The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith

>> Wednesday, February 24, 2016

TITLE: The Silkworm
AUTHOR: Robert Galbraith

PAGES: 464

SETTING: Contemporary England
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: 2nd in the Cormoran Strike series

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days-as he has done before-and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives-meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before... A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.
Having loved book 1 in the series, I bought this one as soon as it came out. It was really good. I didn't love it quite as much as The Cuckoo's Calling, and I would say it's probably the weakest of the 3 so far in the series, but that's only because books 1 and 3 are so fantastic (yep, I'm kind of spoiling my upcoming review of Career of Evil here!).

The first book was set in a world of which the JK Rowling has first-hand experience, that of celebrities and those who are hunted by the paparazzi and the tabloids. She does a similar thing here, choosing the literary world this time. The case Strike is asked to investigate involves the disappearance of a novelist who's written a roman à clef skewering pretty much everyone he knows, including many of the powerful and influential figures in the literary establishment.

The case here was a lot of fun, not so much for itself and the investigation, but because of the way it allowed the author to poke fun at the literary world. Owen Quine, the missing author at the centre of the case, is a nasty, self-indulgent and self-important arsehole, enabled by the people around him and convinced he's entitled to it all because he was once published a semi-successful book. The people around him (except for a couple of the women, really) are almost as bad. I would normally be complaining about the cartoonish characterisation, but there is a real germ of truth in all of these characters, which make them great anyway. And Rowling goes about it with such glee that it's hard not to enjoy it.

But again, what's best here are the characters. This is why I think it's best to make sure you read The Cuckoo's Calling first, although this one technically stands along just fine. Much of the joy of it is seeing Strike and Robin evolve and following along in their lives. Their relationship continues to be really interesting, and I liked that there isn't a trace of romance between them in this book.

That's not to say there couldn't be, many books in the future, as there's chemistry between them. It's just that so far it's not sexual chemistry, just two people who get along well together and like each other. At the moment, both have got their own romantic issues. Robin has her relationship with her idiot boyfriend. It's interesting, rather than infuriating, because it's one of those where you understand the dysfuntion. They've been together for a while, since before Matt moved to London and became a total wanker, so you can kind of understand that Robin puts up with things that would have kept her from getting together with him if he'd already been like that when they'd first met.

As for Strike, when the first book started he was just getting out of a really heavy relationship with a pretty disturbed woman, and it's not even been a year. He's still a bit hung-up on her, although he does have his affairs á la James Bond. Hah, James Bond is actually a really bad comparison. He's a much more grounded character, and much more interesting for that.

A fun installment.

MY GRADE: A strong B+.


meljean brook 24 February 2016 at 22:05  

I really enjoyed the portrayal of the literary community. It did feel authentic (not surprising) and was a fun mix of poking fun at sometimes ridiculous characters without being mean (which I think is something that not a lot of authors are good at when the subject is that close to home; it often comes off preachy.) I never felt as if any time I was reading J.K. Rowling's opinions of the publishing world or people in it, but instead that the characters had their own voices instead of acting as mouthpieces.

Robin's development has been a really lovely surprise (and her relationship with her fiancé so frustrating yet understandable, at the same time) but I'll probably wait for the next review before saying more, lol. Because the end of that book, ahh!!

Marianne McA,  24 February 2016 at 23:35  

As I remember, I really enjoyed this one as I was reading it, but had that delayed reaction moment where you surface from the narrative and think, "Come again?"

It was a really bizarre way to decide to murder someone - given the murderer had somewhere to do the killing, why not just make it look like a random mugging? (I can't remember now if there was any reason why not, but I do remember that the way the murder happened took a long time to set up, and if any point during that time the victim had talked about a certain subject it wouldn't have worked. You can't imagine anyone choosing it as a plan.)

I'm interested to read the review of Book 3 (especially in light of Meljean's "ahh!"). I'm invested in the relationship, but I've a low tolerance for fictional nastiness. (J.D. Robb is too gory for me. Really low tolerance.)

Rosario 26 February 2016 at 08:34  

Meljean: Yes, I think you're right. It never felt like she was making a point, just taking inspiration to have a bit of fun. I thought for a little while that since she was writing about someone writing a roman à clef she might be doing one herself, but she must have resisted the temptation :)

Posting my review of book 3 now!

Marianne: Hah! You're right, of course. I guess I've read so much Agatha Christie that I notice that and just sort of shrug it off. Having believable main characters and a believable world compensated for the not-quite-plausible plot.

Hmm, book 3 might be a little bit too much. I've got a pretty high tolerance for gore myself, and there were times I felt a bit queasy...

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