The Silkworm (A Cormoran Strike Novel)
Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)
Audiobook read by Robert Glenister
Mulholland Books (June 2014), Hardcover (ISBN 0316206873 / 9780316206877)
Fiction (mystery/crime fiction), 464 pages
Source: purchased audiobook (Hachette Audio, June 2014, ISBN 9781611134940; Audible ASIN B00IMLDGIM)
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s first outing as mystery writer “Robert Galbraith,” The Cuckoo’s Calling, when I listened to the audio version this past spring. This was partly due to Rowling’s gift for character creation in disabled-veteran private detective Cormoran Strike and his ambitious assistant Robin Ellacott–a gift that’s undeniably hers, even when writing under another name and persona (another form of character creation, right?)–and partly due to the excellent casting and voice work of narrator Robert Glenister. Both are back for a second outing in The Silkworm; I downloaded that audiobook. which was published in June, as soon as I possibly could, and binge-listened to it for a week, which is how I describe the audiobook equivalent of “couldn’t put it down.” For me, a “binge-listen” includes letting podcasts pile up until it’s over and listening while driving around on my weekend errands in addition to during my daily work commute. (I should note that this is a 17-hour audiobook.)
I’ve quoted and linked the plot description below because I don’t want to discuss it all that much here–this is a mystery/detective novel, and it spoils the fun to know too much going into those, right? But I will give you a few of my opinions about it:
- I think the plotting of The Silkworm is more ambitious than that of The Cuckoo’s Calling, which is to say it’s more complex–at times, perhaps more complex than it strictly needs to be.
- That said, there were twists I didn’t foresee, and twists that I expected which didn’t happen–both of those are satisfying things in a mystery, I think.
- There is some seriously grotesque stuff going on here; in some spots, the novel flirts with the equivalent of an R movie rating. Rowling is unquestionably writing fiction for adults in the Galbraith/Strike novels; she displays a dark streak here that Voldemort and the Death Eaters barely hinted at, and she seems to have a pretty good time indulging it. Sensitive readers may want to proceed with caution, and if you read this in audio format, I would strongly recommend not having your young children around while you’re listening.
- The Silkworm isn’t particularly “literary” in and of itself, but it could be described as a “literary mystery” in that its plot involves authors, publishers, and assorted other book-business characters. The intrigue among this crowd is likely to appeal to readers who enjoy behind-the scenes glimpses “behind the books;” at any rate, it was an element that enhanced the fun I had reading this novel.
Although I praised Rowling’s gift for character creation earlier, I felt that some of the players in the case explored in The Silkworm were a bit underdeveloped. If they pop up again in the further adventures of Strike and Robin, I hope they’ll be fleshed out more–but if they don’t, they’ve served their purpose and I’m fine with it. She is continuing to add layers and dimensions to Strike and Robin, and that’s what matters; I’m enjoying getting to know these two even better, and they’re the reason I expect to stick with this series as long as Rowling sticks with writing as “Robert Galbraith”…and as long as Robert Glenister keeps giving these stories solid, engaging audiobook performances.
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.
From Chapter One:
“‘Someone bloody famous,’ said the hoarse voice on the other end of the line, ‘better’ve died, Strike.’
“The large unshaven man tramping through the darkness of pre-dawn, with his telephone clamped to his ear, grinned.
“‘It’s in that ballpark.’
“‘It’s six o’clock in the fucking morning!’
“‘It’s half past, but if you want what I’ve got, you’ll need to come and get it,’ said Cormoran Strike. ‘I’m not far away from your place. There’s a–’
“‘How do you know where I live?’ demanded the voice.
“‘You told me,’ said Strike, stifling a yawn. ‘You’re selling your flat.’
“‘Oh,’ said the other, mollified. ‘Good memory.’
“‘There’s a twenty-four-hour caff–’
“‘Fuck that. Come into the office later–’
“‘Culpepper, I’ve got another client this morning, he pays better than you do and I’ve been up all night. You need this now if you’re going to use it.’”