The Silkworm had been sat in my Audible library for a while. I hadn’t actually realised it was written by JK Rowling using her pseudonym until someone mentioned it during a lecture.
It’s been awhile since I have read a crime novel. I used to love reading them but since starting my own writing journey, I have been trying to widen my net and explore a range of genres and styles.
I find listening to audiobooks is a great way to pass the time, especially when driving to and from university. I tend to mix up my listening between podcasts and books, learning about the craft as well as enjoying the stories.
I haven’t read The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first in the Cormoran Strike series, but that didn’t seem to matter. I was still able to follow along with the story regardless and there were enough subtle hints within this book to give me the gist of who Cormoran is and what had happened in the past.
That said, I’m not sure how I’d find the references if I had read The Cuckoo’s Calling first. Other books where I’ve read the first and then gone on to subsequent books that have too many past references tend to not finish as they bore me.
One thing this book did open up to me was how using quotes at the start of a chapter may work well when reading the book yet when you are listening to it, it can become quite jarring and even confusing until you get used to the style. It took me till chapter six or seven to not find myself wondering if I had inadvertently pressed something on my phone to make the story move on or switch over.
So what did I think of The Silkworm?
Setting a novel in the world of literary agents and publishers was a very clever way for JK Rowling to explain how this environment ticks to the masses who presume that once you find an agent and get an editor, that’s the end of it.
Exploring the emerging world of ebooks in this way too shows that she is aware of the pushback many agents and publishers were experiencing at the time the book was written. Although many people within the publishing industry had moved slightly forward by the time the book was published and the industry had started to understand where ebooks stood in the grand scheme of things.
Starting the story as a missing person enquiry gave the book an interesting beginning, allowing the reader to think the story would go in one direction. Then as the story progresses and the clues are woven through until the body is found, you realise that actually, the story you thought you were going to read isn’t the one you are.
Using concrete references in the story set it firmly in 2011, the Royal engagement and the fact the News of the World is still being published, make the story more believable and relatable. Interesting how JK referenced the NOTW journalist whom Strike helped out with his biggest story at the start of the novel paying a police officer for information on the Quine case. A nod to the Leverson inquiry I think.
The development of Cormoran’s character in relationship to Robin, his secretary/assistant, and her development independently is an interesting strand that I am looking forward to seeing grow in the coming books. Aside from the tension that many partnerships in crime novels have, the external factors of both characters allow them to become three-dimensional, such as Cormoran’s ex-Charlotte marrying and appearing in Tatler and his turmoil with these feelings and Robin’s fiance’s mother’s death and funeral allow us to explore them independently and away from the main focus of the story.
The portrayal of the agents and publishers Cormoran encounters during his investigation allow us to wonder if these are in actual fact complete works of fiction. I’m not entirely sure they are!
The twist at the end really works well, although I have to say I had an inkling that it was going to happen yet it didn’t leave me feeling flat like some novels where I have predicted the ending.
Definitely worth a read.