The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith – Reviewed by David Edwards
How well can a renowned author of children’s books make the radical transition to adult crime fiction? Determining the answer to this question motivated my desire to read The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym for J K Rowling, better known for her phenomenal international success as as author of the Harry Potter series. I was keen to observe whether a writer so renowned in the genre of children’s stories could morph successfully into the entirely different format of crime thriller; a format dominated in recent years by Scandinavian writers. The crime thriller revival has brought forth some outstanding writers and notable among these is Jo Nesbo with his gritty Inspector Harry Hole detective series.
Making an impression in the well established crime novel niche was never going to be an easy task. Galbraith however was very quickly recognised as a new force in the crime thriller genre. Her first crime thriller, The Cuckoo’s Nest was published in 2013 and became a best seller before the author’s true identity was revealed. Now follows The Silkworm, published in 2014and already an acclaimed success. Galbraith has made the transition from children’s works to crime fiction with consummate ease.
The Silkworm is compelling reading and is set in London amidst the publishing, literary community with which the author is totally familiar. Here we enter a world of rampant egos, jealousy, intrigue and ruthless commerce where ethics and morality are often sublimated to the cause of personal ambition. It is a world where contacts and social status often counts for more than literary prowess and a place where newcomers must struggle against fearful odds to achieve recognition. Given the author’s real-life familiarity with the London publishing scene, the scenarios created and the characters contained are painted with gritty, believable reality.
The title, The Silkworm is derived from the Latin name for the insect that produces silken threads, Bombyx mori. A novel by this name is the focus of the story. The author is a struggling, mentally troubled and highly eccentric individual fighting to achieve recognition amid a literary circle that seeks to deny him the breakthrough he so desires. The author becomes progressively more disillusioned by the forces pitted against him and uses his novel, Bombyx mori as the tool to destroy the reputations of those who have thwarted his ambitions. Or so it is alleged. . . . . .
The Silkworm is woven around a clever plot with many twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the end. The lead character is the ex-soldier-come-detective, Cormoran Strike who himself is struggling to establish a new life having been invalided out of the army through the loss of a leg in Afghanistan. Strike is a complex individual; taciturn, a man of action rather than words, a person who reveals a deep sense of loyalty and morality to those he respects and a healthy disrespect for authority and those he distrusts or deems incompetent. The relationship between Strike and his assistant Robin provides a rewarding counterpoint to the harsh realities of matters under investigation. The way this relationship develops throughout the novel reveals much about the complexities of Strike and allows humour to bloom in unlikely circumstances. Should there be another novel from Galbraith in the Cormoran Strike series, the way has been left open for the relationship between Strike and Robin to form the foundation for a formidable investigative team.
The Silkworm is highly recommended and is available on Kindle through Amazon Books.