Jack Fredrickson’s Silence the Dead is told in two distinct parts.
Jonah Ridy is a disgraced investigative journalist wallowing in the features section of the Chicago Sun Times newspaper when his editor requests he follow up a story. Ridy half-heartedly sets off to small town in Illinois where a man’s been shot and his date (the possible killer) has gone missing.
It seems pretty obvious on Ridy’s arrival however, that no one really suspects Betty Jo killed her date and is on the lam. Rather the general consensus is that she’s in danger herself.
To say that Ridy is unwelcome in Grand Point would be a mammoth understatement. The local police’s antipathy towards the out of town journalist would set anyone’s spidey senses tingling and it only makes Ridy more determined.
After a few false leads Betty Jo’s body is found – killed by the same gun as her date.
Ridy’s suspicious. She’s found in an area which had been searched previously. The police, coroner and funeral parlour all claim her body was there for days and had deteriorated from the elements, so they rush to bury her. None of it adds up for Ridy who discovers that the town seems to be run by a group of possibly corrupt officials who have their hand in every pie.
He’s helped in his investigation by a young female college student* who has the scoop from an insider and it seems Betty Jo had a secret lover. One with influence. But when the college student* is killed in a suspicious accident Ridy submits his story and leaves town.
Fast Forward 30 years and we meet newly appointed Mayor Mac Bassett. He’s got his own problems though and is facing a lawsuit and struggling to make his new restaurant and bar a success. A new arrival – he’s intrigued by some of the town’s secrets – including Betty Jo’s still-unsolved murder and the countless discrepancies uncovered during the investigation.
Despite his position Mac finds himself up against the same barriers as Ridy all of those years before. His own troubles grow as he pushes harder and harder to understand what happened to Betty Jo. Eventually getting the family’s agreement to exhume the body they discover the remains in the casket don’t ALL belong to the same person and this poses even more questions. And just as Ridy’s investigation years resulted in the loss of lives Mac soon finds that his life and those around him may well be at risk.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I really liked both lead characters (Ridy and Mac) and it was interesting to see the two men doggedly trying to get justice for a woman they didn’t know. The investigation(s) were both challenging and I enjoyed seeing the men unpick the clues. The actual crime in itself wasn’t overly complex (or even that interesting) but the cover up and fallout from the investigation(s) are really what added texture to this case. The ‘who’ did it was pretty obvious by the end but that really didn’t impact on the novel’s narrative. I probably would have liked a few little extra twists and turns but it was still a solid 3.5 star book for me.
Silence the Dead by Jack Fredrickson was published on 30 September (in the UK) and will be released (in the US) on 1 January 2015 by Severn House Publishers.
*I started this review shortly after finishing the novel but decided to return to it at a later date and … by the time I did the novel was no longer active on my eReader, so I can’t remember the name of Ridy’s helper.
I received a copy of this book via the Publisher and NetGalley for review purposes.