We have just finished the third season of The Wire and the scriptwriters have once again courageously written out a strong character. This time it’s Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell, brilliantly played by Idris Elba. Stringer is intimately involved in the Baltimore drugs trade and is a ruthless gangster. But he also has Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations on his bookshelf, attends business studies courses at Baltimore City Community College and invests in property developments. His death has, from the outset, been only a matter of time, and reinforces the series’ underlying claustrophobic message. For despite all of his heinous acts, Stringer has the intelligence to see that the drugs trade is a business and that violence is bad for business. He also has the ambition and the vision to look beyond one business and to seek to recycle profits into other investment projects – money laundering, but also diversification. (One of the great moments of the series is when he realises that his chosen new business, property development, is every bit as cut throat as the one he sought to leave.) Courageous at the end, brought low by petty vengeance, his predictions vindicated, Stringer leaves a big hole to fill. The empire that, as Barksdale’s closest henchman, he did so much to defend, lies in ruins, but the drugs trade itself continues unabated.