The Silkworm by J. K. Rowling is the second instalment to The Cuckoo’s Calling. Like the first book, it is written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith and it is absolutely so worth your time. Talking a break from dystopian novels (which I literally have been reading for weeks on end), I decided it was finally time for me to get round to reading this next instalment. It had been a few months since it was initially released and as I love J .K. Rowling and her work (Potterhead over here, as you all know by now), I needed to read this soon. I’m so glad I have. J. K’s writing grabs your attention from the get go and you literally are dying for answers by the middle of the novel. It has the perfect balance of suspense, drama, death and blood, guts and gore, along with crime and action. It also has parts with everyday life, family, love, marriage and arguments within families that make it all that more relatable. What’s more, for me anyway, like the first novel, it’s set in London – a place I of course am very familiar with. The trains, the places, the way of life and the way of speaking is all very familiar to those of us who live in London or near to the city.
The novel follows Cormoran as he discovers and uncovers the truth about Owen Quine’s disappearance, with the help of many others but mostly, Robin Ellacott who is his assistant and now partner. She is now training to become an investigator in her own right. Cormoran is a character who the reader loves. Complex in his views, sarcastic, strong and defensive, he is a soldier who is back from the military, with a leg injury and is now settling into life at home as a private detective. After solving his first case and many after that, he is now known as an acclaimed investigator, along with Robin who helps him with his cases. Trying to deal with his psycho ex, feelings for Robin and his own inner battles, he makes an interesting main character.
At first Robin is just his assistant (in the beginning of the first novel), by this time, she has grown to be his friend and partner in work. She helps him with his cases and goes along with him as he trains her. She helps him find places, evidence, spies out people and interviews suspects. She is gaining the experience she needs and in this case is the one who manages to stop Tassel by driving her escape to a short stop. Strong headed and willed in what she does, she wishes to be seen as capable, which Cormoran does see in her. While growing in practice and training, she has to deal with her fiancé Matthew, who does not like her boss. In the end, he has to accept that this is what she wants and stops arguing with her about her career (not that she was going to stop or back down from her job anyway).
In this instalment we are faced with a missing person’s investigation. A writer, known as Owen Quine disappears and is not seen for a while. His wife, Leonora Quine reports this to Cormoran Strike. Quine is known for disappearing and so at first his wife thought it was nothing, but when he doesn’t show up for longer than expected, she begins to get worried. Quine is a childlike, arrogant and flamboyant character. Once perceived as a rebel writer, praised for his writing in his first novel, Hobart’s Sin, he desperately tries to recreate his fame and success but is unfortunate. He is seen as a narcissistic person and is only tolerated as a necessary annoyance, in case he actually produces something good. However, he does not deserve the horrible death that befalls him – it is truly ghastly.
Firstly, however, let’s talk about his novel and the characters of both J. K’s book and those used in Quine’s novel. He writes this new manuscript called Bombyx Mori (which is actually derived from the meaning – a silkworm that is boiled alive to make silk when the worm is removed). For the novel, the title refers to Quine, who is the silkworm of this novel, abused and used by others while he tries to spin his own tale of silk – literary work worth praise. In this novel that he writes, he uses real life people as characters and places them in a horrible, dark world. He plays a character called Bombyx, an aspiring author who is unappreciated and killed at the end, by being sliced open and his guts being eaten alive.
Leonora is appears as Succuba, a demon in the body of a hideous woman who holds Bombyx bondage and rapes him. Bondage however, is something the real life Quine enjoyed and Leonora while she is eccentric and slightly annoying in character, is not an evil person but in fact a worried and caring mother. Quine just believed that his life was so hard and his wife was always pestering him, when in reality, it is he who is the annoyance.
Kathryn Kent is Quine’s girlfriend and author of erotic fantasy but is rejected by most of London’s publishing community. She is a loud mouth but emotional character, who is hurt and distraught by his death but also angered and outraged by his works. She appears as Harpy in the novel, a beautiful woman with a deformity – a cruel and heartless way of representing breast cancer.
Pippa Midgley is a transgender woman and is going through surgery. She becomes known to Quine through creative writing classes and he is inspired by her – especially for his first novel. But in this novel, she plays a character called Epicoene, a slave to Harpy and wishes to escape. Bombyx is horrified by her transgender status and shuns her.
Elizabeth Tassel is a literary agent and failed writer, she bullies her staff and is an awful character – horrible and mean to those around her, she hangs on the fringe of the community. She appears as The Tick, a parasite which lives off Bombyx’s talent. As they all leech of him and end up eating him alive, in real life she cooks up an evil plan for many years, waiting for the time to strike. She is to blame for the parody of Elspeth Fancourt’s novel (which leads her to take her own life). Quine discovers this and wishes to write about it or tell the world. She begs him not to and to make him stay quiet, she pays him. While he blackmails her and she stays his agent, she grows angry, having lost a lot of her friends due to him. She grows vindictive, planning his death – when she reads his new book, she tells him it’s going to be great (realising it’s worth) and then switches the copies, writing up her own and giving them out – to create a public reaction, making Quine look worse (when his work was actually really good). Then she and Quine have a fake fight, in which he hopes will gain them publicity and she acts as if she’s on his side, until she lures him into a trap, tying him up (which he thought was for photo’s and promotion) but ends up killing him and removing his guts. She puts the guts in her dog’s poop and hides it in the freezer along with the manuscript of the original text and she even switches the typewriters in Quine’s room (framing his wife for his death) but she is found out as her DNA is all over that type writer, they find the evidence, the guts and manuscript and she is charged with murder – thanks to Robin who managed to stop her escape.
Jerry Waldegrave is an editor and the one of the only people who tolerates Quine. He is seen as The Cutter, a troll-like creature that destroys Bombyx’s work.
Another character is Michael Fancourt, an established author and is a deeply misogynistic person, he appears as Vainglorious, a famous author and Bombyx’s inspiration but he is seen as a torturing his own wife to fuel his own creativity.
Daniel Chard, the president of Roper Chard, is the head of a London publishing house and is implied to be homosexual. He appears as Phallus Impudicus, a man who murders other writers, steals their works and violates their corpse with his penis.
The novel keeps you hanging and for a while you are completely lost within its pages, unable to see where this will go and completely lost as to who the killer is. Throughout the book, I found myself thinking it was all sorts of people, his wife, Michael, Daniel but never Elizabeth. When it is finally revealed, I was shocked and speechless. It was such a twist and J. K’s writing is fluid, teasing and captivating. I did not think at all, it would be Elizabeth. This novel is definitely worth your read and her writing is excellent. I could not gush anymore, it’s truly a jaw dropping shocker.