Verdict – The Silkworm

So, after sampling the glitz and glamour of the world of fashion modelling to investigate the death of enigmatic celebrity Lula Landry, private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott were suddenly thrust into the writing sphere as Robert Galbraith’s (J.K. Rowling to you and I) crime thriller series continued.

After a fine adaptation of The Cuckoo’s Calling, I was confident that the next TV retelling of the Strike novels would also be a satisfying watch, and for the most part it is, as the intriguing character of Strike uses his casual but sharp powers of deduction to unravel a complex case containing many curious suspects.

What’s it about?

After solving the Lula Landry case, Cormoran Strike now has a plentiful supply of clients, but is then handed a missing persons case by housewife Leonora Quine, whose husband Owen, a noted author, has disappeared.

It turns out the manuscript for Quine’s latest novel, Bombyx Mori, contains numerous crude references to many of the people in his personal and professional life, including publisher Elizabeth Tassel, editor Jerry Waldegrave, fellow author Andrew Fancourt, and his mistress Kathryn Kent.

Strike later finds Quine’s remains, and Leonora is then suspected of murder, leading the detective to fight to clear her name and apprehend the real killer. In doing so, he discovers that the published manuscript of Bombyx Mori was not in fact the work of Quine.

Meanwhile, the working relationship between Strike and Robin grows stronger as Robin aspires to become a detective like him. In contrast, her rapport with fiancee Matthew falters slightly as she continues to prioritise a job that he doesn’t approve of.

Changes from the book

  • The character Christian Fraser does not appear. To be fair, he was expendable.
  • In the book, Fancourt’s first name was Michael, not Andrew. Why on earth did that need to be changed???
  • Robin’s family in Yorkshire do not appear. They might have been helpful additions, to show the extent of the strain in Robin and Matthew’s relationship.
  • The killer is apprehended differently, as in the book Robin poses as a bogus taxi driver.

Casting

The on-screen chemistry between the brilliant Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger make me identify with the main characters just as well as I do in the book, and I particularly liked Grainger’s more sympathetic and emotional portrayal of Robin than in The Cuckoo’s Calling.

Monica Dolan seems to specialise in playing shabby middle-aged women, so fits the bill for Leonora, while it was wonderful to see an actress with a disability play (Sarah Gordy) such a prominent role, as the character of Orlando played such an important part in the story.

Tim McInnerny brought prestige to the role of Daniel Chard; and an icy charm was given to the respective roles of Fancourt (Peter Sullivan) and Elizabeth Tassel (Lia Williams) respectively. Sullivan in particular looked sinister throughout.

Good points

  • The acting performances;
  • The developing relationship between Strike and Robin;
  • Excellent character depth;
  • Production design and costuming;
  • The sophisticated telling of the backstory involving Quine, Tassel and Fancourt.

Bad points

  • Just a two-part story made it feel a bit rushed, as The Silkworm is a long book;
  • A hastily explained conclusion;
  • References to Charlotte (Strike’s ex) are not relevant.

Verdict

I think The Silkworm has been another triumph. A completely different and more graphic story to The Cuckoo’s Calling, but one in which the characters continue to be engaging and intriguing in equal measure.

The mystery is not quite as sophisticated, but as an adaptation, it just about finds the right balance in terms of being faithful to the book, but making a good drama in its own right. If it was spread of three parts, it might have been ever better.

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