I read JK Rowling’s first adult crime novel written as Robert Galbraith earlier this year and was impressed. I thought “The Cuckoo’s Calling” (2013) was highly entertaining and had a generous helping of humour and warmth alongside the crime. I liked the relationship between dogged private detective Cormoran Strike and his PA, Robin, and felt the whole thing seemed plausible and very real.
“The Silkworm” feels like a bigger novel, in terms of size; in its nod towards Jacobean revenge tragedies; with its literary quotes and setting in the world of publishing and literary fiction and in its more lurid, darker crime. I so wanted to like it as much as its predecessor but for me it fell a little short. Perhaps this was inevitable. I’d always felt the debut Harry Potter novel was better than the follow-ups and with “The Silkworm”, Rowling as Galbraith falls into the same trap as Rowling as Rowling as the pace falters due to the length of the novel. Both “The Philosopher’s Stone”and “Cuckoo’s Calling” are tightly written little gems but with “The Silkworm” as in the later Hogwarts epics my attention wandered.
Author Owen Quine disappears after his latest book which attacks his so called friends and colleagues is being touted to publishers by his agent. Is the whole thing some kind of publicity stunt or is something much darker about to happen? Cormoran Strike, asked by the author’s wife to locate him seems more in control here, fuelled by the success of the case in “The Cuckoo’s Calling” which has brought him greater kudos as a private detective and a continuing difficult relationship with the Police. Strike has favours he can call in and with Robin still motivated to find out as much as she can abut detective work the reader is confident Strike will solve the crime before the authorities.
Like “The Cuckoo’s Calling” the case is involving and well-plotted but Galbraith here takes a little too long to get to the solution, there’s a few too many meetings with suspects and the literary analysis of the work causing the disappearance makes the book feel not as plausible as last time round and slightly irritated me. It is no means a failure but now the characters have been established I was expecting a real cracker of a novel and that Galbraith would have me eating out of his/her hand but it didn’t quite live up to my high expectations.
The Silkworm was published by Sphere in 2014