This is the second detective novel Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling has written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Her crotchety but lovable private detective Cormoran Strike returns, along with his eager assistant Robin, once again determined to solve a case that the police won't be able to crack on their own.
Owen Quine, a writer of only moderate fame, has gone missing. His awkward, dour wife Leonora hires Strike to locate him. Her husband has a habit of running off with mistresses, and Leonora doesn't want to involve the police yet again. Quine has recently been at the center of the literary world's gossip, thanks to the leaked manuscript of his latest novel, a gruesome tale rife with symbolism and reportedly full of damning portraits of real people, everyone from his publisher to his wife to his bitterest rival writers. Both Leonora and Strike assume Quine is hiding from the furor the manuscript has produced and will turn up again after the dust has settled.
And he does—but by that time, only his body is left. Quine has been brutally and ritualistically murdered, in exactly the same manner as the main character in his novel. Suddenly Strike is hunting not a runaway writer, but a devious killer who has proven to have a great flair for planning and details.
My favorite part of these novels is the burgeoning relationship between Strike and his assistant Robin. Strike can be a little rough around the edges—he's a war veteran with a prosthesis below his right knee, and he doesn't suffer fools. Robin, who began her work for Strike as a secretary sent by a temp agency, has been drawn to detective work for some time and is eager to learn the trade and contribute to investigations in ways beyond making phone calls and performing Internet searches. There's occasional friction as the two work out their respective roles, even fleeting sexual tension despite Robin's stolid fiance Matthew, but Strike and Robin make a great investigative duo. Their personal and professional chemistry kept me invested when the numerous characters in Quine's literary sphere threatened to overwhelm. (Wait, who is the bald one? And is he the one everyone thinks is gay? Which guy is the one with alcohol problem again?)
Already a master of children's fiction, Rowling has proven herself an adept mystery writer as well. The Silkworm is a fun, fast foray into the sometimes cutthroat world of publishing, and Cormoran Strike is charismatic enough to keep us coming back for more.