Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

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The eagerly awaited sequel to Robert Galbraith’s début novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, finally arrived in stores last Thursday (19th June 2014) and it fulfills precisely what we now expect from Galbraith’s – the pseudonym that J.K. Rowling publishes the Cormoran Strike novels under – climactic prose.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is an astonishing début from Galbraith and achieves exactly what every other crime novelist sets out to achieve: construct a constant compelling narrative that jolts the reader around every plot corner. The first novel of the Cormoran Strike series tells the story of a man who finds Strike, an ex-military veteran and now a private detective, in order to prove that his sister’s apparent suicide was actually a murder. In The Silkworm, a more successful and swamped Strike now sets task to find a missing author, a quest which becomes deadly.

What Galbraith conducts exceptionally well in The Silkworm is the ability to formulate a thrilling narrative that continually makes it hard to put down but synchronously weaves this with character development. It is very easy for crime novelists to become so preoccupied with a consistently electrifying plot that the characters within the novel become lost and merely puppeteers. But in The Silkworm, Galbraith is the puppeteer and takes full control of both plot and character, both of which are set at the forefront.

The development of Strike himself was particularly poignant throughout, with regard to his occupational history, his physical disabilities and his familial relations. Galbraith’s vivid descriptions do not pass unnoticed, and so the sharp detail of the physical pain that Strike is in throughout The Silkworm is so present that it is almost tangibly felt. We also learn a considerable amount more of Strike’s other family members and past friends, only establishing a firmer warm connection that was installed in the first of the series.

What is particularly apparent from The Silkworm as an authorial development from The Cuckoo’s Calling is the character of Robin. We begin to acquire a profound amount of Robin’s background, especially with regard to her relationship with her husband. Galbraith develops the strengthening connection we have with Strike which began in the first book, evolves this in the second whilst simultaneously creating a new connection with Robin. Whilst this happens, we also can witness a blossoming of the relationship between the two characters; the rough, masculine aesthetic of Strike placed in binary to the red-headed Robin to generate an idiosyncratic but warming relationship. The future of this work-based partnership is something extremely appealing for future books and is an iconic relationship in the making.

With a compelling narrative, The Silkworm is an interesting exploration of the fusion of the fiction and the reality. Immersed within the literary world are a collection of intriguing characters, whether those be writers or editors. Sometimes skirting around predictable characters and examining individual depth, whilst sometimes indulging in caricature-like people, Galbraith presents a selection of suspects that are as enticing as its predecessor’s.

On finishing the book, you are likely to feel a catharsis but with some unanswered questions with regard to other suspects frustratingly left hanging in the air. As well as this, the conclusion is less shocking than The Cuckoo’s Calling, but The Silkworm has tension that is still maintained throughout, never dipping, but soaring at a level that Galbraith has set the bar to.

8/10 – an absorbing crime novel that doesn’t fail to enthral through both plot and character.

The Silkworm is published by Sphere and is available now.

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Film & English student, Deputy Editor of The Edge and President of FilmSoc. Likes FKA twigs, BANKS and other capitalised artists.

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