Friday, 5 September 2014

The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm - "Robert Galbraith" (RIP IX book 1)

Earlier this week, a girl came up to me in the shop holding a copy of The Silkworm and asked "whether we had any more books by this author." I resisted the urge to take her to the children's section to show her the shiny new editions of the Harry Potter series, and explained to her the author's real identity, marvelling at how she had managed to miss this news.

The Silkworm is the sequel to J. K. Rowling's first crime novel under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. The Cuckoo's Calling introduced down-on-his-luck Cormoran Strike, an ex-army detective now working as a private investigator, a large man with a prosthetic leg, a brilliant memory and an address book full of useful friends-and-relations, all of whom seem to have a different nickname for him. He is joined by Robin, a young temp worker who finds herself unexpectedly assigned a job as a secretary and general admin assistant. Robin has a keen mind, a great initiative and has always had a private dream of working as a private detective herself, and it is not long before she is well-established as Strike's crime-solving partner.

The Cuckoo's Calling is a tale of murder and intrigue, when the apparent suicide of a troubled young model reveals that all is not as it seems. We know from Harry Potter that J. K. Rowling is a master storyteller, strewing valuable clues throughout her books, but which come together only at the very end as she weaves in every detail of every subplot together to make a perfect plot. As such crime fiction is the logical genre for her to move to. The Cuckoo's Calling was an accomplished first crime novel, and The Silkworm surpasses it. The sequel shows Strike and Robin investigating the disappearance of a controversial novelist who has angered most of his acquaintances by loosely-disguised portraits of them in his latest manuscript. And when his body turns up things turn very interesting indeed - for he has been murdered in a manner taken straight from the pages of his unpublished novel.

The Silkworm is an intelligent literary novel as well as a page-turning thriller, full of references to Jacobean revenge tragedies, quotes of which form the epigraphs for each chapter. The investigation into the novelist's murder involves the unravelling of the cryptic caricatures in his would-be masterpiece, and I love a mystery which involves the cracking of a code. The Silkworm was an incredibly satisfying read: "Galbraith" does not cheat the reader, revealing enough information to make us feel smart, but holding back enough to keep us guessing, finishing up with an epic revelation at the end. I can't wait to see what else J. K. Rowling and "Robert Galbraith" have in store for Strike and Robin, and I hope to read many more novels in this series.

I read The Silkworm as part of
the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge.

2 comments:

  1. Nice review(s)! I've actually yet to get around to reading these although I've been meaning to for a while. I think I've subconsciously been put off by the mixed reviews to The Casual Vacancy so I'm glad to hear these two are good reads. Considering their author, no doubt there'll be an adaptation of them coming soon...

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  2. Well, now I've got to boost The Cuckoo's Calling up the pile, haven't I? I sort of forgot about it when I was thinking about what to read for R.I.P. because it's my mum's, not mine. I've kicked off reading Red Dragon and watching Hannibal season 1 at the same time, and it's proving an interesting experience. The characters are the same, the situations are different, random moments suddenly find a parallel across both media, lines of dialogue and thought are taken straight from the novel and transplanted into the series but not always from the same character... I'm loving both though, they're brilliant! Gruesome in certain moments, but brilliant.

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