begins, Wendy Harper, the co-owner of a high class restaurant is leaving work around 3 in the morning and upon arriving home is brutally beaten by an assailant wielding a baseball bat.
She survives and seeks out Jack Till, an ex-cop turned private investigator. He teaches her how to leave behind her present life and acquire a new identity. To keep her completely safe, he insists that she not tell even him where she’s going or what her new name will be. She will be safe and anonymous and he will be happy knowing she is alive somewhere. This would be the ending in many murder suspense novels – including some of author Thomas Perry’s own (as in his Jane Whitefield series whose main character helps people disappear) – and considered a job well done.
But in Silence this is just the beginning. It’s now six years later, Wendy’s bloody blouse has been uncovered and her former lover and business partner Eric Fuller is accused of murdering her. Till rushes to tell the authorities that there is no body because there was no death. The conundrum, of course, is that he can’t provide a (living) body either. He is left trying to prove a negative, while placed in the uncomfortable situation of telling a lot of people who thought Wendy was dead, that well, she really wasn’t and they mourned her for no reason.
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Enter Paul and Sylvie Turner, a cold-blooded husband and wife execution team with a penchant for dancing the tango. It turns out Wendy was right to get away from her near-death experience because someone is still after her and set up Eric as a lure to force Wendy to surface. The Turners, hired to find and kill Wendy, face off against Till whose mission is to bring Wendy to the district attorney’s office. We don’t know why Wendy was attacked, we don’t know who hired the Turners. Even the things we think we do know, aren’t always correct.
Perry, with several first rate books to his credit, won an Edgar Award for The Butcher’s Boy and was the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for Best Novel for Pursuit.
As suspense stories go, Silence runs long at 439 pages. But all the twists and turns, including on the very last page, make it worth the investment. The conflict in Perry’s books tends to be more mental than high tech, more strategy than physical strength. His characters are resourceful, his bad guys worthy opponents and his good guys flawed but ultimately and quietly heroic -- as most people would hope to be given the chance. – Margaret Downing
Silence, by Thomas Perry, Harcourt, Inc. $25.00