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.
Strike has been cashing in on his notoriety from his successful solution to the Lula Landry case in the last book, where he solved a crime in spite of the police bungling of the case. Unfortunately, that leaves him persona non grata with Scotland Yard, so when he needs their help now, he’s out of luck. He does have one ace in the hole, an officer whose life Strike saved while they both served in Afghanistan, but even he gives him short shrift when his opinion on the case differs from Strike’s. While juggling cases of unfaithful husbands and surveillance, Strike is contacted by the wife of novelist Owen Quine, who has gone missing. She would like him to find her husband, who has made a habit of disappearing for days at a time. He had a blow-out argument with his agent when she told him his latest book was not publishable and he took off in a storm of anger. The resolution of this case is what makes up most of the plot, even though Strike has other ongoing cases. Strike ends up looking for a maniacal killer and the description of the ghastly scene couldn’t be more repulsive.
But the reason I love this series is what also goes on outside of the case:
First, Strike’s relationship with his Gal Friday, Robin Ellacott. She’s waged a battle to have more responsibility and more training in the basics of detective work in spite of her troublesome fiancé, Matthew, who is jealous of Strike and doesn’t understand why Robin would pass on a job in HR that would have paid her much more handsomely than what she makes working for Strike. He can’t understand her drive for a job that she loves. And doesn’t she make the perfect mate for Strike, anyway? Will there ever be fireworks between them?
Second, Strike’s heartbreaking ongoing should I or shouldn’t I back and forth feelings about his lover of sixteen years, Charlotte, who is getting ready to marry someone who can provide all the upper class extras that she seems to need. Self-absorbed and narcissistic, Strike is much better off without her, but does he realize it?
Third, Strike’s tremendous challenges due to the loss of his leg by a roadside IED in Afghanistan. He has a prosthesis but he continues to have a “dodgy knee” that presents all kinds of challenges for him. He’s in a great amount of pain and applying the prosthesis to a red and swollen knee makes it even more painful. This forces him to rely more and more on Robin.
Fourth, Galbraith’s decision to reveal the publishing industry, warts and all, and she leaves not a stone unturned, including the self-published novelists, greedy agents, and narcissistic writers. They all appear to be drunk much of the time. I now know more about the publishing industry than I thought possible.
The beauty of it all is that Galbraith is such a terrific storyteller. Pages flew by and before I knew it I was at the satisfying end and contemplating the full year I’ll have to wait for the next volume. Highly recommended.
The Silkworm has some stylistic similarities to its predecessor: interesting and varied characters, fast pace, and Strike's "aha moment" that is subsequently revealed to the reader, piece by piece. Strike's character is further developed, but his assistant Robin really takes shape in this book. Robin's relationship with her fiance Matthew is explored in more depth, and she takes on a larger role in Strike's investigations. By the end of The Silkworm, they're not quite equals, but they are a force to be reckoned with and I am very glad the author plans to publish several more books in this series.
A decent, solid mystery for me with interesting series characters. Worth reading if you enjoy the genre.
Strike is an ex-military policeman who lost a foot in Afghanistan, and is now just turning 36 in this story that begins eight months after the conclusion of the first book in the series, Cuckoo’s Calling.
Strike craves anonymity, much as he had in the army’s Special Investigation Branch, where your background and parentage didn’t matter as much as how well you did your job. But he is one of the illegitimate children of the rock star Jonny Rokeby, and when people find this out they tend to form an opinion of Strike as “no more than a famous singer’s zygote, the incidental evidence of a celebrity’s unfaithful fumble.” Strike has actually only met his biological father once, but he does know his half-siblings, and one of them, Al, helps Strike out in his latest case. In the process, Strike is amazed to discover that Al, Jonny Rokeby’s legitimate son and living a much more charmed life than Strike ever had, is envious of Strike, who has a purposefulness and usefulness that Al never has felt.
This case involves the murder of novelist Owen Quine. Strike had been hired by Owen’s wife Leonora to find Owen after he went missing. Strike does locate Quine, but what he finds is his body, in a very horrifying scene that not so coincidentally replicates a murder from Quine’s last as yet unpublished book, “Bombyx Mori,” Latin for “The Silkworm.” The silkworm, Quine once said, was a metaphor for the writer “who has to go through agonies to get at the good stuff….” Leonora immediately comes under suspicion but Strike is convinced she is innocent, and proceeds, with the help of the intrepid Robin, to prove it.
Discussion: Rowling’s writing is impressive as usual. As the story begins, for example, Strike heads out in the cold for an early morning meeting, and observes
"A huddle of couriers in fluorescent jackets cupped mugs of tea in their gloved hands beneath a stone griffin standing sentient on the corner of the market building.”
What a nicely-done sentence. The couriers aren’t huddling; they are “a huddle of couriers.” The image of the cold is boosted by the fact that they clasp their tea mugs with “gloved hands.” And the alliterative “stone griffin standing sentient” adds a subtle rhythmic appeal to the description.
Strike then proceeds on to the Smithfield Cafe, “a cupboard-sized cache of warmth and greasy food.” Again the alliteration cleverly draws attention to the aptness of her phrasing, as we can picture exactly just what sort of place would have both warmth and greasy food.
Rowling pays obeisance to the common tropes of the genre - from noir elements, to Strike’s careful methodical examination of the facts, to having Strike bring all the suspects together in a Christie-like manner to facilitate the unmasking of the killer. But she does not employ the spare prose of the noir writer, exploring the philosophical issues raised by the murder and the suspects as well as just taking us through the solving of the crime.
The object of Strike’s investigation being a novelist affords many opportunities for commentary on the writing and publishing business, which I found a bit distracting. It’s hard to tell whether these are “meta” observations of J.K. Rowling or if they should be considered simply as revelatory of the personalities under suspicion. I was much more taken by the many astute observations made about the nature of love and relationships. One of the authors under investigation, Michael Fancourt, muses to Strike:
"We don’t love each other; we love the idea we have of each other. Very few humans understand this or can bear to contemplate it.”
Later she has Strike rehearsing his relationship with his abusive former fiancée Charlotte, wondering if it fits the parameters of Fancourt's paradigm:
"Perhaps he had created a Charlotte in her own image who had never existed outside his own besotted mind, but what of it? He had loved the real Charlotte too, the woman who had stripped herself bare in front of him, demanding whether he could still love her if she did this, if she confessed to this, if she treated him like this….”
We can believe that Strike loved Charlotte for herself. Her cruel behavior to him serves to illuminate Strike’s steadfastness. In fact, many of the characters act as daubs from a pallet to fill in the portrait of Strike. Strike’s willingness to take on the impoverished Leonora Quine as a client, for example, places into relief his character as a champion of the downtrodden, as well as his disgust and impatience with his usual client pool of “the mistrustful, endlessly betrayed rich.”
Fancourt had also expressed to Strike his belief that men are primarily driven by the need/desire for sex; if a man tells himself a particular woman is “more fascinating, more attuned to my needs and desires, than another,” he is just revealing that he is ‘a complex, highly evolved and imaginative creature who feels compelled to justify a choice made on the crudest grounds.'”
Later in the story, Strike seems to substantiate Fancourt’s theory when he thinks about his sister asking him why he stayed with Charlotte:
"'Why do you put up with it? Why? Just because she’s beautiful?
And he had answered: ‘It helps.’
She had expected him to say ‘no,’ of course. Though they spent so much time trying to make themselves beautiful, you were not supposed to admit to women that beauty mattered.”
What an excellent observation.
Evaluation: J.K. Rowling is a masterful storyteller no matter what name she uses. I very much look forward to more installments of this crime series.
Cormoran Strike's private detective agency is enjoying prestige and increased business secured by the success of the Lula Landry case in The Cuckoo's Calling. In this, the second of the series, Galbraith brings a darker investigation involving an author who is killed by the same method described in his latest, as yet unpublished book, a book that is scathing in its description of his friends. The colourful characters are well-drawn and the murder is satisfyingly grisly. But what Rowling does best is in the details: the cold weather is believable; whether the restaurant is upscale or greasy spoon, the reader experiences the surroundings; the physical and emotional scars of Strike's devastating injury in Afghanistan are achingly transparent. A minor criticism is that towards the end of the book some scenes were drawn out too much with a long interview that reduced the impact of the resolution. However, I look forward to the next instalment and hope that the series continues for a long time. Cormoran Strike and his sidekick Robin are currently my favourite detective pairing.
(summary from ISBN 0316206873)
Galbraith is a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling. This is the second book in her Cormoran Strike series. Strike is a damaged man, physically and emotionally. Partly because of his wartime experiences, he is an outstanding investigator, often interfering with investigations of local law enforcement. Galbraith writes in great detail about the investigation and resolution. The book is not a fast-read, but a suspenseful one and hard to put down!
In the first book a lot of the characters were reminiscent of real famous Brits, never close enough to be libellous. I don't know enough about publishing to judge if that is going on here but I hope it is. I did notice that two of the characters are called Kathryn Kent and Pippa Midgley and I wondered if this was a very cheeky (and perverse) reference to the Middleton sisters.
And the whole thing just feels real. I've spent some time in London and she really captures the size and variety of the place.
Reviewed July 2015
As Strike begins his search for the missing husband, he finds out much more about Quine and the unsavory book he has just completed. The book is allegorical in nature and apparently reveals or insinuates terrible things about his friends, family, and acquaintances in the publishing world...in short, no one in it would ever want it published!! However, almost all the principals have seen a manuscript and readily recognize themselves and one another. No one has a kind word to say about him, and know one knows where he is.
In the meantime, Robin's fiancé remains hostile to Cormoran, though the two men have yet to meet, not to mention Matthew's objection to this job of Robin's which does not pay nearly as much as another she was offered. There is also tension in Cormoran's complex family life. His mother had been a free spirited band groupie; his father a very successful rock musician who did not acknowledge him prior to a DNA test much later in life. But his father's legitimate sons think war hero/semi-well known detective Cormoran Strike is totally cool, and there is a friendship growing there.
Another complex case, a mysterious murder, and plenty of arcane clues to keep Cormoran Strike moving closer and closer to the resolution of the main question, "Who done it??"
Easy to read, as one can hardly put it down. I recommend it highly!
Author Owen Quine goes missing and his wife, Lenora, hires Strike to find him. Strike finds him-- dead, in a sadistic manner, as if the killer was a rookie in the BDSM fetish. Strike and his assistant, Robin Ellacott, discover that Owen had been planning on releasing a book bordering on slander, libel and defamation. This book, Bombyx Mori (Latin for silkworm) was a BDSM horror fantasy in which all of Quine's associates were implicated. Between the gruesome manner of his death and the vitriol in his book, that someone wanted Quine dead. Strike and Robin set out to find the killer before it's too late.
I loved the character development. Robin challenges Strike for more training and responsibilities, while challenging her fiance, Matthew, that she is doing the right thing. Strike, too, develops; he is left with the burden of fame after he solved the Lula Landry case (see The Cuckoos Calling) and is questioning his past after his ex-wife gets re-married.
I really enjoyed the first book of this series and was really looking forward to reading this one but I have to admit that I did enjoy the first book in the series more than I enjoyed this one. I still enjoyed this book but it felt like there wasn't the same spark to the partnership between Strike and Robin and there were parts of the investigation that just became dull at times.
Strike and Robin are back in this installment and while they are still working together their partnership seemed different this time around. The main reason that I felt their partnership was different was because of Robin's fiance Matthew. Matthew is not supportive of Robin's job (it basically seems like he isn't supportive of her) and can be a downright jerk. Matthew is holding back Robin and she couldn't see that her dishonesty with Matthew was holding her back until Strike tells her. I was just dying for her to finally get rid of Matthew but unfortunately Robin still hasn't opened up her eyes. I am glad that Robin and Strike really cleared up some misunderstandings towards the middle of the book so that their partnership was back to normal then. I want Robin to dump Matthew so that she can have someone that will support her, I wouldn't mind if she and Strike would then have a relationship but I would be a bit wary at that because it could ruin their partnership.
I really enjoyed getting to see Strike interact with his friends and also with his half-brother Al. Reading about his friends and his half-brother really opens up Strike's life more to readers. I was also glad to see that he didn't fall for any of Charlotte's tricks. Charlotte is no good for him and I think he finally realizes it.
There are many suspects in this book who could have murdered Owen Quine and they all have their reasons as to why they would kill him. I tried to guess who it was and ultimately did not guess the correct person. I think that because there were so many suspects that the investigation dragged on and that is why I find some parts to be a bit boring. The parts that discussed Quine's books were not boring but interesting and at times weird. I don't think that if Quine were a real author that I would have read his books because they seem way too outside of my comfort reading zone.
I thought it interesting that J.K. wrote a book about an author and discusses the publishing world. There are a lot of quotes about authors and readers that I thought were interesting.
Overall I did enjoy this book but found the first book to be a bit better than this one. I would recommend this book if you've read the first book in the series and enjoyed it. I look forward to reading more of this series.
Because Quine’s novel skewers virtually everyone in his life, there are many suspects with motive. Most also have opportunity. In an Agatha Christie-type ending, Cormoran gathers all the suspects together to reveal the identity of the murderer. The resolution will probably come as a surprise to readers, but everything fits perfectly. Even seemingly innocuous details of the killer’s life mentioned early on prove to be crucial clues.
Characterization is a strong element. All of the suspects are developed as round characters. Cormoran’s back story is developed further as is that of Robin, his assistant. Their relationship is also fleshed out; interesting possibilities exist. Many of the suspects are involved in publishing, so insight is given into the behind-the-scenes machinations of that industry. Two writers, Owen Quine, and his archenemy, Michael Fancourt, are described with wonderful touches of humour: Quine is described as “’a monumentally arrogant, deluded bastard’” and Fancourt’s female characters are “’all temper, tits and tampons.’”
The one aspect of the novel that bothered me is the technique of deliberately withholding Cormoran’s thoughts towards the end when he develops a theory as to the killer. Even his conversations with Robin are censored. I understand the desire to create suspense, but since Cormoran’s thoughts and conversations are given in great detail throughout, the sudden shift away from omniscience jars. It seems that Rowling is aware of this problem because she even has Cormoran address the issue: “He knew that he was acting as though he were held to a professional standard that had ceased to apply when he had left the Special Investigation Branch. Though legally free to gossip to whomever he pleased about his suspicions, he continued to treat them as confidential. . . . the safest way of ensuring that secret information did not leak was not to tell anybody about it.” The problem is, of course, that the reader is hardly going to gossip or divulge secret information!
This is a good mystery with a carefully constructed plot and well-developed characters. Like its predecessor, it is not fast-paced but certainly maintains the reader’s interest throughout. Even after only two installments in the series, Cormoran and Robin are a duo whom the reader feels he/she knows but wants to meet again.
This second outing for Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith continues the story of Cormoran Strike, an intrepid detective and war hero, and his assistant Robin.
This story is much darker than THE CUCKOO’S CALLING and filled with cruelty and foulness. A failed and failing writer is murdered in a heinous way. Strike and Robin combine to discover who among the many literary folk did the murder and why. The many characters are introduced and their stories filled out nicely. Each of the characters has a possible motive and you will be kept guessing until the final pages. Rowling writes with clarity as she fleshes out each possible murderer. The plot is intricate and you will need to pay attention if you are to solve the mystery before Strike and Robin.
Strike’s physical infirmity becomes a defining part of the story and Robin is forced to step up in ways that make her fiancé unhappy. That portion of the book offers insight into each of the main characters and will allow Rowling to continue the series with continued conflict between Robin, her fiancé and Strike.
A well written, engaging mystery that drags just a bit in the middle when much time is spent defining the characters.
4 of 5 stars
Riding off the high of having solved the Lula Landry murder in the first book, Cormoran Strike is hired by a woman whose author husband has gone missing. Right before he disappeared he wrote a poison pen novel in which he thinly disguised his associates and painted unflattering portraits of them. Cormoran and Robin have to get to the bottom of who in the novel wanted to do away with it's author.
The mystery was okay for me. There were times I was flat out bored and other times I had trouble keeping track of who was who in the literary world. They were all a bunch of unlikable people and I didn't really care who back stabbed who. While reading I found that I was far more wrapped up in the personal lives of Cormoran and Robin. I cared more about the death of Robin's finance's mother and whether she was going to catch the train to the funeral and how the marriage of Cormoran's ex Charlotte was ripping him up than the who was sleeping with who in the literary circle. I love the character of Robin most. She knows just how to handle any situation including the jealous feelings Cormoran arises in her fiance. I will pick up the next book in the series just to see where the relationship between Cormran and Robin is going. Harry Potter will always rule my heart though. Reading the small article J.K. wrote as Rita Skeeter updating the H.P. characters lives invoked such feelings of happiness in me that this series has yet to provide.
Locating the missing man launches a gruesome murder investigation.
Galbraith uses a wide range of vivid vocabulary to write compelling descriptions and dialog, providing a picturesque view of life in London, from the slums to the gentleman's clubs. The writing style is so enjoyable that the reader may not notice how incrementally the story moves forward. With an abundance of characters and details (not necessarily red herrings but certainly distractions), forget about trying to figure out "who done it" and just enjoy the ride.
Cormoran is an interesting character - capable but also vulnerable, due to a war injury and lack of funds. Robin's character enjoys well-deserved time in the spotlight, though one might wish she had more moxie. A hint of attraction between Robin and Strike lingers but it's potentially professional admiration more than sexual heat and Galbraith keeps it to a minimum.
This entry in the series brings out more of Cormoran's useful acquaintances - an amusing friend who loves a challenge and a half-brother eager for a bit of independence and adventure. Robin's skills are made more apparent and she's finally given something more stimulating to do than effective internet searches and retrieving coffee and sandwiches.
Not a page-turner and containing some gruesome detail, some mystery readers will undoubted abandon this book. Mystery readers with a little patience, tolerance for disturbing images, and a love of London will enjoy.
Now the cat is out of the bag we all know that Robert Galbraith is J K Rowling. Like the first book ' The Cuckoos Calling ' I found that a lot of the characters are very 'Potter' like with their unusal names.
I enjoyed the first outing with Cormoran Strike and his side kick Robin but didn't enjoy this story as much. I felt it was very overlong for what it was. I am afraid to say that towards the end the stiry was becoming a slog. I also felt there were too many characters and I was getting muddled who was actualky who. At times I felt I was reading an Agatha Christie novel who I find sometimes can be over run with characters and at the climax I an totally lost when the perp is revealed.
I felt that that whole book could have been at least one hundred pages shorter and was very wordy. The story line was weak, but for me it is Cormoran and Robin that held my interest. I like the relationship that they have and I hope that it stays the way it is.
If I had read this book first then I am afraid that I perhaps I wouldn't seek out any more. I think that the next outing will have to be something more for me to have to commit nearly a week to plough through.
This mystery was fast paced and had me guessing the entire time. I had no idea how it was all going to possibly come together. This mystery follows the disappearance of a b-list author. His wife contacts Detective Strike to find him after he's been gone for ten days thinking that he's off on some writer's retreat or worse with a mistress. Strike soon finds out however, that things are much, much worse.
For fans of JK Rowlings, mysteries, and anything set in London.