Robert Galbraith's silly-named detective, Cormoran Strike, is back for a second installment. A pretty unpleasant and gory one.
Thanks to his well-publicized solution of the previous book's crime, Cormoran's private-eye business is picking up. So he's busy, he doesn't have to take every case offered him, but there's something about Leonara Quine that grabs him. Leonara is married to Owen, a barely-successful writer. And Owen's gone missing for the past ten days.
Cormoran finds him, of course. On page 124 of this 455-page book. And… I suppose this is a spoiler, but it's also on the back cover of the paperback I got from the Portsmouth Public Library … he's been totally murdered, in a most shocking and disgusting manner!
Which makes it a police matter, but they quickly consider Leonara, Cormoran's client, to be the most likely suspect. She's got no alibi, she's got motive (huge insurance policy, and Owen was a serial philanderer), and she does a lousy job of interacting with the cops. So Cormoran takes it on himself to find the real killer.
Things revolve around Owen's latest novel, Bombyx Mori, an allegorical fantasy filled with perversion and otherwise unpleasant characters. And those characters are thinly-disguised equivalents to actual people in Owen's circle. And (as it turns out) Owen's death is gruesomely similar to one described in the novel. So the suspect list is pretty much restricted to those who have read it.
Get all that? Wonderful. Along the way, there's a lot of personal complications. Cormoran's longtime, (but now ex-) girlfriend, Charlotte, is getting married, causing some angst. He has a bumpy relationship with his secretary/assistant, Robin; she's engaged to a guy who doesn't like her working for Cormoran. And she's insecure about her duties; she wants to be an investigator, not just a secretary. And Cormoran's missing lower leg is causing problems thoughout, too.