I read and enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling and so was looking forward to this follow-up. As with the first book I was much more taken by the characters than the plot. Strike is extremely likable and very well-rounded and the relationships between the main characters are really believable. Location too is great; I know that corner of London very well and it was lovely to read it brought to life so evocatively.
Sadly, it’s the plot that lets the whole book down; it reads like a crime novel written by someone who hasn’t read much crime. It lacks the pace of a Val McDermid or a PD James novel and so my main reason for finishing the book was because I was enjoying the character development.
I’d read another one, but hopefully it will be about a hundred pages shorter and have a bit more pace behind it.
on 5 July 2014
Eight months after the Landry case and Strike is back. Inundated with rich clients wanting their adulterous spouses tailed, the private detective is relieved to receive a likeable visitor with a quandary actually worth investigating. The wife of not-quite-famous author, Owen Quine, Leonora Quine wants her missing husband found. Cormoran takes on the case and quickly finds himself in and amongst London's squabbling literary circle, caught up in the mess created by Quine upon circulation of his latest manuscript; a libellous book in which he viciously attacks almost everyone he's ever worked with.
`Write what you know' is the age old adage and, where Rowling dipped into her experience of fame for The Cuckoo's Calling, The Silkworm deals with a publishing world going through an identity crisis. Traditional publishing, self-publishing and the internet's influence are all fleetingly examined, and you can't help but wonder how many of Cormoran's suspects include portions of the real-life people Rowling encountered during her remarkable rise to superstardom. But then, given the repercussions of Quine's own manuscript, Bombyx Mori (Latin for silkworm), borrowed traits might well have been too ironic an inclusion for even the most cavalier of writers - an enjoyable conundrum to deliberate whilst reading.
A literary yet accessible crime thriller, The Silkworm is, like its predecessor, an excellent read. The mystery is moreish, the characters well-crafted, and the side plots - particularly the continuing animosity between Strike and his assistant's fiancé - are genuinely enjoyable. One of the few complaints is that Strike unravels the mystery with a bit of a clunk, and that the quotes at the beginning of every chapter are somewhat pretentious for a trashy (in the very best of ways) crime thriller. Yes, even one with such a literary heart.
Jack Croxall, author of Tethers (The Tethers Trilogy Book 1)
on 14 September 2014
This, Robert Galbraith's second excursion into the dark, seedy world of the down at heel P.I. on one leg, is outstanding. Even better than his(!) first sojourn into this territory.
I don't profess to have the literary knowledge to understand the relevance or meanings behind the quotes at the beginning of each chapter but they had no bearing on my enjoyment of the book. I dare say they held important clues. But I was clueless.
The principal characters have developed since the first book. Understandably. They are more rounded; human even. Robin is the perfect foil for the limped gait crusader. She has become as important as the main protagonist. Hard to imagine one without the other now.
The plot here isn't complex but the main event - the murder - is certainly not run of the mill. The author uses all her experience of literary circles - agents, writers, publishers - to weave her tale and few come up smelling of roses. I dare say some may recognise themselves in the book. The irony in that is crystal clear and you can see that parallel as the story develops.
Fast paced and full of oddball characters, all of whom are suspects till the finale, this is a glorious trip round a strangely wintry London as Strike attempts to track down a murderer whose motive in the end is not as it appears throughout.
A first class detective story once again reminiscent of Chandler and Hammett at their best. Wit and grime come thick and fast in equal measure. Roll on the third Vet-man and Robin adventure. By far and away my favourite writer at the moment. Just terrific.
on 10 July 2014
I loved this book, and it's characters. In short it's a true throw back to what crime thrillers used to be, and its a brilliant read for it. In this book you get to enjoy the structured interviewing of characters, the red herrings that you have to find and the chipping away at the elusive motives. It's a great read, it draws you along and you find yourself saying "I'll stop after one more chapter", but you don't. The story centres around a missing author. I wont get into the details but I had suspected who for a while and only at the end did I get why. And the way the author delivers the conclusion is so brilliantly done that I found myself say, "ahhhh" out loud. My favourite part was the gathering together of the suspects at a party in one room so the all knowing detective can unnerve them all, then reveal the killer with flair.
There is much to love about this series. The fact the main protagonist is a ginger, one legged, ex military police with a fair few chips on his shoulders is a nice break from plastic tendencies we get now days. Whatever happened to the unlikely miss marples? That he's been paired with a twenty something year old beauty / pa, who's impending nuptials are almost as horrific as the murders they solve is intriguing. Her determination to learn the craft, twins with your own interests in it. Indeed I felt as though Cormoran was teaching me as much as he was teaching her.
I read the cuckoos calling before I knew it was JK. It was a surprise - these books stand alone, and nothing hinted at her voice to me. The Potter world was a wonder of its genre. I think in the Strike novels it could be said she's done it again for crime thrillers. Order up for Book 3 please JK - we're eagerly awaiting it!
on 15 April 2015
Disappointing follow up for lovers of Strike Cormoran first novel, The Cuckoos Calling. The characters of Strike and his capable assistant, Robyn continue to be well developed and this aspect of the plot was what kept me going to the end. The plot however was in my opinion overly convoluted and quite tedious at times, the Latin introductions to each chapter added nothing, just irritated me. I cared nothing about any of the other characters and by the end I frankly just wanted the book to end so didn't give a hoot who the murderer was. Sorry, so wanted to enjoy this as my holiday read but will not be recommending.
on 26 August 2014
Having enjoyed "The Cuckoo's Calling" (not to mention all the other books of J K Rowlings) I was keen to see how the second book would fair. Although I found it darker, it was more enjoyable, possibly because I was familiar with the main characters. Once again the setting is atmospheric and beautifully observed while the characters, even the minor players, are carefully moulded to show depth and personality with all their idiosyncrasies, hang ups flaws and redeeming features.
The central plot twists and drags the reader through the streets of snowbound London, but I will not give away the main tenet as I feel spoilers are a curse. Suffice to say I hope Ms Rowlings (aka Robert Galbraith) in her literary circle does not come into contact with the seamier side of the publishing world.
A word of warning to those of a sensitive disposition; the language is often ripe, as befits the characters, and description of the body, luridly graphic.
on 9 July 2014
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first in this series, I was very excited to see this was coming out. There's a strong chance that I have a big Cormoran Strike crush - I think he's a really well-written hero - but I enjoy Robin's character just as much.
Didn't see the ending of this whodunit coming - another pleasure of this book. Some gory details that slowed my progress at times, but I am very pleased that persevering led to such a satisfying conclusion.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (or rather J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter-fame) was an all-round excellent crime novel; for its pacing, its diction, characterisation, domestic issues, sub-plotting and sheer humanity that the author breathed into the book. As Galbraith, Rowling was able to develop her writing even further, and successfully move on from Harry Potter towards appeasing a more adult demographic.
So now we have the long-awaited sequel; The Silkworm. Private Detective Cormoran Strike and loyal, brilliant assistant Robin Ellacott are back. Several months after the successful closure of the ‘Lula Landry’ case, Strike’s name has been made, and his reputation has gone through the roof! Strike’s business is booming, with more-and-more clients coming to him for help. The latest (and most prominent) is Leonora Quine, the wife of controversial novelist Owen Quine. Owen’s gone missing, and Leonora wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
Of course, as in The Cuckoo’s Calling…NOTHING in The Silkworm is as simple as the synopsis implies. The manuscript of Owen’s latest novel is his most shocking yet, and ruffled enough feathers to the point where he’s made too many enemies. As events spiral out of control, Strike will have a most sinister case on his hands…and all kinds of problems OUTSIDE of work to deal with.
All the quality from The Cuckoo’s Calling can be found in The Silkworm…and then some. The events from the previous book are used to brilliant effect in developing both Strike and Robin’s characters, as are their ongoing lives outside of work. In the case of Strike, the success from his last ‘big case success’ has put him in a brand-new environment to work in. No longer is he struggling to put food on his table, he’s struggling to keep up with the workload, and deal with the eager press and the jealous police. Yet throughout that, and the difficulties he suffers with his prosthetic leg and single-status, Strike retains his desire for justice, amazing intellect and guts, as well as the desire to do the right thing. He remains as inspiring a protagonist as ever.
As does Robin, who’s brilliant, capable, resourceful…and with all the potential in the world. She’s an invaluable asset to Strike, as well as an endearing human being. Of course, her own problems stem from her fiancé Matthew, who doesn’t approve of her job or employee. Other difficulties facing Robin include her own fear that Strike maybe selling her short, and the expectations placed on her by her family. Robin’s story is just as engaging as Strike’s. The use of character here is even richer than it was in the last book. It’s beautiful.
Like its prequel, The Silkworm is driven more by character than by plot, but that’s what makes Robert’s writing so appealing and so human. Character’s second-guessing themselves, qualities and flaws in every individual coming across through speech, gestures and mannerisms…it’s all so true-to-life, and it’s ultimately what keeps the reader guessing regarding the mystery. There are so many genuine suspects and ‘red-herrings’, along with enough twists, confrontations and action that quells any monotony that might develop.
The resolution is not only satisfying and plausible, but very clever indeed. Rowling knows where she’s guiding her plot, and she also knows where she’s leaving the clues. It’s unobvious to the point that the reader genuinely won’t see the revelation coming, and the pieces complete the puzzle in a fashion that’s worthy of Agatha Christie. This makes The Silkworm even more of a masterwork than its predecessor, and the references to things like the News of the World and the Royal Wedding help ground the book in a way that adds strength to the setting.
Those who loved The Cuckoo’s Calling will be all-the-more impressed by J.K. Rowling’s work as Robert Galbraith. For those who weren’t quite keen on the first-outing of Cormoran Strike maybe pleasantly surprised to discover this superior sequel. Well-paced, utterly engaging and highly recommended.
on 25 August 2014
Rowling’s second Galbraith – Strike novel offers a relatively enjoyable reading. Compared to the ‘debut’ it is more elaborate (too complex at some places to follow), yet again – for fans of Golden Age authors and their descendants there are no surprises – even the murderer is easy to identify long before the denouement. In accord with the best tradition the clues are being offered to the reader, scattered throughout the novel, testing the reader’s concentration; too many characters, too many names just mentioned randomly whose bearers never appear on the scene but of whom some prove to be crucial for the final revelation(s). At the end of the first novel Strike found himself in a life-threatening situation, this time it is Robin who is in danger. The question is – who comes next? What I find quite annoying is the way the author keeps using the lucky coincidences, e.g. the cab used for the final chase driven by Robin belonging incidentally to and borrowed for these specific purposes from the father of one of Strike’s friends (which is explained only in passing) or Strike’s bosom friend from Cornwall (never mentioned previously) who happens to find the crucial evidence against the otherwise over-confident murderer. Luckily for readers these ‘crutches’ don’t seem to spoil the general pleasure of playing at a detective alongside Strike and his (by now) team. Just one more thing – it would help future Strike adventures if the author tried to moderate her intellectual exhibitionism and refrained from throwing it at readers who have so far been capable of finding out what kind of a human being Strike is even without being constantly tested in classical knowledge.
on 14 August 2014
Robert Galbraith is, of course, JK Rowling of "Harry Potter" fame, and this is her second novel featuring the private detective Cormoran Strike and his feisty sidekick Robin Ellacott. If you liked "The Cuckoo's Calling," you'll like this one too. Like its predecessor, it's a quite traditional plot -- in the tight little world of small-house publishing in London, we meet a number of authors, editors, agents, and their various significant others, and you know that one out of the six or seven of them is the murderer, just like the ten little Indians in the Agatha Christie big house. Rowling's skill is in throwing out hints that suggest that any of them might be considered to have a reason to kill the victim -- the author of a roman-a-clef which trashes just about everybody he knows in particularly ugly ways. Strike is hired by the wife of a writer who has disappeared, and (spoiler here, but not really) is shortly after found to have been murdered in circumstances that are truly bizarre. Of course, the police have to jump in, and in the good old tradition of a certain kind of mystery, they come to a very quick decision about the perpetrator. Strike, needless to say, doesn't agree with their findings and sets out to find the real killer, conscious that the police already don't like him for showing them to have been wrong about what they thought was a suicide case in "The Cuckoo's Calling." Complicating things a bit for Strike is the fact that the police officer in charge of the investigation is a man whose life Strike saved in the explosion in Afghanistan that cost Strike the lower part of one of his legs. The problems caused by Strike's leg injury -- re-injured in the course of the novel -- mean that he is more dependent than usual on Robin, whose fiance doesn't like the fact that Robin seems to have found her life's calling being an investigator.
Some readers might be irritated that we hear so much of Robin's problems with her fiance AND that humming in the background is the fact that Strike's old lover of sixteen on-and-off years is on the point of marrying an unsavory character who has aristocratic connections. I have to say that this business of Strike's romantic life is less than totally credible -- in every other respect, Strike is competent, rational, and thorough, and his lost love is simply a neurotic mess. She is, we are to believe, gorgeous, but that apparently is not her main attraction for Strike. That he should care about her, having seen her instability and deceitfulness, stretches credulity.
The action takes place in London (mainly) during a particularly cold and stormy winter, and Rowling effectively evokes the atmosphere of London in the snow and cold, mainly through the difficulties it causes for the injured Strike. I'm going to say nothing about the plot except to say that it is well worked out and that the procedural aspects of Strike's and Robin's investigation are well attended to. Also well attended to is the atmosphere of desperation and near-paranoia to be found in the publishing world -- the ego and insecurities of writers, the struggle of agents and publishers to retain writers likely to be successful, the extent to which insecurity can be exploited for sexual favors, and the sense of the need for "payback" -- revenge -- by those who feel they have been ill-done by. The revenge motif is particularly strong, and Rowling employs as chapter-epigraphs quotations from seventeenth and eighteenth century plays, many of them turning on revenge.
There's comes a point in the story where we learn that Strike has figured out who the killer is, but the reader is not told. Strike needs evidence to take to the police so that they can release the person they wrongly believe to be the murderer. In the search for evidence -- and he knows what he's looking for but not where to find it -- Strike calls in an old school friend from Cornwall and one of his step-brothers, another child of Strike's aging rock-musician father. Some reader might find this a bit too convenient, though the action involving these new characters is smoothly integrated. They do for Strike things he and Robin couldn't do themselves, and only the fact that Strike DOES know exactly what he wants from them keeps the reader from thinking that they are "dei ex machina." Robin, though, to her credit, does not flinch from doing some very dirty work that Strike assigns to her as he seeks to close the case.
Having just read a Louise Penny novel, I was struck by the fluency and verve of Rowling's writing -- her feel for dialogue in various registers, her eye for characters who are odd and distinctive, attention to subtleties of motivation, and her atmospheric urban scene setting are all superior to Penny's. Penny's plotting, however, is just fine. Then that fantastic imagination that dreamed up the texture of the "Harry Potter' novels gets a little work out in what we hear of the details of the lurid roman-a-clef. It's lively stuff, and thoroughly entertaining.