I last wrote about my 50 page rule, how I give every book 50 pages to capture my interest. However, every once in a while in a while, in the very back of my mind, there comes this wee soft whisper that says, “Go ahead, try that one again. You’re ready.”
I was in the middle of editing one novel, still working through another in progress, and wound up picking up a crime/mystery novel of such depth and complexity, I was too distracted to appreciate it. So, following my own advice, I put it down after the obligatory 50 pages. And then came the voice, and I have to tell you, I’m so glad I listened to it.
In the interest of full disclosure, “Silenced Cry” is the first in the Sam Harper mystery series by my friend and colleague, Marta Stephens. You who have read her many contributions here know what an extraordinary talent she is. Trust me, her novels are even better.
When Detective Sam Harper's partner, Frank Gillies, gets a tip a suspect in a high profile drug case they’ve been following is hanging out in a seedy dive bar, they hurry to apprehend him. In an instant, the bust goes sour and faster than anyone can think, Gillies and the suspect are lying on a rain-puddled street, awash in their own blood.
To prevent Harper from going off on a vendetta against the drug kingpin responsible for his partner’s death, the precinct captain transfers him from Narcotics to Homicide, trying to bury him away under a pile of cold case files. But even the new assignment doesn’t deter Harper from sticking his nose in the investigation that killed his friend and mentor. Each discovery leads to another unanswered question about Gillies' past and his connection to the criminals they were chasing. Sam tries to move forward, but becomes irate when he's teamed with a new partner, David Mann, who hails from a notorious precinct, ripe with corruption. While not convinced of his new partner’s honesty, Harper and Mann learn to tolerate each other. Their first case calls them to a construction site to investigate remains found in a sealed up wall, a baby placed in the concrete casket shortly after birth.
The case begins to consume Harper and Mann, who dig into the past with a new found determination. Not content to let his old case die, he finds strange connections with his and Gillies' past, and soon learns there is a connection even to the dead baby in the wall. The search for answers brings the readers along for a breakneck rollercoaster ride, where nothing is as it seems, and Harper is forced to stand alone as everything he thought he knew is called into question.
The climax is among the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had at the end of a book. In the end, I broke my own rules to come back to a book and character I truly have come to admire, and an artist and wordsmith I respect and learn from every chance I get.