Book review: Galbraith’s Silkworm

It used to be a Christie’s for Christmas. This stopped when Agatha Christie died and her famous characters Poirot and Miss Marple with her. There are the recent pathetic attempts at resurrecting Poirot – for the money – by less successful authors. (See Poirot)

So the hole Agatha Christie left, was until recently filled by a Morse detective and the Lewis’ series for Christmas. Or a Daziel and Pascoe thriller and the series based on these – though the tv series and Reginald Hill’s books differ considerably. Of course, I read practically everything by the late P.D. James, as well as murder and mayhem written by other crime novelists.

When the first Cormoran Strike novel appeared on the scene, I did not read it. Only after the hype died down and the author’s true pseudonym – Robert Galbraith being the same as J.K. Rowlin of Harry Potter fame – had been revealed, did I manage to get a copy. After reading “The Cuckoo’s Calling”, I could not wait for the next in this series to appear.

Nor, apparently, could a great many other people. The list of reservations by readers of over five different libraries was so long, it took months for a copy to become available. The day before Christmas, I finally managed to cart home a copy of “The Silkworm”.

It took me the two days of Christmas to tear through it. With Christmas dinner and other obligations intervening, I was unable to read it non-stop. But managing to read close to 460 pages in 48 hours, gives you an idea of this crime novel’s hold.

Is it as good as the first one? Don’t know about you, but the solution of the first Cormoran and Robin thriller came as a surprise to me. This time, however, I guessed fairly early in the book what had happened to the missing body parts. Once you solve this one, the number of suspects dwindles considerably. Nevertheless, this did not break the hold of the story.

The solution still did come as a bit of a surprise. Apparently, I found one or two candidates more likely culprits and one or two possible solutions more probable. Maybe this was caused by the Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, and chestnut puree?

Moreover, I was also taken aback, that the culprit most likely responsible for the suicide of one of the other suspects’ wife … turned out to be totally innocent. Blame this on the wine – or perhaps Galbraith’s expertise in red herrings, twists, and turns.

So: the story and plot are gripping, the pace fast. It is nice to become more acquainted with several main characters. But towards the end, my impression was that family members and friends of Robin and Cormoran were pulled out of a top-hat to help bring the book to an acceptable close. Compared to the first thriller of what is now the Cormoran Strike series, this second whodunnit seemed contrived.

What slightly annoyed me, was all the unnecessary information used to place this novel in a specific period in a specific year. This detective story would have worked without the reader being told Kate and William got engaged. Is the reader really interested and this? Does he or she needs to know the action takes place eight months after the first adventure? Sure: it’s nice to know that everybody is off to celebrate a happy Christmas in the end, but does it matter in which winter?

As for the theme: a reader is unable to miss it is revenge. Nearly each chapter has a quote from a Jacobean revenge tragedy. Before the novel even starts, the scene is set by a few lines from Thomas Dekker’s “The Noble Spanish Soldier”. There are quotes from “The White Devil”, “The Dutchess of Malfi”, “The Revenger’s Tragedy” and similar plays. In fact, we’re even told Robin’s mum is taking an Open University course in this genre.

Galbraith dropped out of university and so have the two main protagonists. I also suspect Galbraith mischievously used experiences and personal knowledge about the publishing world in this novel. While trying to locate the missing author, Cormoran and Robin come across succesful writers, the lesser ones, and downright failures. There are fans and hangers-on. There is the rivalry between publishers, editors, authors, and publishing houses. The dwindling number of readers – and good authors, according to one of the characters – is mentioned. But it is also made clear how much money is made from novels, or even writing an introduction to a dead author’s manuscript.

Is it a good read? Personally, I think “The Cuckoo’s calling” is better than the bombyx mori one. But as I tore through “The Silkworm” in 48 hours, this one still falls in my category of “unputdownable”. So if like me, you’ve read both of Galbraith’s detective novels: let’s hope the third one will be out in time for Christmas 2015.

“The Cuckoo’s calling”, Robert Galbraith, Sphere, 2013. Also available as audio and ebook.
“The Silkworm”, Robert Galbraith, Sphere, 2014. Also available as audio and ebook

The author’s official page: Robert Galbraith. Facebook page for Cormoran Strike fans: CormoranStrike

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2 thoughts on “Book review: Galbraith’s Silkworm

    • Go to the library like I did. The hype around the 1st, “Cuckoo’s calling” has died down and it’s from 2013. So you might be able to find it. Or buy a 2nd hand copy. I now only buy books I really, really like or which are really, really classics.

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