I will readily admit that, pseudonym or not, I picked up The Silkworm because it was written by J K Rowling. Sure, she wrote it as Robert Galbraith, but that cat was out of the bag looonngg ago. Around the same time that I read the first novel in the Cormoran Strike series, The Cuckoo’s Calling. What a surprise.

Picking up a few months after the last novel ended, The Silkworm follows Strike and his trusty assistant Robin in a murder mystery that soon gets very ugly. And by that I mean, you do not want to be eating while reading this book. When a battered, and somewhat batty, Lenora Quine asks for Strike’s help in finding her errant husband, novelist Owen Quine, Strike thinks he simply has another missing persons case on his hand. However, as the case unfolds, Strike learns that things are more complicated than they look: not only is Quine missing, but he’s left behind a mentally handicapped daughter, a mistress and a manuscript that is doing its best to destroy the reputations of those around him. And when Quine’s body is discovered in a particularly macabre scene, things become even more complicated.

While I enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, I found that it was too slow-paced, with far too many pages. While we all know J K Rowling is a fan of writing hefty books, unfortunately most crime novels have, or even need, less intricate details and actions that we came to know and love in the Harry Potter universe. Let’s be honest, if the last Harry Potter was twice the length, I’m sure most people wouldn’t have been complaining. As a result, I had trouble getting into The Cuckoo’s Calling. I felt that the characters had potential, particularly the assistant, Robin, but their personalities were lost in the mass of information that at times felt dull. Basically, if there was less fluff surrounded the important scenes, then the novel would have been a far better read.

While, apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought that, and Rowling apparently was listening, because not only is The Silkworm actually smaller in size, but it is jam-packed with information, scenes and characters that bring the novel to life. While Owen Quine was a show-stopper in the novel for his general oddness (although he doesn’t actually appear (alive) in the novel) and his death spine-tinglingly gruesome, it was the evolution of Robin and Cormoran that I liked most of all. While the first novel in a series often has to do the tedious task of describing the characters, The Silkworm was able to skim right past that and allow its characters to grow.

Particularly, I loved how Robin showed herself to be more than a 2D happy-to-please assistant. In The Silkworm she stands up for herself both to Strike and her fiancee Matt, while also showing her vulnerable side. Furthermore, J K Rowling has left her character’s story open enough so that we get a glimpse of her past and a hidden, life-changing experience, which suggests that there is another book left in the series. And while Robin is beautiful, and Cormoran finds her attractive, Rowling has also written her in a way that we aren’t dazzled by her looks, but rather her strength, intelligence and wit. Hooray!

The other part that I most enjoyed about The Silkworm were the depictions of London life, scenery and buildings. I visited London last year and absolutely loved it and until I can go back (why is Australia so far from everywhere?), I’ve been trying to live vicariously through novels. Sherlock Holmes is a personal favourite (both the novels and the TV series), but The Silkworm is a close second. Whether it was her depictions of grisly winter weather, the classiest restaurants in town, or even the mundane descriptions of houses, I was in awe. London, why must you be so far away?

Overall, The Silkworm is a fast-paced, enjoyable read that has vastly improved on its predecessor. J K Rowling has created characters that are becoming more entertaining over time, and her crime-writing skills are becoming better and better. While it isn’t Harry Potter, it’s impressive that Rowling still loves to write, and it definitely shows in The Silkworm.

Have you read The Silkworm or The Cuckoo’s Calling? Are you a fan of J K Rowling or Harry Potter? Let me know!

the silkworm by robert galbraith

The Silkworm – (image taken from http://www.images-amazon.com)