Who Sent the 50 Red Roses to Cormoran Strike’s Office in ‘Career of Evil’?

coeSo, where were we? Denmark Street, London, just off Charing Cross Road. Right. Have you got the picture in your head? Good. Here’s a question from a serious reader about an event in Career of Evil you probably didn’t think too much about, one that takes place on Denmark Street as Robin and Cormoran enter #26 (Career, p. 253).

Hi john!! Just finished COE. Wondering if you know why jo never confirmed who the roses were from or what the card said. I was so curious if they were def from Matthew & what he wrote! Or if they were from Laing. But we never got the info. I know Jo doesn’t drop bald so it was purposeful & I guess it didn’t matter as much as it mattered to me? What do you think?

I answered promptly that I didn’t think this was the big deal Sondra thought it was — what the Ents call “hasty.”

Dear Sondra,

A delight to hear from you.

I’m listening to the Robert Glenister audio CDs of Career of Evil now and just heard the pivotal chapters in which the red roses appear. Because of your email I was paying particular attention to the neglected note that came with the roses. And of course you’re right — the roses are neglected and thrown away without the note being read.

As I’ve written already, the roses that appear in the critical central chapters are pointers to both the white roses of the wedding at story’s end and the ‘flowers in season’ critical clue for Cormoran’s breaking Ray William’s alibi. I’d note, too, that they arrive by courier and are unwelcome markers of misogyny to Robin, they are echoes of the leg she received in chapter 2. 

It may be a stretch, but it could be that Rowling is linking Matt and Laing as two men who both understand women as selfish creatures that are easily manipulated to his preferred usage (‘abusage’). Because I cannot think of anyone else who could have sent them, Robin’s explanation about Matt’s dad seems satisfactory to me.

Let me know if you think of a credible rose sender other than Matt!



Here’s the thing. After a little reflection (and conversation with my fellow HogwartsProfessors), I’m not really satisfied with the answer that I gave to this question from Sondra. There is a character we all know — and dread? — who would have sent red roses and an amorous note to Cormoran’s and Robin’s business address. Let’s walk through the Line Up of suspects to pick out the probable perp.

It costs $61 at 2011 exchange rates, $47 today, for 50 roses to be delivered next day in London, not counting the delivery (decent deal, no?).  That’s enough that Matt the Accountant would feel obliged to test it for leverage in his next conversation with Robin.

Does Matt mention the roses later on? Not in my copy of the book he doesn’t. I think he would and that Rowling would tie off that loose thread that way if she wanted it tied off. It isn’t. Sondra’s question is better than my answer.

So… if the fiancee-on-the-outs didn’t send the fifty red roses, who did? And the note? What could it have been about?

Killer Laing? Does he suggest he did it in later psychopathic musings about his genius? If he did, it must have been pretty nuanced. I missed it on first and second readings and in several listenings.

The only characters that express subtle and not so subtle amorous interest (these are red roses, right?) in Robin are the computer geek in Cuckoo and Wardle, the policeman with the nice hair in Cuckoo and Career.

But neither one of them seems the type to drop 38 quid out of the clear blue sky and they weren’t watching so closely that they knew about Robin’s break-up with Matt. Wardle asks Robin if it is her birthday when he sees the roses on her desk. I doubt we’ll see the computer wizard again until we have books parallel with Cuckoo, books 4 and 7.

Only Laing seems fit for the spot of an “admirer” keeping a close watch on Robin.

Putting on the Sherlock Holmes Herringbone Deerstalker, then, our list of obvious suspects is pretty short: Laing, the killer, or Matt, the man on the outs with Robin. We’re supposed to think Matt sent them to win her back, a tack Robin thinks he would have taken on the advice of his father.

If it was Matt, sadly, he has been confirmed in his family’s estimate of the remarkable capacity of flowers to win women over. The note will have been just more of what we read in the text messages.

If it was Laing, then the note was something akin to the note that traveled with the leg in chapter 2. Verses from the songs of Blue Oyster Cult that are threatening.

The big strike (ahem) against the obvious suspects is that neither of them allude to the roses in the rest of Career.

Sherlock says, “If it is unlikely that the obvious and not so obvious male suspects sent the roses and note, how about women?” There is nothing in the exchange with the Interflora delivery person that tells us the roses are for Robin. They assume that the flowers are for her and from Matt. The roses could be a gift for Cormoran.

If Robert Galbraith plays true to the Hogwarts pattern set by Mrs Murray’s other pseudonym, while we will get new side players (Luna) and characters (DADA teachers), we shouldn’t get any newbies in Cormoran Strike’s first seven mysteries after book the third that are major actors in the over-arching story of the septet, the mystery of Leda Strike’s death, the explosion that almost took Cormoran’s life, and what Jonny Rokeby is hiding that made him want them both dead. That means, if a woman sent the roses, it should be someone we know fairly well.

I’m hopeful, based on this reasoning, that the flowers are not from the woman in the Army that sister Lucy hoped Cormoran would marry (who has since married and had a baby) or from someone unknown to us now who will play a big role in our discovery of how Jonny Rokeby killed Leda Strike (or how Robin and Corm live happily ever after…).

There are three women that Strike has slept with, the happy euphemism, in the three books and one other with whom he is emotionally attached. As these are red roses, not tulips, I think we can rule out the women Strike has met and impressed but who would almost certainly not be so bold about their designs on him as to send this message in fifty long stems. Kathryn Kent from Silkworm? Bryony Radford or Tansy Bestigui from Cuckoo? Not plausible.

Two of the four women he slept with are also a stretch.

Ciarra Porter, the leggy super-model Cormoran beds in Cuckoo’s Calling, may be his type, if Charlotte Campbell Ross is the standard in being brainy and beautiful, but there’s nothing about Ciarra that connects with Strike’s avenger vocation as a Private Investigator.

Nina Lascelles was interested in a relationship with Cormoran and is fairly aggressive about pursuing it until she comes to the conclusion that he has been using her for access to and information about her Roper Chard workplace and suspects in the Quine case. Strike’s frosty exchange with her at the private club in Silkworm makes her an equally unlikely suspect.

How about the desperate divorcee that Lucy tried to match up with her brother at Cormoran’s birthday party? Nah. She got the message that the detective was not interested.

That leaves us with two women that have loved Cormoran and who might possibly have sent him roses as a marker of their ardour.

The first is Elin Toft, the drop-dead gorgeous teevee newscaster that the Peg Legged PI has been dating. Their relationship has its ups and downs throughout Career and Cormoran is looking for a way out of the not-quite-engagement, though he thinks the sex is good. What if she sent him flowers and a note to demonstrate her commitment and to encourage him to show her a little attention? It sure beats another fight because he forgot a date.

If it was Elin who sent the flowers, the pay-off in Book 4 should be rich. Cormoran, after all, assumes the flowers are for Robin from Matt. Neither one of them opens the note. That he doesn’t respond to Elin’s gesture — imagine her stopping by the office to speak with him and seeing all fifty neglected roses in the bin next to Robin’s desk? How about a scene to remember as Robin rushes to his defense and Strike insists it was his fault so he can break it off? I can see the obligatory echoes with the opening of Cuckoo’s Calling that we should expect in the fourth and crucial book of the septet.

Remember that opening? I think you see in your mind’s eye the most likely suspect among women to have sent the flowers: Charlotte Campbell, a.k.a. Mrs. Jago Ross. Strike thinks of her in passing more than once in the third mystery but, besides those mental asides, the Colossus astride Cormoran’s emotional life, the virus he feels is hibernating within him, is invisible throughout Career of Evil.

Charlotte has not yet had her revenge on her ex fiancee. Scratch that. She married Jago Ross and knows that must have been a knife through his heart. It was not, however, a sufficiently satisfying revenge. He didn’t try to stop her from marrying Ross. He continues to solve crimes and “become a Name” without her. Perhaps Charlotte imagined, perceptively, that Cormoran was emotionally vulnerable because of Robin’s imminent marriage.

Why not send a loud ‘Come hither’ message inviting him to renew the great love of their lives, Jago be damned?

Sondra, I take it all back. I doubt Matt sent the roses to Robin. I think Charlotte sent them to Cormoran. And the payoff in Book 4 will be dramatic and hilarious. Or just dramatic. It will certainly come at a cost to Strike’s relationship with Robin if she drops Matt and the boss shacks up with his ex. Inversion of Cuckoo’s Calling, right, in which Matt and Robin become engaged and Charlotte and Cormoran break up?

Goblet of Fire features the return of the Dark Lord and Harry’s first battle with his nemesis in the flesh, face to face (sorry, Quirrell), not a memory or a surrogate. I expect Book 4 of the Cormoran Strike seven book series opening will introduce to two characters we’ve never really seen in action. Jonny Rokeby, a la Lord Voldemort, has to make an appearance and we’ll almost certainly learn about his two previous meetings with his bastard boy as well as important information about the secrets he’d kill to be sure are not made public.

The other? Charlotte Campbell Ross.

Thank you, Sondra, for pointing out the marker Robert Galbraith put down so cleverly in Career of Evil to alert the serious reader of the super model scorpion’s advent.

Or are there other, better suspects for rose sender? Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!



  1. Louise Freeman says

    So how long before Robin figures out dear Matty tampered with her cell phone?

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