Rowling’s Stride: The Silkworm

I recently got to get away from my real life and hide out at my in-laws’ place with a stack of books. The weather was iffy – sometimes it was sunny and I basked in it in all my SPF60 glory, other times it was raining and I hid on the covered porch. But we all know that weather doesn’t really matter when you’re reading.

Last week, Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling released his second book: The Silkworm. This follow up to The Cuckoo’s Calling, last year’s publishing surprise, reunites us with private detective Cormoran Strike and his insanely efficient and capable assistant Robin, as they try and figure out what happened to eccentric writer Owen Quine who has been gone for 10 days. His wife, Leonora, doesn’t want to involve the police because last time she did that and he was just with his girlfriend and he was really upset.

the silkworm

Here’s what we know in the beginning: Owen Quine’s been missing for 10 days after having a public row with his agent, Elizabeth, in a crowded fancy restaurant about his new manuscript. Elizabeth was sick when she skimmed it and had sent it out to various publishers to get Owen to leave her alone while she was recovering. It’s only when her assistant calls and asks her if she’s read the whole thing that she goes back and sees that it’s basically a thinly veiled, insanely slanderous attack on several prominent members of their community.

And so the witch hunt begins.

Strike isn’t having the same pecuniary difficulties that plagued him in The Cuckoo’s Calling, mainly because of all the publicity he got from solving that case. But we get to know him better as a person, see the relationship between him and Robin take shape, find out more about his past in Afghanistan and watch him struggle with his physical limitations more than we did in the other book.

This book is also way more gruesome than the first one. The whole book is ice and sleet and slush and misery. Leonora isn’t acting the way the wife of a missing author should; Quine’s contemporaries are far more interested in speaking with Strike than people involved in an investigation normally are; and Robin’s relationship with her fiance is hanging on by a thread.

I adore JK Rowling in all forms but I think as Robert Galbraith she might have finally found her new voice. It seems like she finally feels free to just write what she wants, without expectations or comparisons. Cormoran Strike is an excellent character and I love love love reading his stories.


JK Rowling and Robert Galbraith

By now we all know that JK Rowling wrote a secret book under the name Robert Galbraith. My fiancé (can I use that word without sounding like a total tool?) read out the news to me from his twitter and I immediately dragged him to the bookstore to find it. We were greeted by a 2-book sized hole on the shelf where the 2 copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling had sat until that morning when store employees were greeted with a line of people who had read the news earlier than me.


After looking into things a little bit, I realized that I was in for at least a 10-day wait while the publisher set up another print run. But here’s where I got sneaky. I could have ordered it in store from Chapters, or even online via Chapters. I chose bookdepository.com, the UK-based online book retailer. Not only did I get it sooner than the rest of the Lower Mainland, it was also discounted.


In all seriousness, I could not have acted a bigger dork when I picked that book up from the post office.

I believe that I disclosed this when I posted about The Casual Vacancy, but I love JK Rowling. She’s my literary idol. I’m not totally sure how objective I am able to be when it comes to her writing. I really enjoyed The Casual Vacancy! The ending! So many feelings. Obviously, it was not Harry Potter, but I think that was kind of the point.

Anyway. As Robert Galbraith, Rowling had the chance to be judged purely on her (superior) writing talents. And from what I’ve read, reviews were generally positive. However, without the name, the book didn’t sell. Conundrum. (How smug would you be if you were one of the few that had read it when you thought it was just some unknown author?) Then the lawyers talked and we were treated to a surprise Rowling book. The author herself is, understandably, rather piqued about the whole thing. I’m sure she enjoyed the freedom to write without Harry Potter dogging her. I’m not sure we’d have a chance at a second Cormoran Strike (there she goes with those fabulous names again) novel if Rowling hadn’t been unveiled though.

And that. Would be a shame.

So Cormoran Strike is an Afghan war vet who is missing one leg and has started his own private detective business. It’s not going well. His girlfriend has just run out on him, he has no place to live and he can barely afford to pay the temp, Robin, that has shown up for a week’s work.

Then the brother of a dead supermodel shows up asking Strike to look into the mystery surrounding her apparent suicide and things start to look up. The brother agrees to pay double the normal rates and it turns out Robin the temp is not only an admin superstar but she has always secretly dreamed of being a private detective. Given the chance, they’d probably make a formidable team.

We all know that I love crime fiction and this one is excellent example of its genre. Not as twisted or sick as some of the Scandinavians (they are messed up) but it definitely kept me guessing. Rowling really has a knack for creating brilliant characters and she does the same in The Cuckoo’s Calling – even peripheral characters like Robin’s fiancé and Strike’s sister Lucy have backstories and personalities that jump out at you.

I think we’re all just going to have to face the fact that JK Rowling is just a very talented writer, no matter the genre.