The Silkworm is the second novel in what is now rumoured to be a seven novel series by Robert Galbraith, a pseudonym for the international bestselling author J.K. Rowling, following The Cuckoo’s Calling. I have been waiting for this book ever since I found out that there was going to be a sequel to The Cuckoo’s Calling. Even with J.K Rowling’s fame, and the knowledge that she was writing under this pseudonym, I did not know that The Silkworm was being released until about a month or two before the official release date (June 19th).
This book was a page turner, and I feel safe in saying that I have not devoured a book as fast since I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in around 6 hours (minus time for sleeping and eating). If I were to judge my time on this one, once again taking away the time for eating and sleeping, I would probably place it at around 6 or 7 hours. I literally could not put this book down once I had started reading it.
The book is set about 8 months after the events of The Cuckoo’s Calling. Cormoran Strike, former member of the military and current private detective, is in a slightly better place during the events of this novel. He is no longer sleeping on a camp bed in his office and he is able to pay his secretary/assistant Robin, although he is still struggling overall, particularly in the latter half of the novel (the specific situation encountered draws enormous amounts of sympathy from me).
I didn’t know what the premise of the novel would be, apart from how it would be crime fiction, until I read the inside jacket flap when I received my copy. I did read it before I started the actual novel, and I was hooked by the idea (brilliant), although I do wish one detail was left out of the description. I have included a slightly edited version of the description from the inside jacket flap of the book, and I hope that it hooks you as it hooked me:
“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 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 will ruin lives—so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.”
I loved this novel from start to finish, and to be honest it had nothing to do with the fact that it was written by J.K. Rowling. I do admit that, and I said this about The Cuckoo’s Calling as well, I would not have read it if she had not written it but that is solely because it is quite likely that I would not have heard about it had she not.
Nevertheless, this book is a wonderful piece of crime fiction—I sense pieces of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, two amazing mystery/crime authors. Throughout this novel, I thought that I knew what was going to happen, but then a curve-ball would be thrown in my face and I would have to pause my reading to just gape at the page. The ultimate resolution of this book could not be more shocking and perfect—there is definite tension in the air and you, along with many characters, are left speechless.
I also loved that there are a number of “human” scenes that aren’t about the main plot that make you connect with the characters—Robin has a couple of them, though they are intertwined, and I have mentioned that Cormoran faces a struggle that elicited a strong reaction from me while reading. Also of note, I found that Cormoran reminded me of another literary figure that I have encountered (and happen to love). I highly doubt that this was intentional, but I think that when I re-read the books in which this other literary figure resides, there is no way that I will be looking at them the same way. I think, in fact, that The Silkworm has improved my view of this character and added a new element that was previously unseen.
One of my favourite elements, apart from the central crime, was how Cormoran and Scotland Yard interacted in the novel following the experience in The Cuckoo’s Calling. Of course, as one can imagine, they are not happy that Cormoran showed them up with the Lula Landry case, and their animosity is entertaining. However, there is another unique element in that Cormoran still obtains some help from them, although it seems as if they believe they are only putting him off the case. Apart from really wanting to know the ultimate resolution to the central crime, the one other thing I was really trying to figure out was whether or not Cormoran would best Scotland Yard once again. I wouldn’t be too sure of what you are thinking now, although you have an equal chance of being right regardless of what you suspect will happen, as I guarantee you will end up second guessing yourself numerous times throughout reading The Silkworm.
Honestly, while I could talk on and on about The Silkworm, I would like to leave you with the following thoughts. I love both The Silkworm and The Cuckoo’s Calling, though if I had to choose one I would choose the former because it integrates additional elements that I felt may have been slightly lacking in the first book. This, however, can be attributed to how these books are part of a series and thus there is a progression that must be considered. Overall, this book has rekindled my love of crime fiction and I highly recommend reading it if you are in the mood for a gripping tale full of twists and turns and enormous shock value.
The last thought I will share without context: “Plot is what happens; Narrative is how much you show your readers and how you show it to them”.
Enjoy the read, and please let me know what you think of The Silkworm.