Reading Cuckoo and Silkworm Side-by-Side: A Concurrent Reading to Discover the Cormoran Strike Story Formula

Note:  this was originally a comment to John’s first Silkworm post.  Per our Headmaster’s request, I am hastily re-posting as a bona fide post, posthaste.  Spoilers for The Cuckoo’s Calling and the first 12 chapters of The Silkworm below the jump.

I had had the good intentions to re-read The Cuckoo’s Calling before starting The Silkworm but did not get it done. So, I decided to read them concurrently and make my notes alternating: first Chapter 1 in CC, then chapter 1 in The Silkworm, etc. Obviously the chapters won’t match up perfectly, but knowing Rowling’s tendency to build the Harry Potter books on the same sequencing formula, this seemed as good an idea as any.

As might be expected, I am seeing both parallels and contrasts. The first thing that struck me is that the two books start with the two birds of a feather (Robin and Strike) at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. In Cuckoo, we meet Robin on Cloud Nine (and Three Quarters?), blissfully happy over her engagement to Matthew; Strike, in contrast, is homeless and facing disaster in both his personal and professional life. He and Robin have a completely horrific first meeting and spend the first part of their professional relationship barely able to look at each other in embarrassment. In Silkworm, however, we meet Strike first, who is in a far better state than we’ve seen before, with a new apartment, his business booming and content for now to be single; however, it is clear by chapter 4 that all is not well for Robin in Casa Cunliffe.

In Chapter 2 of Cuckoo, a rich client mistakingly assumes Strike can afford to turn down his offer of work; Strike winds up taking the case. In Chapter 3 of Silkworm, a rich client mistakingly assumes Strike cannot afford to turn down his offer of work; Strike dumps the client.

In Chapter 5 of Cuckoo, we learn Strike has gained weight and this is aggravating his injured leg. In Chapter 5 of Silkworm, we learn Strike has lost weight and his leg is feeling better.

Chapter 12 of Cuckoo, is supposed to be Robin’s last day; she is hurt he is not figuring out a way to keep her on, but he surprises her with a “friendly gesture” of buying them both sandwiches and she ultimately offers to cut out the temp agency so he can afford her. Strike feels renewed optimism. In Chapter 11 of Silkworm, there is the first sign of tension between Robin and Strike, as she can tell he doesn’t like Matthew and she is further hurt by his suggestion that they might be able to eventually afford another employee. She buys the sandwiches “as usual” but in a decidedly unfriendly gesture does not tell him they have arrived. The employee who had previously acted with house-elf-like industriousness and efficiency actually clocks out at 5 in the middle of a sentence. Strike winds up grumbling and irritated with her.

On the other hand, there are clearly some parallels. Both books start with Robin introducing an unexpected potential client to Strike; Strike takes on both cases thinking there will probably not be much to either and that the prospective clients would probably be better off letting the police handle it. Chapter 10 of both books illustrate the incompatibility of Robin having both Matthew and Strike in her life: in Cuckoo is is the very short chapter where Matthew and Robin have their first argument over her working for Strike and se winds up with mashed pea on her engagement ring; in Silkworm it is the ill-fated get-together of the threesome for drinks, which turns out to be the worst idea since Harry invited Cho Chang to join him and Hermione at the Three Broomsticks.

That’s pretty much as far as I have gotten. Some random thoughts:

1) A character named Christian Fisher working at a company called Crossfire. I’ll let John take that one.

2) I find it interesting that both Christian the publisher and Elizabeth the agent go out of their way to point out very successful children’s books they have been associated with, even though our missing author is a writer for adults.

3) Appreciation for one’s administrative assistants is clearly a Good Thing. Beyond Robin, we have 1) the unfortunate Mrs. Hook of Cuckoo (who falsely accused her husband of sleeping with his accountant Valerie, turns out it it was her sister), 2) the scorned PA of the first chapter of Silkworm, who Strike protects from being dragged publicly into the scandal of Lord Parker, and 3) Miss Brocklehurst, who is suspected of infidelity by her boss but on whom Strike has so far been unable to gather any dirt. What then, does this say of Elizabeth, who treats her own assistants literally worse than her dogs, to the extent of making them clean up the nasty pooch’s vomit and poop?

4) Knowing Ms. Rowling’s tendency to mention lockets, vanishing cabinets, etc that will turn out to be important later, I am wondering, why, of all the “odd little” businesses Matthew could be auditing, he happened to mention a nearly-bankrupt publishing house?

5) Ms. Kent initially mistook Strike for Quine. for someone.  Now that I think about it, no reason it has to be Quine; there could be plenty of other bastards out there that Kathyrn ill never forgive and Pippa wants to kill.  We learned in Cuckoo that Strike has two half-brothers. Could there be a connection?

(And P.S.,  The Quines are way too old to have a small child; Orlando is likely a disabled adult.)

All for now, back to reading!

Speak Your Mind