If you ask anyone in the world, from Russia to Argentina, whether they know Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling, you are likely to be answered “yes, of course”, but if you ask them whether they know Cormoran Strike or Robert Galbraith, a positive answer is less likely. In early 2013 Galbraith was the fresh new voice in the English world of crime fiction who just published his first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first of a series whose protagonist is the private detective Cormoran Strike. But in July of the same year the literary world and its readers were revealed that under the cover of the debutant writer was actually J.K. Rowling debuting in the genre of crime fiction. On Robert Galbraith website, Rowling explains her decision to write under pseudonym, stating that she wanted to go back to the origins of her writing career to face a whole new genre. And in The Silkworm, the second of the Cormoran Strike novels, the debutant Robert Galbraith shows all his novelty and freshness.
Despite belonging to a specific genre, The Silkworm is a novel for everyone. It perfectly mixes the suspense of the crime novel to the ordinary life of its characters. Cormoran Strike is a veteran of the Afghanistan war who reinvented his career as private investigator in London: after gaining fame and success by solving a complicate case and humiliating the police thus having enough money to move into a tiny flat in the same building where his office is, in Denmark Street, he is approached by a messy and ruffled woman whose husband, an eccentric writer, Owen Quine is missing.
So, the big private investigator enters the world of the London publishing houses and confronts the hypocrisies and secrets, the malice and insecurities of its inhabitants, all connected together by a particular link. Writers, publishers and editors all appear to be quite misogynous and not much inclined to support women to have an equal brilliant career: at the top of the Roper Chard, the house which publishes Quine’s books, there are only men; Elizabeth Tassel, Quine’s literary agent, is an unhappy and unaffectionate woman, whose life misfortunes didn’t soften her, whose career is not shining anymore and whose consideration among her colleagues is not very high; finally, the writer Michael Fancour clearly states that writing is a men’s job. This misogyny clashes with Strikes’s work environment which only consists of the investigator and his faithful assistant, Robin, who, all through the novel, succeeds in demonstrating that she is Strike’s equal and not a mere assistant who just prepares tea and coffee or researches names and telephone numbers on Google.
Despite the loss of a leg during the war, Strike goes through the streets of London in any weather to find out what happened to Owen Quine. After questioning all those who belonged to the literary environment and who appeared, represented as the worst allegories and caricatures of themselves, in Quine’s last unpublished novel, Bombyx Mori, Strike finds the eviscerated body of the writer in an abandoned house in Talgarth Road. In their pursuit of truth, the private detective and his assistant are accompanied all through their investigations by a weather which becomes increasingly worse. When Strike’s is still collecting information, when his suppositions are not founded and the mystery gets more obscure, a snowstorm strikes London; when Strikes understands who is Quine’s murderer, the winter sky, even if for a few moments, clears up; but just before solving the case – whose positive outcome needs much luck – the sky clouds over again, the snow starts back to cover the evidences and the future of Strike and Robin’s plan is not clear anymore.
The Silkworm is an exciting and intriguing novel which can be appreciated and enjoyed also by those who don’t usually read crime fiction. Galbraith’s writing is fluid and catching and his protagonist – who is never a hero – is a good mix of grumpiness and roughness which disguise a gentle heart.
Waiting for the new adventure of Cormoran Strike, which will be out in England on the 20th of October 2015, have a good reading.