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[personal profile] mtvessel

Feb 2016
The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith - Sphere, 2015
* * * *
Now I know I have complained about books featuring authors and publishers in the past, but I am going to give this one a pass, largely because they are victims or possible perps rather than protagonists. This is a proper whodunit with an intriguing set up, plausible suspects and proper clues. And unlike The Cuckoo's Calling, it doesn't make a mess of the ending.

The plot concerns Owen Quine, a fading novelist who has disappeared. His wife Leonora hires Cormoran Strike to find him. Quine's behaviour is not a surprise, as he has just delivered a magical realist novel called Bombyx Mori that contains thinly disguised poison pen portraits of fellow authors, publishers and literary agents in his circle, as well as his own wife and daughter. What dark secrets does the book conceal? And could it drive one of them to murder?

The suspects are almost all horrible people, which is as it should be, and there is a grim humour in the way they are satirised in Quine's book, of which Rowling gives us a generously detailed palimpsest. As a device for giving clues to the reader, it works well, and provides a nice change of pace from the more conventional sleuthing. Strike and Robin continue to make a good team - the events of The Cuckoo's Calling are acknowledged, and their relationship is developed, with Robin's fiancé Matthew becoming increasingly jealous.

A more on-the-ball reader will have figured out what was going on better than I did, but I enjoyed the change in perspective that led to the reveal of the perp and thought that Rowling played a fair game. While certain scenes reminded me of some of the more ridiculously contrived set-pieces in recent scandi-noir television thrillers, I can live with a certain level of implausibility as long as it is entertaining. Others may not be quite so forgiving.

So a good outing. Rowling has developed her skill as a writer of detective fiction, and while she has yet to do anything truly remarkable with the genre, she has definitely made her mark.


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