The Casual Vacancy

by J. K. Rowling

Plot summary

The novel is split into seven parts, the first depicting the aftermath of the death of local Pagford Parish Councillor, Barry Fairbrother, who suffers a burst aneurysm in the car park of a local golf course. The inhabitants of the town share the news with their friends and relatives and chaos ensues. The problem arises in deciding whether local council estate 'The Fields' should remain as part of Pagford, or instead join the local city of Yarvil, a contentious debate in which Barry Fairbrother was passionately in favour of the former option; his death is seen by many as an opportunity to end the debate once and for all. The fate of the methadone rehabilitation clinic, Bellchapel, is also a key controversy in the parish.

After the date for the election to elect a replacement for Fairbrother is announced, the children of some of the councillors and election candidates decide to make damaging, yet often accurate, posts on the Parish Council online forum. Andrew, son of Simon Price is the first to do so, by means of an SQL injection which he learned how to perform in school, operating under the name 'The_Ghost_Of_Barry_Fairbrother' and informing everyone that his father had obtained a stolen computer. Sukhvinder (who, like Andrew, learns about hacking in ICT class) follows, posting that her mother, Dr. Parminder Jawanda, was in love with Barry. Thirdly, Fats Wall posts, claiming his adoptive father Cubby (a Deputy Headteacher) suffers from obsessive fear of having molested a child without any memory of the fact. Finally, in a desperate attempt to relieve the guilt weighing on him for costing his father his job, Andrew confides in Simon and posts that Council leader, Howard Mollison, is having an affair with his business partner Maureen. Howard's son, Miles Mollison, is the winning candidate, much to the displeasure of his wife, Samantha, who confesses she did not know if she still loves him, only to eventually reconcile.

Another focus of the novel is the traumatic life of Krystal Weedon. Sixteen-year-old Krystal lives in The Fields with her four-year-old brother Robbie and their heroin addicted prostitute mother Terri. Social worker Kay is determined for Terri to stop her drug use and take responsibility for the care of Robbie; however, Terri relapses and her drug dealer Obbo rapes Krystal. Spurred on to start a family elsewhere, Krystal has unprotected sex with Fats in an attempt to become pregnant. It is during one of these instances that Robbie runs away from the pair in a park, eventually falling and drowning in a river, despite Sukhvinder's attempts to save him. Krystal is so distraught she commits suicide by taking a heroin overdose, the novel culminating with the siblings' funeral.