Friday, 22 August 2014

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit & Crimson Shore (

What we thought: Having enjoyed Cormoran Strike's debut appearance in The Cuckoo's Calling, I looked forward to dipping my toe back into his slightly grubby, and borderline legal, world in the follow-up novel. I'm delighted to say I wasn't disappointed. Although I hope Mr Galbraith has good lawyers as I'm considering legal action. Some of the words of those disillusioned writers surely came from my own mouth ... or maybe writers really are as paranoid as portrayed here!

In The Silkworm we delve the murky depths of the publishing industry and surely there cannot be a more qualified author to tackle this subject (for those of you who have been on Planet Zog for the past eighteen months, R Galbraith is actually the pseudonym of JK Rowling. Yes. THAT JK Rowling.) Without doubt Ms Rowling has experienced the widest extremes of any writer, and I'm sure her personal lows have had as much impact as her obvious highs and give her a perfect vantage point to describe the world many of us have dabbled in over the years.

Here, we meet a cross-section of publishing folk, and just as much as I wondered who the fictional author, who sadly is killed before the book opens, is describing in his cruel characterisation, an even bigger part of me wondered if any of the characters were based on people from Ms Rowling's publishing past as they seemed just TOO true to life. From the bullying, aged (and bitter) literary agent to the pretty young (but bitter) publishing assistant, to the harmless, alcoholic (and bitter) editor - the characterisation was spot on.

Cormoran Strike was not on top form in this novel - and I'm sure he'd be the first to admit it. Finally moving on from his broken relationship, he's troubled by his war injury, his general fitness and his emotionally confused state. And yet, his ruthless organisation skills, ability to read human fraility, not to mention his almost super-human gut instinct, again proves too much for a calculated killer who took revenge on an egotistical writer in the most elaborate manner.

And on the topic of writers, don't imagine for one moment they escape Ms Rowlings dissection. The pitfalls of writing, and the insecurities of writers, are opened up for the world to see and pity. Some lines really did have me reaching for the hand mirror to examine my own failings.

This is another superbly crafted crime novel. This time I was DETERMINED to correctly identify whodunnit. And I failed. With some clever sleight of hand that maybe came close to deliberate deception, my suspicions proved wrong and I was blindsided once again. As with every other novel JK Rowling has written, I remain in awe of her imaginative and storytelling skills. There were slight glimpses of the power of imagination that created Hogwarts and the Death Eaters here when JKR slipped into the role of Owen Quine and the perverted plot of his controversial novel, Bombyx Mori, came under the spotlight. The names, images, ideas and themes come from the mind of a brilliant storyteller and more than once I paused in open-mouthed admiration.

Whether you read this because you love crime or love Harry Potter, no matter. Just make sure you read it.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Val McDermid, Peter May, Ian Rankin.

Avoid if you don’t like: Writers and the world of publishing.

Ideal accompaniments: Steak and chips and a pint of Doom Bar.

Genre: Crime

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