Hot on the heels of three-part mystery The Cuckoo’s Calling, BBC1 detective series Strike is back with a brand new case, this time based on the second Cormoran Strike book written by JK Rowling (under the pen name of Robert Galbraith) back in 2013.
Dealing with the disappearance of author Owen Quine (Jeremy Swift), who has just written a manuscript called Bombyx Mori that parodies and insults his literary colleagues, the story is a twisting and dark look at London’s literati bound to excite viewers who enjoyed the previous mystery.
However, unlike The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm has been adapted over just two episodes, meaning even more parts of the story have been changed or removed to help bring it to TV.
For example, several characters from the novel are removed entirely, including suspect Pippa Midgeley (a transgender writing student of Quine’s who clashes with Strike), junior book editor Nina Lascelles (who unsuccessfully pursues a romantic relationship with Strike, played by Tom Burke in the series), Christian Fisher, a rogue publisher who leaks Bombyx Mori, Robin’s (Holliday Grainger) mother Linda and tabloid journalist Dominic Culpepper, who tries to hire Strike to find dirt on powerful figures.
Meanwhile, one crucial character – Quine’s friend turned rival author and a suspect in his death – has his name changed from Michael Fancourt to Andrew Fancourt, for reasons that aren’t immediately clear.
Certain plot points and storylines from the novel are also removed, compressed or otherwise changed, including a section where Strike is attacked by a knife-wielding woman in a cape and the final confrontation with the killer, which is split across two different events in the TV adaptation and plays out slightly differently to the print version.
But perhaps the biggest change from the books is a largely visual one. When casting Tom Burke as Strike, a character described as considerably taller and bulkier than the Musketeers star, the team behind the adaptation knew they’d have to work around it.
“Tom acted big,” The Cuckoo’s Calling director Michael Keillor said at a recent screening. “There were tricks – we wanted to give him some heft. But I think, once you’re watching something, once you get into it you’re not thinking ‘is he 6 foot four or 6 foot two?’ You just go with it.”
“[The book] talked about his hair being wiry like pubes,” he went on. “That wasn’t something that we thought would communicate as well on screen…”
“I did offer to get a perm!” Burke added.
Still, despite the differences, the majority of The Silkworm’s storyline and cast do make it to the screen, and as ever the killer (and their motivations) remain the same – so if you’re coming to the series fresh, no peeking to see what happens at the end…