The Silkworm

I apologize in advance for my somewhat shoddy photography. I want to take my own pictures of the books I’m reading, and I’m not a photographer. I thought the black and white effect was appropriate for a mystery, because I’m a nerd. Moving on….

I recently finished reading The Silkworm, the second novel in the Cormoran Strike mystery series by Robert Galbraith, and as corny as it sounds, when I closed the book I kept thinking, “Ah Galbraith, you’ve done it again.” I finished the first book in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, about a month before I finished this one, and I couldn’t wait to jump back into Cormoran Strike’s world. I was not disappointed. (Side note: I do know that Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling’s pen name, but I like to refer to the author as listed on the book cover. Rowling even treats Galbraith as a separate person – at least on Twitter – so it only seems right.)

The book’s plot isn’t particularly dense, although I did forget the importance of certain characters as I read. Many of the characters are given alternate names in the weird as hell novel-within-the-novel, Bombyx Mori, and I had to refer back to the beginning more than once to remember which character was which. Regardless, everything made sense by the end. The manner of death described in the book is bizarre and disgusting but appropriate, and the conclusion is satisfying. It left me ready for the next installment, which I’ll hopefully get my hands on soon.

I don’t read many mysteries, so when I pick one up, I’m typically in it for the challenge. I want to see if I can solve the case on my own, with generally mixed results. However, with this series, I’m finding that I couldn’t care less about solving the mystery myself; I’d rather just hang on for the ride. It’s not only that I have difficulty sorting my way through the red herrings, which I do, but that it’s just fascinating to watch Strike’s brain work it all out.

Galbraith’s ability to perfectly capture the visuals and feelings in Strike’s world is mind-blowing to me. When the stump of his amputated leg is aching from walking too much, snow is piling up on the streets, it’s freezing outside, and all he wants to do is sit in a cozy pub, I feel Strike’s longing for warmth, rest, and a pint (or two, or three). When he’s lying on his bed, simultaneously trying to watch football and finish the grotesque Bombyx Mori, I also get frustrated that he’s missed the whole second half of the game because the damn novel distracted him. Although he’s living hand-to-mouth, Strike’s existence has a shabby glamour to it. There’s never any question that he’ll solve the case – it’s more about how he goes about it. At first, I attempted to read critically and analyze what in particular was so captivating to me about Strike’s world, but then I ended up getting sucked into the story and forgetting about form and style. Even after I finished the book and tried to go back and pinpoint what exactly drew me in, I was at a loss. I don’t know how Galbraith does it, exactly, but the portrait of Strike’s life is so vivid and enticing, I can’t help but trust him and greedily watch how things unfold.

What I find I have enjoyed most about the series so far, though, is the character development, particularly regarding Robin and Strike. I definitely identify most with Robin, and felt almost proud watching her stretch and become more involved in the investigative side of the job. She tries so hard to keep the peace with her fiance Matthew (who, in my opinion, is a douche), but she can’t hide her enthusiasm about working with Strike and her love for investigating. The communication between Robin and Strike is spotty, and it’s often hilarious to see the truth of their miscommunications from Robin’s point of view. Mostly, though, it’s refreshing to see Robin stand up for herself and fight for what she wants in her home life and at work. I always trust Strike to solve the case, with Robin playing an integral part. I also find myself consistently rooting for Robin as she faces the challenges involved in trying to reconcile her work life with her personal life, something Strike doesn’t necessarily have to do as much.

As far as Strike is concerned, it’s interesting to watch him make his way in the world as a now semi-famous man in his own right. It’s also amusing to see him behave like a more “traditional” private detective. We tag along as he sneaks around seedy parts of town, circumnavigates repeated attacks by a shadowy figure, lies to the police when he has to, and (arguably) unintentionally uses women to get the information he needs. He can’t be as free with this investigation due to police hindrance, and is therefore forced to be more creative when gathering information. He is incredibly resourceful, and it’s just entertaining to see what he will do and who he will piss off next.

Ultimately, this book was smart, entertaining, and well-written. This installment makes it even clearer that Strike is brilliant, and because we know him better and are delving deeper into his mind this time around, watching the cogs turn is even more fun than it was in the first novel. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a nice, gruesome mystery but like a good story even more.

 

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