I really wanted to like ‘The Silkworm’

 I love J. K. Rowling, and enjoyed The Causal Vacancy, it was surprisingly dark and fragile, and showed how awful it must be to be a teenager these days. It’s always been difficult, but social media, especially when used as a tool for bullying, makes it worse.

I like the characters of Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin, but I found The Cuckoo’s Calling annoying as I didn’t care about the dead body, or fashion modelling/Heat Magazine world she moved in. I thought I’d like The Silkworm more as dodgy publishers, literary agents and the death of a writer sound more like my kind of thing, but it’s missing something. It felt rushed, and slightly shallow, and the characters so eccentric they became comical. But most of all, the unmasking of the killer annoyed me, as I was hoping for more. You know what it’s like, when you read a great mystery and everything is so well crafted, that you didn’t guess the killer, but now looking back, it could only have been them, and the now laid-bare plot feels like a tapestry of genius. That was not the case, here. I didn’t really believe it even when reading it, it still could have been any of them. But then the book ends, and well, oh.

Although I do like spending time in this world Rowling has created, and I think I’ll probably read the next one, A Career of Evil, but I don’t think Robert Galbraith would sell half of what he does if we still had no idea who is behind him. The Harry Potter world is so deep, and the plots so complicated and satisfying over the course of the books, I would love to see that level of planning in these books.

Detective novels can be so much more than the throwaway airport fodder, the same with spy novels and romance. I think I wanted Rowling to be to detective fiction what she is to fantasy, as le Carré is to spy novels, and so on, which is a big ask.

However, I think there is a fatal flaw in the venture which makes it hard to believe from the get-go. We don’t have private detectives in this country, who come along, save the day, and make the police look stupid. Not any more. Sherlock and Marple would not earn enough these days to make minimum wage,but the police force back then was about bobbies on the beat chasing cut throat razor-weilding spivs, apple-scrumping children, pick-pockets and the theft of church candlesticks. There weren’t much in the way of detective departments, but now the police force has so many resources and fancy methods, crime novels and dramas with the fragile, fractured, or rough-around-the-edges cops are what we believe. Grumpy Inspector Morse, autistic Saga Norén, unstable Wallander, gruff, boozy Rebus, people who come up against the police force that employs them as much as they do crimes. I think one exception for private detectives is the modern Sherlocks, but then he has Lestrade and the forensic services of the MET at his fingertips, as well as help from the government and home office in the shape of Mycroft. These days Sherlock is one seriously well-funded kooky brain box, with access all areas.

I’ve read they are going to turn the Cormoran Strike novels into  TV programs, but I fear it will be Jessica Fletcher all over again. Can we really believe that time and time again he will outwit the police? I love Murder, She Wrote, but no one, for a second believes the set up, and that a modern-day police force could be consistently incompetent to the benefit of one detective. Come on, trés suspicious, no?


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