by Robert Galbraith
First, the disclaimer: I listened to this on audio, mostly while out biking with rain beating on my helmet, so my recollections way off. However, the audio has been reclaimed by Overdrive, so that's just how it's going to be.
J. K. Rowling has a true gift for creating compulsively readable books. I loved the Harry Potter books growing up, and I think the Strike series shows that Rowling can do hardboiled just as well as she can do children's fantasy. It doesn't hurt that Rowling seems to focus on topics she feels strongly about. The first book dealt with the monstrosity of fame. This book is all about the publishing industry, and Rowling certainly has a lot to say. Drunken editors, conniving agents, overweening authors, delusional SPAs... this book has them all in droves. As always, the cast is colorful, even if Rowling's portrait of them is less than charitable.
At the same time, despite all the graphic disturbing novel-within-a-novel content that I could really have done without (one reason not to listen to this on audio: those passages are a lot harder to skim or skip), the plot of The Silkworm reminded me strongly of an Agatha Christie mystery, and despite my deep and abiding fondness for the queen of Golden Age mystery, that is not a compliment.
Seriously? We're going with the "mannish" career woman twisted by her inability to get a man? What century are we in here? That bit at the end, with Liz all vulnerable, her fatal weakness of being insufficiently attractive exposed? Really?
I thoroughly enjoy the relationship between Robin and Strike, but in all honesty, I wish they'd keep it platonic. It's obviously not going to stay that way; the clearest indicator is the way in which Rowling continues her work of villifying Matthew. In the first book, Matthew was just a bit stiff, proud, and unempathetic, and I had hope that he might develop into a rounded character. In Silkworm, Rowling is no longer doing her audience the courtesy of giving them a choice of who to sympathize with. Matthew has been flattened into a vain, obsessive, jealous, vindictive, emotionally abusive villain. He pretty much exists solely to create conflict and to act as a foil for Strike. Robin's continued relationship with him is intensely frustrating and depressing. As a reader, I only sees his jealous, spiteful, controlling, emotionally abusive side, so Robin's fondness for him is utterly mystifying to me.
All the same, I was kind of on Matthew's side for Robin's jaunt into the country. Can you imagine your SO leaving you alone to deal with the death of your mother while (s)he joyrides away into the country? Why wasn't she with him at a time like that?
I've read the next one already, so I know where this is going, but treating this book in isolation, I wish Rowling didn't make it quite so clear that she despises Matthew.
Anyway, despite a few flaws, The Silkworm is an entertaining continuation of a captivating series. I'm looking forward to more cases with Strike.