Goodness me, I’m really sorry I’ve been so quiet this week. Work has been crazy: piles and piles of marking. However, I’m very excited about the countdown to the new Galbraith novel next week and to celebrate I’ve been re-reading the first two. I love this novel. Again I was hooked, even in my second reading. But, I do think that it lacks the magic of the first novel. Maybe because Rowling had been revealed? I’m not too sure. But, I’ve reviewed The Cuckoo’s Calling previously. Feel free to check it out here: https://booksandbakes1.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/the-cuckoos-calling-robert-galbraith/
So, onto the second of the Galbraith novels.
Following the successful resolution of the Lula Landry case in the previous novel, business has boomed for Cormoran Strike. Whilst dealing with a stready stream of divorce cases and the occasional job as a tabloid journalist, Strike is approached by Leonora Quine. She requires Strike to find her husband, the famous writer Owen Quine, who has disappeared without a trace.
“My fees are negotiable,’ said Strike, ‘if I like the client.’ He followed Leonora Quine into his office and closed the door behind him with a snap.”
Owen Quine in the past had been hailed as one of the original literary rebels. He is the literary world’s version of the music punk rock scene. However, in more recent times, he had struggled for years to recreate the success of his original novel, thus falling silently out of the public view.
“…writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want life-long friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels.”
Strike quickly discovers that his disappearance coincides with the leak of the manuscript for his latest novel – Bombyx Moi. According to The London Literary Community, the book is unpublishable. It’s viewed as being an unpleasant and uncomfortable mix of rape, torture, necrophilia and cannibalism. The hero is eventually tricked and eaten alive by various characters who appear to be thinly disguised metaphors for people in Quine’s life. Interestingly, those he blames for the destruction of his career.
“You are not writing properly unless someone is bleeding, probably you.”
As the search continues for Quine, Strike and Robin’s relationship begins to deteroriate, following a meeting of the three, which ended disasteriously. The insecurities of the previous novel from Robin’s fiancé Matthew are still alive and kicking here. Matthew takes an immediate dislike to him, probably because of his working relationship with Strike. Robin is also disgruntled at Strike and feels neglected. She’s stuck in the role of secretary, when she actually aspires to be an investigator herself. Strike is unwilling to move Robin to a position where she has to choose between her fiancé and her job.
“Strike had not been able to guard against warm feelings for Robin, who had stuck by him when he was at his lowest ebb and helped him turn his fortunes around; nor, having normal eyesight, could he escape the fact that she was a very good-looking woman.”
The investigation gathers pace. Soon after, their growing animosity is cooled when Strike finds Quine’s body in an abandoned house. It was bound, disembowelled, doused in acid and posed like the centrepiece of a meal, mirroring of the final scene in Bombyx Mori. The description actually made me heave.
The investigation then focuses on the seven people portrayed in the manuscript: Leonora, his wife; Kathryn Kent, his lover; Pippa Midgley, his transgender protégée; Elizabeth Tassel, his never pleased agent; Jerry Waldegrace, his alcoholic editor; Daniel Chard, his publisher; and Michael Fancourt, his former friend and fellow literary rebel. As the police, led by Strike’s friend Richard Anstis, lay their attention to Leonora as the killer, Strike tries an alternative approach. Strike focuses on the web of relationships in Quine’s life. Naturally then, this results in the suspects turning on each other, accusing and counter accusing each other of not only murdering Quine, but of ghostwriting part of Bombyx Mori. This feeling growing due to the inconsistencies of Waldegrave’s character in the manuscript with his relationship to Quine.
In a more personal turn of events, the relationship between Matthew and Robin is further strained when Matthew’s mother sadly dies suddenly. Robin then decides to miss the funeral in order to help Strike. She lies to Matthew and predictably gets caught out. Robin thus confronts Strike about his intentions for her job and career, with Strike giving her a clear warning, that if she chooses to become an investigator, she would have to do things that Matthew wouldn’t like or agree with. Reluctantly, and rather emotionally, she agrees.
Whilst the case against Leonora gaining momentum, Strike decides to focus on Quine’s relationship with Michael Fancourt. This relationship became incredibly strained after Fancourt’s first wife, Elspeth, wrote a novel that was received negatively by the critics. An anonymous parody was released, resulting in Elspeth’s suicide. Fancourt accused Quine of authoring the parody and Tassel of enabling him.
“People do kill themselves, you know, Miranda, when they think their whole reason for living is being taken away from them. Even the fact that other people think their suffering is a joke isn’t enough to shake them out of it.”
Strike appears to be struggling to explain the inconsistencies between the original draft and the final manuscript of Bombyx Moi. Meetings with Kathryn Kent and Pippa Midgely too don’t seem to help. His powers of deduction originally bring him to the premise of an accomplice, however he concludes that the manuscript was indeed written by a ghostwriter. He then realises that Bombyx Moi is a metaphor for someone else’s life and that Quine is intended as an antagonist within within its pages, rather than the suspected hero.
Robin comes to the rescue. With her help, she develops a theory of the crime and confronts Fancourt at a party for another author. Whilst the men were talking outside, Elizabeth Tassel, Strike’s real target, joins them. She reveals that she was originally a failed author before turning into an agent. Also, she was responsible for the parody of Elspeth Fancourt’s novel. Once Owen Quine realised this, he blackmailed her to support his family and kept her as his agent to maintain the disguise.
Twenty years later, along with several unsuccessful novels, he came up with the original concept for Bombyx Moi. He then approached Tassel with it. Thinking on her feet, she realised this would be her way out. She conspired with him to stage his disappearance, whilst gaining publicity, then rewrites the manuscript to condemn the industry, murders Quine and frames Leonora for the crime.
“Nutters love murder.”
Strike lays bare the evidence, Tassel attempts to escape, but a scheme earlier planned by Strike and Robin, results in her capture rather rapidly. Finally, the original manuscript is recovered with Fancourt acknowledging it’s literary credit.
The novel reaches its conclusion with Strike visiting Robin. As a Christmas present, he enrolls her into an investigation training course.
This novel was enticing and exciting. It lacked the magic of the first novel, but I think it’s quite difficult for a writer to maintain that feeling in a series. I recommend to you all, and I can’t wait for the third instalment!
Big love x