Writing an entertaining mystery novel is not a simple task.
Collaborating on such an effort is even more difficult.
Collaborating with one's spouse represents perhaps the trifecta of
writing difficulty. Michael Baden and Linda Kenney --- authors,
collaborators and spouses --- have overcome the inherent difficulty
of such a writing assignment in their debut novel, REMAINS SILENT.
This is a fast-paced, enjoyable mystery that takes full advantage
of the professional careers and experiences of its authors.
Michael Baden is a nationally known medical examiner and host of
the HBO series "Autopsy." He has testified as an expert witness in
courtrooms across America and is recognized as one of the law's
leading forensic scientists. Linda Kenney is an experienced trial
attorney who serves as a legal commentator for CNN and Court TV.
Readers therefore should not be surprised that this mystery has as
its protagonists a chief medical examiner for New York City and a
crusading female trial attorney. "Write about what you know" is
indeed the first lesson taught at most writing seminars.
Dr. Jake Rosen and trial attorney Philomena "Manny" Manfreda first
appear in REMAINS SILENT as combatants in a civil rights trial
involving the alleged wrongful shooting and subsequent death of a
young woman. While Jake is testifying against Manny's client, the
attorney violates a cardinal rule of trial practice and asks a
question to which she does not know the answer. Jake's response
sends a missile into the heart of Manny's case, exploding any
chance of victory. While Manny is devastated, Jake views his
performance in court as an exercise where expertise and science
yield a just and truthful result.
Trial attorneys and expert witnesses both recognize that once a
case is finished, the file is closed and preparations begin for the
next battle. For Jake a new investigation commences with a phone
call from his former boss and mentor Pete Harrigan, who retired
from the full-time practice of medical examiner but still serves
rural Baxter County in its occasional needs for death certificates
and autopsies. When construction begins on the site of a new and
desperately needed shopping mall in Pete's community, skeletal
remains of several bodies are discovered. The city fathers do not
want anything to stand in the way of their new mall, but Pete knows
no loyalty other than to the truth. He summons Jake to help him
investigate the suspicious nature of the bones found near a
long-ago closed mental facility.
The investigation convinces Jake that something is amiss. After
identifying one of the bodies found in the excavation, he refers a
relative of the deceased to an attorney, none other than Manny
Manfreda. The lawyer and pathologist form an investigative alliance
that not only ferrets out the truth but also results in a romantic
relationship. Their first date is interrupted by an emergency
autopsy gloriously described by the authors in a fashion that
suggests a battle of wills that will either make Manny ill or show
her mettle as a person who can survive an autopsy. Soon enough dead
bodies appear on a reoccurring basis, requiring Jake and Manny to
muster all their talents against nefarious evildoers as well as
their own government. The formula yields an interesting mix of
cadavers and crime scene investigation that capitalizes on the
growing interest in such television programs as "CSI" and "Law and
While Baden and Kenney have done a workmanlike job in this mystery,
I would be remiss if I did not observe that they seem a bit too
enamored with their star characters. The doctor is a little too
rugged and handsome and the lawyer a little too passionate and
sexy. But that certainly comes from the fact that the protagonists
mirror the authors in their lives. Perhaps one day I will write a
book about a judge turned sleuth. You can picture him in your mind
now by imagining a cross between Cary Grant and Harrison
Fast-paced and well-written, REMAINS SILENT is a promising start to
many future adventures that will be penned by the husband-wife duo
of Michael Baden and Linda Kenney.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 23, 2011