule Poirot had been in the business of faking evidence, how many novels by the queen of crime writing would have been worth reading? 😀

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