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The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Publisher: Hachette Audio (2014)
Narrated by: Robert Glenister

Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling. When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced. When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before.

To be honest, I don’t think I would have read this book if I’d not known that Robert Galbraith was J.K. Rowling. That’s not an aspersion on the quality of the book itself; however, several mystery books come out every year, how many of them actually get pulled into the light? But The Silkworm did, because, well, it’s the second book in the new mystery series by Rowling.

The blurb does a good job of explaining the plot and Glenister narrates the audiobook well, especially the character of Cormoran Strike. It’s clear from the audio version that Cormoran is a gruff and large man, a good employer and a kind man. I personally think that women always make better audiobook narrators because they have a broader range of voice modulation for both male and female characters. Most male audio narrators make women sound as if they are screeching, whispering, or flat-out childish. Glenister doesn't do that, so that's to his credit.

There is a lot of focus on the actual process of detective work, even the smaller daily rituals (sometimes more than the focus on the dangerous side of a detective’s work). Inevitably, therefore, the book is not very fast-paced and despite the dark tenor of the premise, there wasn’t really a time when I was on tenterhooks as to what would happen next. Well, The Silkworm is definitely not a “thriller”. But the whodunit reveal towards the end was quite unexpected, and for that, The Silkworm gets brownie points. I haven't read the first book in the series, so I can also tell you that The Silkworm can be read as a standalone, which is something that Rowling aka Galbraith has always managed exceptionally well.

As usual, the victim who dies is something of a shady character and likes bondage games with his partners. Now, is it just me, or is it a common ploy for suspense writers to characterize their victims thus? Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren and Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow also have the same aspects. It is a bit annoying to keep coming across this though, as a justification of how a partner may have rendered the victim helpless.

All-in-all, The Silkworm is a good book. Rowling has always been something of a mystery writer, if we go by her intricate plotting details in the Harry Potter books, especially the second and the third books. And The Silkworm too doesn’t disappoint. There are several interesting caricatures from the publishing industry in the book, and through the rough-hewn Cormoran, we get a different perspective into that high literary society. Another interesting angle was the backstory to Robin’s life (Cormoran’s secretary and Girl Friday), and clearly, some future book in the series will deal with this backstory and how it drew Robin towards crime detection and studying human psychology.

Worth a try for all mystery lovers. Rating: 8/10

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