I've never read Rowling's other piece of adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy, and I haven't heard anything about that causes me to put it on my mental TBR list, so in my own mind, at least, I had written her off as a bit of a one-trick pony. A really, really good one-trick pony, a one-trick pony who wrote the most popular series in the history of, well, forever, but a one-trick pony nonetheless.
She has proved that this assumption was absolutely incorrect. She is at least a two-trick pony - the woman can write mysteries.
I really should've known better, because the things that make Harry Potter shine are easily transferable to other genres. Her characterizations are, always, delightful. She has a gift for creating memorable supporting characters who feel both quirky and real. She also has a gift for creating main characters who are flawed and likeable. She knows how to build suspense and reveal clues. Now that I spent more than a few seconds thinking about it, of course she can write mysteries. Harry Potter was one big mystery. With magic.
This book was gross. I mean really, stomach churningly gross. The murder is not for the faint of heart. But, if you can get past the grossness, there is a ripping good story here, almost Shakespearean in its vengefulness. Owen Quine, the victim, was a truly awful human being, mythic in his misogynistic terribleness. He was abusive to every woman who ever encountered him.
She also has a lot to say about the publishing industry, little of it very flattering. She paints a picture of industry that is self-satisfied, smug and endlessly white and male. I'm sure that there are lovely people in publishing, and I'm equally sure that J.K. Rowling has the advantage of picking and choosing from those lovely ones, but the ones we meet in The Silkworm are pretty universally horrible.
Cormoran Strike (have I mentioned that she has a near-Dickensian way with names) continues to impress. He is a seasoned, talented investigator. She seems to be taking her cues on Strike from the old golden age authors (did I mention that she simply must have read Gladys Mitchell? There is no way that "Bellatrix Lestrange" is a coincidence) with her proclivity for the dramatic reveal. Cormoran, working behind the scenes, shows up the police as deliciously as Hercule Poirot ever did, although Dame Agatha would cringe at the disgusting nature of the murder itself.
Cormoran's trusty assistant, his modern Miss Lemon as it were, continues to develop in ways that I am really enjoying. My affection for her fiance, Matthew, was pretty thin towards the middle of the book, although he somewhat redeemed himself at the end. Perhaps he isn't quite the ninny I thought he was. I still think that, given Robin's rapid emotional and intellectual growth, he'd better step up his game or he'll be gone, but at least he has a chance of holding onto Robin.
I was going to read this for Modern Noir, but I picked up an audiobook by Anne Holt, so I'm using it for Darkest London, instead.