“Robert Galbraith’s” The Silkworm… (JK, it’s J.K. Rowling at it again)

Few authors have achieved such incredible fame in their lifetimes as J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, has. It is a feat that can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse, because after the widespread acceptance and praise for her work on the Harry Potter novels, her name has been forever attached to that series and will always be associated with its modern literary success. However, since 2012, Rowling has begun branching out, away from the young adult fantasy genre toward more adult fiction with The Casual Vacancy, a tragicomedy with themes completely removed from the Harry Potter universe. From the publication of The Casual Vacancy, it has become clear that Rowling aspires to be known for more than just her novels about wizardry and teen fiction. She believes that she is ready to move on beyond that.

But what really surprised readers and her fans in 2013 was a novel published under the name Robert Galbraith, a fictitious pseudonym to mask Rowling’s true identity as the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling. The Cuckoo’s Calling is an adult crime fiction novel published in the same year about an English private investigator who lost a leg in the Afghan War. He forms a strong bond with his partner Robin, who aides him in all of his detective endeavors as he seeks to find who is really behind a woman’s supposed “suicide”.

One of the biggest controversies surrounding this novel was the release of the truth that Rowling was really the one behind the book. Some readers were excited to know the truth, while others – like Rowling herself – wished her pen name would have remained a mask for a little while longer. Either way, when it was found out that Rowling wrote it, sales went through the roof, making The Cuckoo’s Calling a bestseller.

Rowling spoke to The Sunday Times on July 14, 2013 about her feelings upon being discovered as the author, saying that “being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience… It has been wonderful to publish without hype and expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Unfortunately for Rowling, the cat is out of the bag. Everyone is already talking about her upcoming novel, The Silkworm, the sequel to The Cuckoo’s Calling, said to be released June 19th, 2014.

I got a chance to read the first two chapters of The Silkworm and found it to be quite enjoyable, picking up after the conflict from the first novel in the series was resolved. In terms of readability, the language used is very visual and hardly expository at all, suggesting that to fully enjoy many aspects of the novel the reader should have read the first book in the series (though it is not strictly required to do so). I would also say that Galbraith’s (Rowling’s) style is much more adult in nature, using profanity liberally and expanding upon themes not widely accessible to most of her previously younger audience. This novel, just like Rowling’s last, is completely intended for an adult readership and the instant fans of the already popular series after the revelations about Robert Galbraith.

From the first few pages, Cormoran Strike, the protagonist private investigator, is back at it again, dealing with various other clients that hire him to investigate crimes and suspicions that they may have about people in their lives. Although Strike is a down-on-his-luck sort of guy who was homeless for a while, living in his office and doing poorly economically, he is a very competent investigator and an insightful detective. However, he would be nothing without his secretary and loyal partner Robin who keeps him on track with all of his clients and associates.

What’s interesting about Robin and Strike is their relationship was built up quite a bit in The Cuckoo’s Calling, without spoiling any major plot points. I did find one interesting note from the first novel that may point to clues about the full extent of the plot of the second. Near the end of The Cuckoo’s Calling, Strike gives Robin a green silk dress that he bought from a dress shop called Vashti. Robin had tried it on while they were there to follow leads on the case they were investigating.I suspect his gesture may have something to do with the greater plot of The Silkworm, especially because Strike mentions in the first book that he somewhat regrets getting Robin the dress because of how that motion might look to her fiancé Matthew.

I know I’m not as good a detective as Cormoran Strike. Whether or not my suspicions about the novel are true, I am certain of one thing…this novel should be picked up by any J.K. Rowling fan and/or follower of the Robert Galbraith phenomenon. This book looks like it is going to be just as exciting and suspenseful as the last. Rowling truly strikes again with another volume of fresh content that people worldwide will be excited to read.

Written by Guest Blogger, Dan H. of Emerson College


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