Everyone knows the story of the quiet critical success of Robert Galbraith’s debut, The Cuckoo’s Calling, which garnered great reviews and respectable sales until the bomb dropped: Galbraith was none other than J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter megafame. Suddenly, booksellers couldn’t keep it on the shelf, and readers who knew it back when couldn’t help but feeling incredibly smug that they got there first. The second revelation: the book is fantastic, a stellar addition to the pulpy private investigator canon, set in high and low places in modern-day London. Now that the secret’s out, Galbraith follow-up The Silkworm is a best-seller in the making…but you can still make your friends and everyone on the bus jealous by pre-ordering, ensuring you’re among the first to read Rowling’s latest. Here are the top 5 reasons you should get your hands on The Silkworm as soon as possible:
1. Cormoran Strike. Rowling’s frizzy-haired private investigator is an endearing bundle of the best kind of gumshoe tropes combined with something completely new. He’s got personal traumas, an affection for drink, a beautiful, brutal woman in his rearview, and a military past that’s left him with just enough contacts to squeeze by in his new line of work. But he’s also the unclaimed, illegitimate son of a famous pop star, which is a card he can play if he thinks it might open doors. He left the military after losing a leg in Afghanistan, and Rowling makes sure you feel every ache and blister he endures, in a line of work that suits his temperament if not his compromised body. And he isn’t your dark and handsome Philip Marlowe type: we’re never allowed to forget that Strike, whatever other charms he may possess, has “pube hair.” It’s gutsy to put such a deuce in the hand of your leading man.
2. The premise. On the heels of solving the murder of an international model and assumed suicide in The Cuckoo’s Calling, Strike is commissioned to investigate the disappearance of Owen Quine—a disappearance that is soon upgraded to murder. In a twist that brings to mind the social demise of the poison-penned Truman Capote (who was cut dead, if not literally murdered), Strike discovers that Quine was working on a tell-all book that could ruin the lives of nearly everyone featured in its pages…leaving him suddenly swimming in a huge pool of suspects.
3. Strike’s Girl Friday. Strike’s pretty young (but of course) assistant Robin Ellacott fancies herself a bit of a PI, and at the end of The Cuckoo’s Calling gave up a very sensible job offer to keep cracking cases in Strike’s fusty office. Though there hasn’t been a hint of romance between the two so far, we’re already seeing the cracks in her relationship with her straitlaced fiancé, who doesn’t see the appeal of her new profession. Will her and Strike’s slowly building respect eventually blossom into love? We readers can only cross our fingers, and hope they don’t take as long as Ron and Hermione to figure it out.
4. The killer plotting. Rowling proved with Potter that she can plot like a son of a gun, strewing Harry’s way with red herrings, enemies-turned-confidantes, confidantes-turned-enemies, and all manner of tightly choreographed magical mayhem that rewarded both close reading and the kind of up-all-night page turning that most of us indulged in after a midnight book release party or two (did anyone unglue Deathly Hallows from their hands for much more than going to the bathroom?). The twisty, pleasingly disjointed path Strike walked from the start of the case in Cuckoo’s Calling to its inevitable end shows that Rowling brings the same game to the old-school PI genre.
5. Because it will be THE must-read book of the summer. When Rowling’s hosting the party, nobody wants to be the last one there. Better read this one quick before someone spills too many details.