THE SILKWORM by ROBERT GALBRAITH (2014, Sphere, Paperback, 584pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.
By now it’s a well-known fact that author Robert Galbraith, who wrote the well-received The Cuckoo Calling, is in fact J.K. Rowling. For her second book featuring Afghanistan vet turned private eye, Cormoran Strike, Rowling weaves a tight mystery plot around the murder of a controversial novelist. The literary world is one very familiar to Rowling and she has a great amount of fun painting colourful characters.
There is something reassuringly old-fashioned about the structure of this book, which broadly sticks to the multiple suspect formula of the genre. Where Rowling wins out is in her depiction of her roguish one-legged hero, his professional relationship with his assistant, Robin and in the almost caricature cast of suspects. The writing is easy and the managing of the plot clever.