The Silkworm by “Robert Galbraith” – A Review
The Silkworm, a mystery novel by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K.Rowling), is not the surprisingly good first novel of an unknown author as originally thought. Publishing under a pen name, Rowling, the famous author of the Harry Potter Series, tried but failed to have the detective story stand on its own merits without the support of her fame.
The secret didn’t stay secret for long, and this is still a good read from beginning to end.
British private detective Cormoran Strike, the hero of The Silkworm, is hired by the wife of a well-known novelist to investigate her husband’s disappearance. The cast of suspects is huge, mostly because her husband, Owen Quine, has written a novel that reveals the tawdry secrets of just about everyone he knows. And he knows a lot of people.
The plot thickens when Quine the novelist is brutally murdered in a scene redundant of his own novel, and Strike sets out to solve the crime.
We have seen the character of Strike and his sidekick Robin one time before, in Rowling’s first mystery novel, The Cuckoo’s Nest, published last year. In the Silkworm, their relationship develops, as they set about their investigation in the world of book publishing.
The novel is replete with references to the dirty secrets of the publishing world, as Strike investigates the cast of suspects. They include Quine’s editor, his agent, his publisher, and some of his competitors, and one wonders why anyone would spill the beans this way.
A side story is the relationship between Robin and her fiancé Matthew. (We can’t believe she is still with him – we met this duo in the Cuckoo’s Nest and didn’t like him then.) At issue is the way that Robin changes when with Matthew and what she puts up with from him. There is always also that pervasive sense that it is Strike and Robin who should share the romance.
Strike is the damaged illegitimate son of a rock star who is constantly on the financial brink. He lost his leg to an Afghanistan land mine, is huge and hobbling, and often in a lot of pain. Nevertheless, he is a man whom women find attractive.
Throughout the search for Quine’s murderer, we see the inner world of publishing, which comes off as a brutal world to live in, let alone break into. The characters, except for Strike and Robin, are all stereotypical examples of the agents, writers, and publishers who live in the real publishing world.
The relationship between Strike and Robin has grown since The Cuckoo’s Nest, albeit painfully slowly. The two first met at Strike’s detective agency when Robin, completely unschooled in the world of sleuthing, showed up to offer temporary office assistance. From the very first, she demonstrated an aptitude for the work. She is smart, perceptive, and yearns for more responsibility at the agency.
J.K. Rowling has proven her ability to write a great mystery novel. Both the story and the back-story leave you wanting more and, given the relationship between Strike and Robin, we anticipate book number three.