Cormoran Strike is enjoying his success and new-found notoriety after solving the Lula Landry case chronicled in book one. In this second installment, he is flush with high paying, if mundane, clientele when Leonora Quine walks into his office. Her husband has been missing for a week, and she wants Strike to bring him back. The missing person case quickly turns into a murder investigation in another classic whodunit caper from J.K. Rowling.
The murder victim in Silkworm is an eccentric author named Owen Quine. Before he disappeared, he was seen arguing with his editor over dinner about his latest book, a bombastic sendup of all the major figures in Quine’s literary circle. More than a week later, Strike finds Quine’s body killed in a grotesque way that mimics the ending of this latest novel. All of the characters in Quine’s novel become suspects, with his wife, Leonora, being the main target of police. The book follows Strike as he chases unlikely leads and solves the puzzle, once again showing up the Met.
Overall, I really enjoyed Silkworm. Rowling did a great job painting the characters and further developing the reader’s relationship with Strike and Robin. She made a point of alluding to some as-yet-unrecognized attraction between the detective and his beautiful, blonde sidekick, something I’m guessing will only intensify in future novels. It seems inevitable now that Strike’s former flame, Charlotte, is out of the way and Robin’s marriage to Matthew is delayed that something awkward and/or dramatic will bring the unlikely pair together.
My biggest complaint was that the novel-within-a-novel format was hard to follow. I feel like I needed to make a flow chart to keep in the book jacket just to keep the characters and their pseudonyms straight. It was, I’m sure, purposely complex so as to veil the true motive and identity of the murderer. Even still I got irritated with it, as it made me feel lost in the details at times.
SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you don’t want to know the ending…
The focus on the publishing industry made me wonder if Silkworm wasn’t a bit of a send-up itself. Rowling had a very public legal battle over the leaking of her pen name, winning damages from her former lawyer. Was the casting of the literary agent as a murderer likening the fictional author’s murder to the “death” of her pseudonym? Maybe that’s a stretch, but I did find Rowling’s cast of characters from her own industry generally unflattering. One could surmise she is disillusioned with the publishing world (and rich enough to complain about it without meaningful repercussions).
There was something about The Silkworm that reminded me of a Sunday night prime-time drama; the setting was comfortable, characters likeable, and plot sort of predictable. It may not be earth-shattering literature, but it’s easy to read and generally enjoyable. All in all, I’m looking forward to the next one.