The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)When Robert Galbraith was unmasked as J. K. Rowling, the story made front pages across the UK. Rowling said she had wanted to keep her identity secret, and whether or not the leak was an elaborate PR stunt has been much debated. I guess the next debate will be The silkworm, Galbraith’s eagerly-awaited follow-up to The Cuckoo’s Calling. Difficult second novel? I doubt it.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls private detective Cormoran Strike in to help. She thinks he may have just gone off for a few days – a thing he’s done before – but she wants him home. As Strike digs deeper, it soon becomes clear that there is more to this disappearance than meets the eye. Soon enough, Quine is found brutally murdered: soon after completing a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knew. Had it been published, lives would have been ruined: which means a lot of people have reasons to want him silenced. Strike’s investigation becomes a race against time to understand a ruthless killer: one unlike any he has encountered before.

Galbraith’s plots are intricate and his characters appealing. Cormoran Strike has baggage: his parentage, his army past – even his name. He’s the sort of man who tries, vainly, to hide the fact that he’s sleeping in his office. Equally beautifully drawn, is the character of Robin Ellacott, the temp Strike can’t afford to be without and can’t afford to pay. She’s trying to balance financial security and the demands of her somewhat dull fiancé with her lifelong yearning for investigative adventures.

I don’t need to say any more about Galbraith or Rowling. If, however, you’re in Harrogate in July, look out for him/her in conversation with Val McDermid as part of a stellar line-up at the Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. It’s this year’s hottest crime fiction ticket.

The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)

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