The Silkworm is the latest in the private detective series by J. K. Rowling published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The book seems all set to become a Summer blockbuster and is currently dressing the window of most bookshops I pass. It is available to listen to on Audible narrated by Robert Glenister.
The private detective around whom the series is based is called Comoran Strike. Despite Comoran’s many foibles; his moodiness, gruff manner and slovenly ways, he is a likeable and engaging character. Displaying a strong moral code Comoran investigates the mysterious disappearance of a writer called Owen Quine for his wife Leonora, who doesn’t possess the means to reimburse Comoran for his work.
Robin is the private detectives very capable and able assistant into the disappearance of Owen Quine. She is also very attractive, a detail that does not go unnoticed by Comoran’s well-honed skills of observation. As Cormoran and Robin double up to pursue various leads around London there is a certain frisson and tension between them. Robin is soon to be married and the relationship between the two remains strictly professional. There is however a constant intimation and hinting at their mutual attraction. This eventually becomes a little irritating as Rowling deliberately fans and stokes a story line she has no intention of developing in the current instalment of the series.
Rowling has created quite the collection of unattractive characters from the publishing world to populate this story. Each has a long and shared history with the missing writer and all are castigated or mocked in some manner in a manuscript written by Quine before his disappearance. So cue a long and laborious investigation into Quine’s publisher, editor, agent and fellow authors.
Undoubtedly the manuscript penned by the disappeared Quine is full of slander and insinuation and Comoran unearths plenty old grudges and motives for revenge. Yet nothing could account for the horrible murder scene that Comoran discovers. Owen Quine is found slaughtered and disembowelled and so gruesome are the details of the murder scene that it makes for difficult listening.
I found this macabre account at odds with much of fairly benign happenings and personalities throughout the rest of the book. The resulting hunt through wheelie bins and front gardens for the victim’s missing guts is frankly bizarre and grisly.
Towards the end of the novel in an effort to raise the level of suspense Comoran shares his theory on ‘whodunnit’ with Robin but not with the reader. She is duly gob-smacked and I persisted in earnest hope of a similar gob-smacking reaction when the identify of the villain was revealed. Unfortunately after such a build-up the final revelation proves anticlimactic.
Rowling writes with an easy engaging style. She demonstrates with this novel her ability to put distance between herself and children’s fiction and move into a darker domain. I thoroughly enjoyed my first introduction to Cormoran Strike in “The Cuckoos Calling”. This second encounter I found less entertaining, let down by an implausible story line and slightly repellent supporting cast of characters.