By Chet Yarbrough
The Silkworm shows more of the imagination a reader expects from J.K. Rowling (aka Robert Galbraith). The Casual Vacancy, an earlier Rowling’ novel, fatigues rather than energizes interest. In contrast The Silkworm, though overly complicated, is entertaining.
In The Silkworm, Rowling continues with a character originally created by her pseudonym authorship of The Cuckoo’s Calling. A private investigator named Cormoran Strike is investigating a grisly murder. The character Rowling describes in The Silkworm is a 6 foot plus “Robert Mitchum” kind of character, a self-absorbed, 35-year-old tough guy with a stereotypical Girl-Friday named Robin Ellacott. The Girl-Friday is a beautiful, intuitive, and intelligent woman; grossly underestimated by men.
Though not one of Mitchum’s best movies, he played Phillip Marlowe in the Big Sleep—this scene reminds one of Cormoran Strike in London, The Silkworm story’ location.
Though the story is nicely narrated by Robert Glenister, the number of characters is unnecessarily long. By the end of the book, one is confused or fatigued by trying to remember who is who. Despite criticism about the number of characters, the essence of the story and the created circumstances of the hero and heroine (their personal and professional problems) make the book a worthy time consumer. Rowling makes a reader/listener care about the book’s main characters.
Cormoran Strike is a veteran of the Afghanistan’ war. He loses a leg, below the knee, from an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). He limps with a prosthetic that aches from overuse and abuse. He is recovering from an intimate personal relationship. He has become a famous private investigator from a previous case, presumably The Cuckoo’s Calling, and is now investigating a complicated murder for a client that has been jailed.
Strike’s Girl-Friday is planning to marry but is conflicted over her fiancé’s jealousy of Strike and her career’ interest in being an investigator like Strike. Strike is equally conflicted about Robin and her fiancé; presumably because he sees symptoms of his former broken relationship. But, he also has some underlying, unexpressed feelings about Robin.
Rowling weaves the investigation of a heinous murder into Strike’s and Robin’s personal lives. A reader/listener is drawn into The Silkworm to solve the murder mystery and vicariously live the lives of one of its two main characters. Rowling introduces over 18 characters in the story. Too many to care about; too many to remember, but the story is strong enough to compel a reader/listener to want to know how it ends. It is a good story; even if it is character heavy and somewhat formulaic.