Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Silence the Dead by Jack Fredrickson

First Sentence:  Betty Jo Dean lay as she had for over thirty years, shrouded in black vinyl, forever seventeen.
            
In 1982, Jonah Ridy, a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times, is given the chance to restore his reputation as an investigative journalist by travelling to a small town for a follow-up piece about a man who has been shot and whose girlfriend is missing.  In spite of his very cold reception, he perseveres, even though people around him start dying.  One death finally causes him to walk away.  Thirty-years later, the town has a new mayor, an outsider.  The more he learns about the town’s secrets, the more determined he is to find the answers—no matter the cost.
            
This is a story of three parts, each completely engrossing.  In the first part, we meet Betty Jo Dean.  Fredrickson makes us feel her fear and desperation.  No mater her background, we empathize with her.  In the second part, we come to know Jonah Ridy.  We want him to be redeemed and to solve the mystery, but we greatly fear for him.  In the third, and major section of the story, we have Mayor Mac Bassett who, with the support of his ex-wife, waitress and others, is determined to find the answers.  Fredrickson does a masterful job of introducing us to Mac and establishing his personality, thereby explaining his actions.
            
The sign of a really good story is when you become so involved and invested in one time period; you are started when there is a shift.  You have to trust that the author will bring the parts together so that it all makes sense.  Frederickson definitely achieved that.
            
The only very, very slight flaw to the book was having a prologue.  Rather than having that section at the beginning, it would have been better to leave it only within the relevant section of the story.  Having the prologue wasn’t really necessary and diminished the impact of the information when it did appear later.  The second, itty-bitty criticism is that the final status of the main characters was a bit twee, but perhaps that’s more a reaction of jealousy.
            
There are some authors one discovers, and enjoys, but feels their writing could be so much “more.”  This book is definitely the “more."  This book is the book from Fredrickson for which I’ve been waiting.
            
Silencethe Dead” is very well plotted, without any reliance on coincidences. Everything is rationally, logically, or emotionally based and appropriate.  The forensic information is critical, well-explained, and fascinating.  The level of suspense is ratcheted up at a steady pace with excellent twists right up to the very end.  Highly Recommended.

SILENCE THE DEAD (Trad Myst – Jonah Ridl/Mac Basset – Illinois – 1982/Contemp) – VG+
Fredrickson, Jack –Standalone
Severn House, January 2015

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