Whitechapel is an area of East End London that is infamous for being the territory of Jack the Ripper. For many years both before and after the Whitechapel Murders, the area had a very bad reputation for crime and poverty.
In Chapter 10 of Career of Evil, Strike finds himself getting off at Aldgate East tube station in Whitechapel, with a view of the Gherkin building, which had not been there twenty years previously, when Strike had lived their briefly with his mother and stepfather, Jeff Whittaker.
Before Strike could stop himself getting back on the Tube, he starts walking, “heading for the one place in London he had avoided for seventeen years: the building where his mother had died.”
Memories come flooding back to Strike as he walks toward Fulbourne Street. “Of course: he had walked over this metal bridge over the railway line during his A-Level year.”
“He remembered the name, Castlemain Street, too… surely one of his fellow A-Level students, a girl with a pronounced lisp, had lived there….”
When he reaches Fulbourne Street, “the buildings were shabby as he remembered them, white plaster peeling away from the frontages….”
He manages to identify the door to what had once been the squat where he had lived with his mother, next to a shop selling cheap clothing. “The brass letter box brought back a strange stab of memory. It had rattled loudly whenever anyone went in or out of the door.”
“Fuck, fuck, fuck….”
Strike then walks out onto Whitechapel Road, where market stalls stand: selling more cheap clothes and gaudy plastic goods. He remembers a snooker room and the Bell Foundry.
After realising that the pub the Nags Head is now a strip club, he finds the nearest Starbucks and has a black coffee with his leg resting on another chair, before it is taken away by a tosser-looking man who reminds him of Matthew.
“…he sensed a tosser when he saw one….”
Thinking very deeply about his past with Leda and Jeff Whittaker, and in an increasingly foul mood, Strike then walks to Aldgate East station to get the Tube to Nick and Ilsa’s.