When it came to light last year that J.K. Rowling had already published a crime novel under a pseudonym that had been quietly garnering admiring reviews from critics, it was like Christmas, Diwali, Eid, Hanukah and whatever other religious festival you hold dear rolled into one. Crime being one of my favourite genres, and Rowling being one of my favourite authors, the combination of the two could not be anything but a good read.
Sure enough, The Cuckoo’s Calling was a great crime novel. It was full of interesting characters, had a good plot line, and kept you guessing until the end, all the things needed in a murder mystery. Its sequel, The Silkwom, is even better.
Rowling has a gift for creating characters that are engaging, and that draw you into the story. It’s what made Harry Potter stand apart from the vast array of fantasy novels, and it is why The Silkworm works so well as a second novel. The characters of Cormoran Strike, the ex-army private investigator, and his secretary-turned-assistant Robin Ellacott, are endearing to the reader, and, greet you from within the pages like familiar friends. As the plot progresses, the reader vies for their success in the pursuit of the murderer.
The murder itself has been committed in a gruesome way, which although I won’t spoil for you by describing, I will offer a helpful tip: I wouldn’t recommend eating anything whilst reading it! However, the novel is a little slow to get started – the race to solve the mystery only really gets started about a third of the way into it. But its well worth sticking with it until it gets there; once it gets going you won’t want to put the book down.
One quibble is that Rowling focuses too much on a description of the places in her novel, painstakingly including details of road, streets and buildings in London. As a reviewer commented, perhaps having spent so many years setting her novels in a world only she knows, she forgets that she no longer has to describe all the surroundings for her readers.
But this, to a certain extent, is what makes her such a good storyteller. She creates complete worlds in the pages of her novels. Just like the Harry Potter series, her Cormoran Strike novels are an instant escape to another world that you rapidly incorporate alongside your own reality, so much so that, on finishing the novel, you feel slightly bereft. Since finishing the novel, all I want to do is read it again. I resort to looking for other crime novels to fill the void, but nothing I pick up seems to do the trick. (Any suggestions?)
The Silkworm is a brilliant specimen of its genre. If murder mysteries are your type of novel, this should be on your reading list.