The Silkworm- Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling

The SilkwormYou would have to be living under a rock to have missed the literary revelation last year; that Potter creator J.K Rowling was the face behind the Galbraith mask.

The question on readers, both muggle and wizard alike, is whether the latest offering in the Cormoran Strike series can live up to her first offering The Cuckoo’s Calling.

It goes without saying that where billionaires go the vultures hover, and so the full house of rave reviews were bound to disperse once her true identity was revealed. However, where success thrives, particularly in female form, sniping – unfortunately – follows too.

These book critics have complained that Rowling presented a plot at the expense of narrative and character over literary merit. The Silkworm does indeed have a complicated plot and I defy any reader to guess the culprit before the case is solved.

This time an awkwardly named ex-soldier Cormoran Strike and his plucky assistant Robin are investigating a murder in the literary streets of London, where an author has been killed in a grisly manner reminiscent of his controversial unpublished manuscript.

The characters will seem old friends to ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ veteran, Strike is a grizzled and seasoned detective with Sherlock-like abilities but in a more human shape.

Robin should traditionally be the annoying figure who acts as a foil for the genius of the detective, yet avoids this gruesome fate through ambition, bloody-mindedness and feminine wiles.

At first glance the narrative style does appear simplistic; the story reads easily without literary devices or pretensions to grandeur. Nonetheless, Rowling’s talent undeniably lies in her storytelling ability – for a criminal plot to remain logistically plausible and surprising, yet complex and characterful in no mean feat.

Rowling makes her story seem simple, but beneath the surface the legs of the narrative are working furiously to ensure the reader’s experience remains that of unadulterated pleasure.

In a rainy labyrinthine London the macabre murder is solved in the style of the vintage PI novel without the soft edges and pulled punches. Scandi-grit it isn’t, but a mix of old-fashioned detective drama with modern satire – and nods to the phone hacking scandal are particularly biting, and Rowling’s trademark storytelling flair.

As Harry Potter and Hogwarts fans began to love and breathe them so too have Strike and Robin taken physical form in our collective minds.

Ignore the bitter vultures if you like your stories complicated and gripping with colours a plenty, yet stay away if you missed the first installment, as spoilers abound and the finer details of the careful character construction will pass you by, like in jokes at a cult movie. However, obviously, for those readers there is a solution- read the first one too.

Written by Hannah Cooper (MA Journalism student of Birkbeck College)

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