My 2nd read of the summer is the 2nd book in Cormoran Strike novel series: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. I realize that both this and All The Light We Cannot See were released last summer. So I’m a year late to the party. Eh, story of my life. Anyway, here we go.
First off, a disclaimer. I’m not a super fan of this particular genre. I don’t hate it, I just don’t usually read it. I did have a Sherlock Holmes phase as a preteen. I read every single Sherlock Holmes case in its original newsprint format shrunk to the size of a paperback (needless to say, I have very poor eyesight). Let’s just say I liked being duped. Other than that, I was never very much into the crime fiction so I don’t feel that I have a very wide frame of reference to gauge whether or not a particular book is very good within the context of that genre.
That said, if the writing is good, it’s good. I liked the first Cormoran Strike novel – The Cuckoo’s Calling – well enough. It was worth the read, although it’s not a particular favorite. The writing is good. Robert Galbraith is after all, just J.K. Rowling with a mustache. But the plot of The Cuckoo’s Calling read just a tad bit too thin, like being chicken noodle soup without the noodles. It tastes good, but there’s nothing to chew on.
This leads me to say that The Silkworm has noodles and more. There’s a lot to chew. Possibly too much and not the kind of meat you want to order.
Here we find private investigator Cormoran Strike in the middle of another case, this time involving a novelist who has mysteriously disappeared just as his tell-all manuscript is about to be released. The Silkworm refers to “Bombyx Mori”, the title of the book within the book – a unpublished but leaked allegorical novel containing thinly veiled, extremely malicious depictions of several individuals, all of whom are now suspects. It’s very much like John Bunyan’s the Pilgrim’s Progress but having almost the opposite intention. Less victory and more gore. A lot more. Intrigued? I admittedly was.
This is not a children’s book. Bombyx Mori had very vivid, sordid excerpts which made the characters (and this reader) slightly queasy. There were some disturbing, albeit short, descriptions with really sick imagery. While reading it I kept thinking to myself that if Bombyx Mori was a real novel, that would just be disgusting and probably just a bad book.
Let me stop there. I just wrote a whole paragraph of comments and had to erase it as I realized I just gave away the mystery. Sorry, I don’t really know how to summarize crime fiction without spoilers. My point is there are parts of the book that I felt were too much. It sometimes got too heady in a way that I felt it wasn’t supposed to. But in the end, I realized it contributed to the mystery. I failed to guess who did it – which is my own amateur standard for whether or not the crime fiction was any good. Sort of like saying “Didn’t see that one coming, but it all makes sense now. Thank you for fooling me. Good book.” Again, being duped by a book in the right way is one of life’s great pleasures.
Biggest Takeaway? One thing I can say though, is how much I enjoy reading about writers, references to writers, the process of writing and the like. I get a kick from reading what writers write about writing. I don’t know if Galbraith/Rowling was masking her true opinions, but it was pretty interesting to see her views on writing and being a writer in between and on the actual lines of this book. That running theme alone makes this worth the read. Now, writing about reading what writers write about writing, hmmmm…
“…writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want life-long friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels.”
“The whole world’s writing novels, but nobody’s reading them.”
[Thank you Goodreads for agreeing with me in selecting these as your favorites too. I feel strangely vindicated.]
also this line:
“With the invention of the internet, any subliterate cretin can be Michiko Kakutani.”
Worth the read? This subliterate cretin says “Yes!”. Make sure to read through it with a terribly fake British accent. Buy it if you can. I’m glad I did as I need to go over it again and again. I’m going to see if I can piece Bombyx Mori together in my head better.
You’re welcome J.K. Rowling’s publisher.
Up next, Yes Please by Amy Poehler which I’m about to finish. Cheerio!