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Robert Galbraith's The Silkworm: A Digested Reading

John Crace


"How did you solve that?" the News of the World reporter asked. "Good old-fashioned detective work," replied Cormoran Strike. "Unlike you guys, I don't hack phones."

He raised his striking 6ft 10in frame out of his seat and limped past a gaggle of hooded youths towards a bookshop. His prosthetic leg was chafing badly, but his years in the special services had taught him to blank out the pain. "Can I have a copy of the new JK Rowling?" he asked. "If only more people came here rather than using Amazon," the assistant sighed.

Having got two of his main bugbears off his sizable chest, Strike returned to his office and his assistant, Robin. "There's a Leonora Quine waiting to see you," she said. Business had been a great deal brisker since Strike was exposed as the lovechild of an ageing rockstar and the world's most successful novelist in the last book, and Strike had taken to turning down jobs that didn't interest him. But there was something about this new case that he found irresistible ,even though he as yet knew nothing about it.

"My husband, the bearded, be-caped wri-tor Owen Quine, has gone missing," Leonora said. "I want you to find him. I don't have any money, but his agent will pay."

"Leave it with me," said Strike, stroking the pube-like hair that women seemed to find devastatingly attractive. After Leonora left, he glanced towards Robin, who was looking wistful. "What's the matter?" he asked.

"I was just thinking, my gorgeous, handsome giant," she responded, "about my dreary accountant fiance." Strike ruminated on this, saying nothing. He wasn't unaware he found Robin in some way desirable, but his main concern was their longstanding, 400-year union should not be in any way endangered by a new arrangement that could only end badly for her.

Exhaustion was lapping at the edges of Strike's consciousness as an immense carpet of snow was tolling down over England. He was dimly aware he was like a jackal slinking on the periphery of the case. "What have we got?" asked Robin, who looked as if she had had another tiff with her fiance.

"It's like this," said Strike, "Owen Quine's mutilated body has turned up in a flat near Earl's Court. We have a roman à clef manuscript, entitled Bombyx Mori ...

"Isn't that Latin for silkworm?"

"Indeed," Strike continued grimly. "What's more, we also have a feud between two acclaimed wri-tors, a drunk editor, a miserable agent and a couple of publishing houses that do nothing but notch up expenses at the River Cafe ...


"So, we have that most lethal of all cocktails, a surfeit of literary world cliches. We must be very careful."

"Oh, Strike! I think someone is following me."

"Don't worry about it. You will be fine." Robin didn't quite know why, but Strike's reassurance had been tremendously reassuring. Perhaps everything was going to work out and she could be a top private detective and fancy Strike and marry Matt all at the same time. If she had spoken that, then it would have been spoke too soon. Leonora had been arrrested. The police had got the wrong person. Who would have thought?

Strike adjusted the prosthetic leg that he didn't like to talk about after being blown up in Afghanistan saving lives. "Here's what we will do," he said determinedly. "We will drive around fairly aimlessly and then I'll get my stepbrother to invite me to the Chelsea Arts Club, where I will unmask the murderer."

"You're so clever, Strike," said Robin. "I really think this adventure is better than the last."

"You don't think it's a little stilted?"

"That's just your leg."

Privately Strike agreed. But it didn't do to take chances. Perhaps if he was to donate £1m on the day of publication to the campaign to teach Robin that no meant no, he would have another bestseller.

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