I’ll admit I’m one of those people who jumped on the Robert Galbraith series once I found out this was a pen name for J.K. Rowling. I’m not normally a mystery fan, but I enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling and wanted to eventually get my hands on this second installment. Eventually came, as it often does for me, in an audiobook.
The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith
Summary from Goodreads:
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…
Another great hit with Cormoran Strike. I’m not a big mystery person, but this was a good book for me. I liked learning more and more about Quine as we went. But, like in the first book, my complaint is what was kept from the reader that made it hard to figure out the killer. Strike is a genius and sees the small things but he doesn’t make his revelations obvious to the reader and then we’re left with a bit of shadow as we try to figure out what he’s scheming at. I liked seeing Robin’s relationship with Matthew change. I think that’s a strong running story element in the series.
One of the characteristics of Rowling’s writing that I admire is her ability to create memorable side characters. Leonora and Orlando Quine, for example, will be hard to forget soon. Pippa was great, too. The characters were very flushed out, no matter how briefly they showed their faces in the story. She does a wonderful job of giving them all a personality and back story that are very unique.
Robin is still my favorite character in the series. She’s very strong when it’s hard to be. Her fiance is a very dominating man and very manipulative, but Robin finds ways to work things out with him and make him see her side of them. She’s also rather fearless when it comes to detective work. I’d be terrified to pull off some of the things Strike asks her to do, especially the stunt she pulls in the final scenes.
I related most to Robin, mostly because of her engagement to Matthew. My wedding was two years ago and I had to endure the awkward merging of the families and endurance of in-laws that she seems to go through. I’ve had the thoughts that I’m sure many engaged people have that my parents and family are awesome and my significant other somehow crawled out of a family of really strange people to become the person I love. Of course, this becomes easier with time, but I could remember those feelings when Robin was describing coming home for her mother-in-law’s funeral.
I thought Katherine Kent and Pippa Midgley made a great sub-plot to the story. I read a bit into Rowling’s feelings on self-publishing and the publishing industry in general with these scenes. As a writer myself, I liked having her insight on the publishing industry and using these two characters as a criticism of self-publishing was a bit of lighthearted fun for me and hopefully other writers.
It made me angry to read how Strike treated Nina. I felt bad for her. She was trying to help someone out and he used her. He didn’t even do it subconsciously, he did it knowingly and purposefully dumped her unceremoniously when she wasn’t useful anymore. Any attempt she made to be nice he thwarted and ran away from. It made me dislike the character for the first time.
The audiobook I listened to was from Overdrive and narrated by Robert Glenister. This is the same narrator from The Cuckoo’s Calling. I like when narrators are consistent across a series so I was glad to hear him again. I thought he did a good job yet again, bringing in accents for each of the characters dependent on where in the UK they were from. I’m not very good at the different British accents as an American, but I could recognize the differences and remembered talking about dialectal differences while I studied in the UK. In the same way I wouldn’t want to hear a character from New York City with a Southern Drawl, I’m glad this narrator tried to make the character’s speech patterns consistent.
Owen Quine was a very vain person. A lot of the things we learn about him concerned his need for attention and how everyone found him self-centered and at times hard to talk to. Yet they tolerated him because he’d written one (maybe two) good books. His vanity and determination of his own genius led to his downfall (not saying how!). I see this story as a warning against vanity and asking those who create art and who are involved in art to realize a single person can think highly of himself and how dangerous that can be. Especially those pesky writer types. Geeze.
Writer’s Takeaway: I don’t think I have much to add from the last Galbraith novel I read. Side characters are still important. Suspense makes a reader keep going. Though I think I would add that not giving your reader everything is a hard place to balance. You have to give them enough to make them keep reading and know they’re getting close to a solution but keep enough hidden for a big reveal. I thought this book balanced a bit too much on the ‘hiding’ side of this balance. I wish I’d been able to detective along with Strike.
Enjoyable and entertaining. Four out of Five stars.
Until next time, write on.
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