At last, I found some time to write up a review for The Silkworm. This is the second novel in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), and it’s just as good as the first–and dare I say it, it might be even better. The subject and plot of this mystery novel are different from the first, but it still carries the same characteristics that I fell in love with in The Cuckoo’s Calling.
(To be honest, I never know whether to refer to the author as Rowling or Galbraith, but I think I prefer Galbraith since it’s the name she chose to publish the book under.)
Galbraith begins the novel with Cormoran Strike meeting a reporter in the pub to give him a scoop, and the reader realizes not much has changed for the burly detective since his last case, despite the fame and attention it garnered. Strike is introduced to his current case by a worried wife who wants her writer husband to return home. The worried wife, Leonora Quine, doesn’t necessarily fear the worst about why her husband, Owen Quine, isn’t coming home, but Strike soon finds out that she probably should. Along with help from his temporary secretary turned permanent and useful assistant, Robin Ellacott, Strike begins to unravel the mystery behind an infamous novel, a missing writer, and the dirty secrets within the publishing industry.
I talked about why Robin Ellacott is one of my recent favorite characters in this blog post, but I also want to touch on why Strike is just as interesting. As a veteran who served in Afghanistan, readers get a glimpse into Strike’s ongoing recovery process through the series, which is just as mental as it is physical. Strike routinely struggles to keep up with his own investigative mind while he tries to solve cases–sometimes his thoughts and intended actions move faster than his leg(s) can carry him. Being a smart and savvy detective with physical limitations cultivates an interesting character to read about. When juxtaposed with Ellacott’s wit and eagerness, the pair seemingly can figure out any mystery thrown their way.
In terms of this particular novel, it’s subject matter is quite different from its predecessor. Galbraith uses mythology-based imagery to construct various novels within the novel, which Quine is supposed to have written. Cannibalism, sadomasochism, torture, as well as other common (and perhaps sometimes hard-to-stomach) tropes found in classical myths appear in Quine’s novels (and thus also appear in the narrative of the mystery at hand). The imagery is so detailed and carefully planned, you can tell Galbraith (Rowling) referenced his (her) Classics background to get everything just right.
This novel is different from its predecessor because it is honestly more gruesome, which almost made it more interesting for me. While I obviously enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, I was taken aback by the gore involved in this novel, but it was more intriguing than off-putting. There also seemed to be more layers to the mystery, so I was constantly left guessing “whodunit.” But The Silkworm, similar to The Cuckoo’s Calling, had fleshed out and detailed characters that were wholly memorable–which is one of Galbraith’s (Rowling’s) best qualities as a writer. I also enjoyed how the book seemed grounded in reality as Galbraith would use current events to situate the timeline and plot (e.g., Will and Kate getting engaged, which was in 2010 although the book was published in 2014).
To Read or Not to Read?
Similar to what I mentioned in my mini review of The Cuckoo’s Calling, I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys mystery or detective novels. While not as necessarily “thrilling” as The Girl on the Train or any Ruth Ware novels, Galbraith’s The Silkworm is a fast-paced, edge-of-you-seat nod to the classic detective-novel genre, and Galbraith gets it right.
I can’t wait to read the third in the series, Career of Evil.