Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Book Review: The Silkworm by Robert Gabraith

As with the last book written by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling, I found The Silkworm to be a completely engrossing and enjoyable read. While it falls entirely into the category of pulp fiction, it’s a book that very hard to put down once you’ve started.  For those who have read Rowling’s initial entry into the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling; The Silkworm is a more polished work with the author’s characterisation of the book’s protagonist more nuanced.

In The Silkworm, we are given a view into the publishing world from the standpoint of private investigator Cormoran Strike and his girl Friday Robin when Strike it called on to locate missing author Owen Quine.  It reveals an insular, cynical world that has seems to have little do with promoting storytelling and everything to do with maintaining the status quo among the literary elite. One wonders if Strike's observations about the publishing house Roper Chard and agent Liz Haskell is reflective of the author's own experiences when she attempted to break through this particular glass ceiling.

Not that the authors depicted in this book have any redeeming qualities either. They run the gamut of being either incredibly obnoxious or starved for attention. Anyone who exists outside the literary sphere is immediately marginalised as ‘little people’.  Certainly the way Quine's wife Leonora is dismissed by most of the characters save Strike and Robin seem to indicate this. Her real world concerns of caring for her impaired daughter could not possibly hold a candle to overcoming the horror of an unrealised author’s potential.

When Quine's disappearance becomes murder, Strike is on the case and this is followed by the examination of the author's last book, which is a pretty disturbing bit of writing and possibly not for those who dislike grotesque sexual imagery. Instead of focussing on what happens after the crime has taken place, Strike follows the path of the narcissistic writer and reaches a conclusion that I confess, I did not see coming at all. There is also a neat little twist that makes perfect sense once the reveal is made which is the most satisfying part of a good mystery novel.

In the midst of the investigation, the relationship between Strike and Robin is explored. Robin’s desire to follow her boss’ line of work creates friction between herself and her fiancĂ© and it will be interesting to see if she does make it down the aisle in any subsequent books. The appearance of Strike’s own romantic interest, Charlotte, is kept to a minimum as her hysterics were the only part of the first book I found tedious. Fortunately Robin’s level headed depiction offsets this and plays nicely off Strike’s gruff and unforgiving personality.

Silkworm is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves an engaging mystery and two very relatable lead characters. Like most murder mysteries, the other characters in the book are often caricatures required to service the plot but  the more bombastic and arrogant ones are ridiculed  in the way they deserve but never spitefully so.

It might be heresy but I think I might like this series more than that other one that Miss Rowling is supposed to have written with some success.