The Silkworm is Robert Galbraith’s second Cormoran Strike mystery. It picks up about a year after private investigator Strike solved the murder of the famous supermodel Lula Landry. Since then, he has gained a lot of business, mostly from wealthy or famous clients. So, he does something unexpected when he kicks an entitled client out of his office to take on an apparently simple job of finding the wandering husband of the downtrodden Leonora Quine.
Owen Quine, Cormoran learns quickly, is prone to drama and disputes and is not very likable. He long ago wrote one notable novel but since then has been considered second rate. He is known for his attention-seeking disappearances, but this time Leonora thinks he’s been gone too long, ten days.
Strike finds that Quine disappeared after a loud, public fight with his agent, Elisabeth Tassel. Quine has just finished a book that he considers his masterpiece, Bombyx Mori, named after the silkworm. Leonora reports that Tassel was encouraging Owen and telling him it was his best. But Tassel says that when she read it, she was appalled. It grotesquely defames almost everyone Quine knows in the publishing world, including Tassel herself, Quine’s editor Jerry Waldgreave, a famous writer and ex-friend Michael Fancourt, Quine’s publisher Daniel Chard, Quine’s girlfriend and writer of erotic romances Kathryn Kent, and Quine’s student from a creating writing class, a transgender woman named Pippa Midgely. Although Quine’s manuscript was suppressed, all of these people had an opportunity to read it. Leonora, also ridiculed in the book, is the only one who claims not to have read it.
Cormoran is unable to find a trace of Quine, and he begins to feel odd about the situation. When he learns that Quine co-owns a house with Michael Fancourt that neither of them ever visit, he goes there immediately. He finds the house marred by acid and Quine’s body, tied up and disemboweled.
Strike’s old friend Richard Anstis is head of the investigation, but the police are not happy to have Strike involved since he made them look bad when he solved Lula Landry’s death as a homicide after they declared it a suicide. In any case, Anstis is inclined to suspect Leonora.
Meanwhile, the date of Strike’s assistant Robin Ellacot’s wedding is approaching, and she has still not managed to reconcile her fiancé’s dislike of her job with Strike. She is hoping Strike will train her to be a detective, but she is worried he has relegated her to being a secretary.
In my review of Galbraith’s first novel I complained of a dirty trick. I’m happy to report that there were none in this novel and the murderer was difficult to guess. I haven’t figured out yet how much I like Cormoran Strike, though, and I hope that his yearning after his bitch of an ex-fiancée is not going to continue in every novel. Whether she would follow through with her own wedding was a minor plot point of this novel, but I’m already tired of her and wish she would go away. Ditto with Robin’s tiresomely jealous fiancé.
Rowling as Galbraith continues to be a very good writer who keeps the story moving, but she has not quite engaged me on Strike’s behalf as yet.