Charlotte Campbell was Cormoran Strike’s long-term girlfriend, on and off for sixteen years (“mostly off”). According to Strike, she’s the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. She is described as breathtaking, with dark hair, wide green eyes, exquisite facial bone structure and a curvy body. Having Charlotte on his arm made Strike the envy of many men, which probably was a great ego boost for him and the largest draw for him. He is fascinated by her. He also enjoys her unexpected sense of humour.
Charlotte’s birthday falls on November 21st, which is just two days before Cormoran’s birthday, on the 23rd. She is the daughter of former 1960s “It Girl” Tula Clermont and academic and broadcaster Anthony Campbell. Two of her brothers are named Valentine and Sacha. Her family is aristocratic and troubled. Strike observes that her family is even more dysfunctional than his own — and that’s saying a lot.
Charlotte and Strike first got together at a party during his time at Oxford University when they were nineteen. (She was also enrolled at Oxford, studying Catullus.) She was sitting at a window by herself when Strike, mustering the courage after seven pints, approached her. She publicly ditched Jago Ross, her boyfriend at the time, and took off with Strike. She later revealed to Strike that she had been waiting there intentionally wanting a man to approach her so she could get her revenge on Jago.
Strike’s oldest friend, Dave Polworth, describes Charlotte as being “fucked to the core.” She has mythomania — the pathological tendency to lie; her lies are “woven into the fabric of her being, her life.” Their relationship was a tumultuous one, with Charlotte at one point standing on a roof and threatening to jump, and then later calling Strike from a psych hospital and begging him to come get her. Strike reflects on the years with Charlotte as “the torture, the madness and occasional ecstasy.” He escapes the craziness of their relationship by immersing himself in his work.
When Strike left to join the army at age 20, they didn’t see each other for two years. Many years later on, when he left the army with half his leg missing, she visited him in hospital where they had their kairos moment: “The telling moment. The special moment. The supreme moment,” as Strike describes it.
Three times previously Charlotte had been the one to call a halt to her and Strike’s relationship, but it is Cormoran who finally ends the relationship for good prior to the events in the beginning of The Cuckoo’s Calling. It was her constant lying that pushed Strike over the edge. He had walked across London from her flat in Holland Park Avenue to his office on Denmark Street through the night in freezing temperatures. She had tracked him down in the morning where she had physically attacked him, leaving him with a cut above his eye from a thrown ashtray and scratches down his face.
Only a few weeks after their break up, Charlotte gets engaged to Jago Ross. After hearing the news, Strike goes to the Tottenham pub and gets drunk on eleven pints of Doom Bar, before Robin finds him and saves him from fighting the barman.
In The Silkworm, Charlotte and Jago Ross get married. After the wedding, Charlotte emails Strike photos of herself in her bridal gown, looking “broken, bereft, haunted.” Her email address is Clodia2@live.com. Interestingly, Clodia was a historical figure — a patrician’s daughter in ancient Rome who was immortalized in the writings of the poet Catullus. Further, Clodia was constantly embroiled in scandal. An aristocrat’s daughter involved in perpetual scandal who was written about by Strike’s favourite poet? Sounds like perhaps Clodia (or Clodia 2 — Clodia the Second) could be a nickname Strike had for his beloved Charlotte.
We suspect Charlotte will somehow make a comeback in a future book, as perhaps foreshadowed in The Cuckoo’s Calling, Part 1, Chapter 5: “Charlotte would not rest until she had hurt him as badly as she could in retaliation. This morning’s scene, when she had tracked him to his office, had doubtless been a mere foretaste of what would unfold in the months, even years, to come. He had never known anyone with such an appetite for revenge.”