A modern revenge tragedy

Sometimes I think I may have been born in the wrong century. Take a fairly recent conversation while on a date. "D'you like horror films?" "Yes." "What did you think of 'Zombie-Killers take Atlanta'?" "I don't do gore". Bemused silence from chap who evidently equates horror with rivers of blood. Give me psychological horror every time, grue just makes me feel yeuch.

However...Revenge tragedy, well that's a different animal. Duchess of Malfi can be as gruesome as it comes, and I still love it. There's something about the beauty of Webster's language and the darkness of the plot that appeals to me every time. That period of history and the dramatic works that were being produced at the time speak to the dark part of my soul that likes horror and crime.

So, it was inevitable really that I was going to be both entranced and horrified by Robert Galbraith's latest novel The silkworm. Silkworm reunites the likeable pairing of private detective Cormoran Strike, and his secretary Robin, in a new case following on from their debut in The cuckoo's calling. I thoroughly enjoyed Cuckoo, but Silkworm is even better.

Kindly detective Strike takes on a missing person's case when a novelist's long-suffering wife asks Strike to find her husband. Strike soon discovers that Owen Quine is one of the most disliked people in the literary world, having annoyed everyone from his agent to his publisher. This time though, they have good reason to be unhappy with him as Quine appears to be on the brink of publishing a thoroughly scurrilous novel. But is Quine sitting back enjoying the chaos that he has unleashed, or is there something rather more sinister going on?

The Silkworm is a modern revenge tragedy, it's ghoulish, gruesome, dark, and also, at times, darkly comical. It's a much better story in terms of the construction of the crime than Cuckoo, rather more intricate, and the characters outside the central two, who have always been strong, are more robustly constructed. As a reader I also loved Silkworm's allusions to earlier literature with the imaginary novel Bombyx Mori at the heart of the real novel, a sort of ghoulish take on Pilgrim's Progress (which reminds me, I really must read that properly sometime), along with throwbacks to Shakespeare, other "revengers" and the Bible.

The darkness of the crime plot is offset nicely against the warmth of the relationship between Strike and Robin; and Robin's own complex, at times difficult, but nonetheless loving relationship with her family and lover.

All in all Silkworm is a superb read. Great pace, eminently readable, beautifully plotted, and as dark a crime novel as you could hope to read on a summer's day. Roll on October for Cormoran Strike 3.

NB To my knowledge no zombies have been spotted in Atlanta either for real or via film...


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