Noel Brockbank is one of Cormoran Strike’s three suspects in Career of Evil. He is described as tall (over 6 foot), a “dark guy” with a cauliflower ear. He is ex-military, once in the Seventh Armoured Brigade, or ‘Desert Rat’.
Strike describes him to Robin as being “not right in the head. Or so he claimed.” By the time of the events in Career of Evil, Strike had not seen Brockbank for eight years.
Strike conducted an SIB investigation in 2003 with his colleague Graham Hardacre regarding Noel’s stepdaughter Brittany Brockbank’s accusations of sexual assault. When Strike arrived at the family’s home, Brockbank threatened him with a broken beer bottle. In response, Strike punched him to the point of a seizure. There was a trial, and Strike claimed self-defence, though he admits later on that he could have taken Brockbank on without punching him. Brockbank claimed Strike had been the cause of his mental issues and brain injury, “A basal skull fracture, that’s what they had called it. Bleeding from the ear. A massive brain injury.” Brockbank was eventually cleared of charges and set free. Strike later found out that the brain injury had been caused from a game of rugby prior to Strike arriving at Brockbank’s door.
Noel Brockbank grew up in Barrow-in-Furness with his twin sister Holly Brockbank. They were born on Christmas Day 1974, the same year Strike was born. Noel left Holly to join the army, and after leaving the army, went to live in Market Harborough, where he worked at the Thai Orchid, a ‘massage parlour’. During Strike’s browse through Google early on in the book, he finds someone with the name Noel Brockbank who was living in Manchester in 2006. Noel later moved to London, working in numerous strip clubs, including one called the Saracen where he was sacked from for having a seizure. Strike believes that Brockbank chose jobs like these to get easier access to young women.
Strike and Robin take a road trip to Barrow-in-Furness to find out Noel’s whereabouts. Robin talks to his sister Holly in the Crow’s Nest pub. They then go to Market Harborough where Noel once worked; Strike manages to secure Noel’s phone number from a woman in the Thai Orchid, which he asks Robin to call under her pseudonym Venetia Hall. When on the phone, Noel thinks Robin is Brittany Brockbank and asks her, “Do I know you, little girl?” before hanging up the phone.
Noel is living with his girlfriend Alyssa Vincent and her children on Blondin Street in Bow, London, when Strike and Robin discover his whereabouts. His story comes to a definite end toward the end of the novel when Robin takes things into her own hands.
In the TV series adaptation, Noel is renamed Niall (for reasons unknown) and is portrayed by actor Andrew Brooke.