This is the second novel in the Cormoran Strike series written by J.K. Rowling in her failed attempt to use a pen name in circumstances that the whole planet must know by now – see my review of The Cuckoo’s Calling here. So, given the favourable reaction of the first book, both before and after the fuss created over the discovery of who Galbraith really was – does this much anticipated second book live up to expectation?
When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he 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 realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits for almost everyone he knows. If the novel is published it will ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him…
And that’s as much of the rather chatty blurb I’m prepared to reveal. I really enjoyed this one. Galbraith has thoroughly relaxed into the character of Strike, who bounces off the page with his stubbornness. The relationship between him and his secretary/sidekick is also steadily moving forward. Robin’s upcoming wedding could put a spanner in the works, though… And that’s not the only problematical wedding that crashes into Strike’s preoccupation with this tricky case during the book.
I used to thoroughly enjoy Sue Grafton’s trick of weaving the crime being investigated into Kinsey Millhone’s everyday life, so that we get a real sense of her as a person by the end of the story. Galbraith has managed to pull off the same trick – which relieves the pressure on the whodunit as we get increasingly caught up in the personal dilemmas facing both Strike and Robin.
Having said that, I found the mystery thoroughly absorbing. Galbraith had some pungent observations to make about the book world – the thousands of wannabe writers and their desperation and passion to get published were depicted with some sympathy, along with the sharpness. The niche publishing company doesn’t come out of the affair with all that much credit, either… As with the previous story, I really enjoyed the various plot twists and found that the book was impossible to put down once I’d got so far into the story – always the mark of a solidly good crime thriller. And I didn’t see the ending, either.
All in all, The Silkworm leaves me wanting more, and very glad that Rowling didn’t decide to hang up her laptop and retire to a tropical paradise after the Harry Potter series transformed her life. More, please. Whoever she decides to call herself, she’s worth reading.