Cooper, Gordy and Hiro are enjoying an ordinary afternoon hanging out at Frank 'n Stein's Diner for an after-school snack and a few rounds of arcade games. The setting is so familiar, it’s almost like being home. Frank Mustacci is far more than simply the co-owner and cook; he is their friend --- a friend who gave Hiro’s mother a job after her father was killed in the line of duty, and who lets them hang around even after the diner is closed. And on this very ordinary evening, that is just what he does. But when Frank leaves to throw out the trash and comes tumbling into the store with masked men behind him, the three friends know evil has entered their safe haven.
"CODE OF SILENCE overflows with conflict and suspense, friendship, loyalty, lies, chases, and enough twists to keep it from getting predictable.... More books like this need to fill the shelves of bookstores and libraries."
Hiding under a counter, they watch the horrific scene unfold in the reflective storefront glass. The masked men, armed with a gun, beat Frank until he gives them the combination to his safe. When Frank tries to defend himself, they beat him again. This time, bloody and lifeless, he thuds to the floor. As Cooper, Gordy and Hiro execute their escape plan, Cooper grabs the hard drive holding video footage of the murder and robbery. They escape, but Cooper gets caught by one of the bad guys who takes his house key and threatens to kill his family if he goes to the police. Worse, the man is wearing cop pants. Thus begins the Code of Silence, a promise borne of fear that tumbles out of control, until all that’s left is a web of lies and consequences worse than they ever imagined.
In the days that follow, the friends have to dodge police questions, deceive their parents, and try to figure out what happened. Good news comes to them in a news report when they learn that Frank is in a coma, but not dead. However, that doesn’t keep them from falling further and further into their lies, which have only served to make their situation scarier. On Cooper’s insistence, they do not speak a word of the robbery/murder to the police or anyone else. Meanwhile, suspects abound. Could it be Lunk, the school troublemaker who works at Frank 'n Stein's? Or his drifter father? And surely at least one of the men was a cop, giving them another reason not to cooperate with the police.
Hiro pleads with Cooper to break the Code of Silence. Certain they are traveling a dangerous path, she prays for Cooper to make the right decision, but Cooper is convinced that revealing what they know will place them, along with his family, in grave danger. As she watches him make one bad choice after another, Hiro stops trusting her longtime friend. Caught in the middle, Gordy tries to keep the peace between them, but like Hiro, he eventually loses confidence in Cooper.
When the weight of lies finally begin to suffocate Cooper, he sees that Hiro is right. Every choice he made was the opposite of what God would have wanted him to do. Realizing it’s time to right the wrongs, Cooper heads out to tell someone he trusts, only to end up captured by the very people who robbed Frank.
Author Tim Shoemaker’s action-packed young adult novel grabs the reader from the beginning and never lets go. CODE OF SILENCE overflows with conflict and suspense, friendship, loyalty, lies, chases, and enough twists to keep it from getting predictable. Teens will love the action and exciting plot, along with the tension, as the bad guys and cops close in on the three friends. Parents will appreciate the subtle tones of faith, loyalty and the importance of honesty, woven between the lines without a shred of preachiness. More books like this need to fill the shelves of bookstores and libraries.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on April 22, 2012