The second book in Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series, The Silkworm, finds the private detective in much better financial shape. He is doing well enough that he takes a case where payment is doubtful instead of continuing a case with an affluent but disagreeable client.

Leonara Quine’s husband, Owen, is missing. She thinks he went to an author’s retreat but can’t find him and he is not answering her calls. This is not the first time he has gone incommunicado so she can’t go to the police for help. With a child at home who requires constant care Leonara needs Strike to find Owen and bring him home.

Strike with the help of his assistant Robin traces Owen through London’s literary and publishing world. In talking with agents, editors, publishers, authors, and the missing man’s girlfriend Strike learns that Owen has penned his next great novel. A seemingly staged argument in a public place leads Strike to believe the disappearance may be a publicity stunt for the book.

That is until he discovers Owen’s horribly mutilated body in an empty house. Owen has been murdered in the same gruesome manner as the character in his unpublished novel. A murder straight from the pages of an unpublished work should limit the number of suspects.

However, Strike finds the novel was read by or readily available to a lot of people, many with a motive to kill. Quine’s novel depicted most of the people in his life in cruel and slanderous parody. The ones with the most motive to kill, his editor, publisher, agent, lover, rival author, and his wife, had all read the unpublished book.

Strike found Owen so technically his job is done but the detective in him can’t leave a case unfinished. Then the police decide Leonara is the prime suspect. Strike’s job turns from finding a missing husband to hunting a diabolical killer and proving Leonara innocent.

Robert Galbraith, better known as J.K. Rowling, has penned an intriguing character in Cormoran Strike. First introduced in The Cuckoo’s Calling, Strike is an imposing figure at 6’ 3”, burly with part of a leg missing due to an IED in Afghanistan. He retired from the special investigations unit of the military police after the explosion and started his detective agency. He is intelligent, intuitive, and keenly observant to every detail. He runs investigations with the organized discipline and ethics he learned in the military.

His personal life however is in shambles. As we meet him he is broke, as the few clients he has aren’t inclined to pay, and homeless. He just ended his engagement to longtime girlfriend Charlotte and she has the flat and 9/10s of his possessions. He is private and a bit of a loner keeping the true state of his life from the half-sister and aunt and uncle who are closest to him.

The other central figure in the series is Robin Ellacott. Her association with Strike begins as a one week temp position. He can’t afford her but by the end of the week she has proven herself to valuable to lose. She wants to stay and Strike agrees to keep her on at a reduced salary much to the dismay of her new fiancé, Matthew. Matthew would rather she be in a higher paying job and away from Strike.

The smart, beautiful Robin has a secret ambition to be a detective. She is in her dream job but struggles to keep Matthew happy while proving her worth to Strike. Robin’s character develops more slowly than Strike’s and the desire to see what she will become helps drive the series.

Read alikes for this series are Robert Parker and Kate Atkinson. I would add John Sandford and Lee Child to the list. The library has both the print and audio versions of the books. The audio narrator is Robert Glenister who does an excellent job of bringing Cormoran Strike to life.