Galbraith, Robert. The Silkworm.

NY: Little, Brown, 2014.

The whole world knows by now that Galbraith is actually J. K. Rowling, staking out new post-Harry-Potter territory, and doing it very well indeed. Anyone who thought Rowling was stuck at Hogwart’s forever should reconsider. And now it’s eight months since Cormoran Strike, ex-military cop and war casualty, solved the Lula Landry case and rubbed the Met’s nose in the dirt in the process.

All that attention from the press has died down, finally — though it was very useful in producing new clients — and Strike is able to get back into his routine. Robin, his PA from the temp agency, who was came in handy in that earlier case, decided to stick around, too. She’s in a committed relationship — about to be married, in fact — which puts her out-of-bounds. This is a relief to Strike, who is still recovering from the final end of a long-term, very destructive relationship with the most beautiful woman in the country. But he’s aware that Matthew, Robin’s fiancé, doesn’t approve at all of her new career, though she loves the job and loves working for her large, somewhat scruffy boss, who is far more intelligent and better educated than he appears on the surface. In fact, Robin begins to harbor dreams of becoming much more than just a dogsbody.

So Strike is juggling a handful of divorce and industrial espionage cases — not very exciting but they pay the bills — when a woman walks into the office and begs him to help find her missing husband, a not-very-well-known (and rather odious) novelist named Owen Quine who has a habit of staging dramatic disappearances in hopes of garnering attention and publicity. But he’s been gone longer than usual and she and her brain-damaged daughter need him back. For reasons he’s not clear about himself, Strike agrees to do what he can, even though it’s unlikely she can afford to pay his rates. Quine, it turned out, had just completed a new novel in which he skewered practically everyone he knew to an extent that multiple libel actions are a certainty. And then, of course, Quine turns up dead, and in a particularly horrific way. A way that mirrors the death of the main character at the end of his new novel. A novel hardly anyone has actually been able to read yet. Strike had begun the process of interviewing the dead man’s agent and editor and publisher and colleagues, so he already has a list of likely suspects. And the farther he digs into the tangled relationships among those in Quine’s life, the more complicated it all becomes.

Galbraith/Rowling has spent years honing her skills on Harry Potter and has become very good at plot twists and characterization, and also dialogue and straight descriptive passages. While interviewing an editor who is the worse for drink, the detective notes that “he was more than halfway down the bottle already; the alcohol had induced a degree of confidence. Strike held back, knowing that to push would only induce the granite stubbornness of the drunk. Better to let him drift where he wanted to go, keeping one light hand on the tiller.” That’s very nice stuff indeed. It’s clear that the author intends an extended series about the investigative adventures of Cormoran Strike and his assistant, and I’ll definitely be settling in for the long haul. (And can a film be far behind?)

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