The Final Silence
Shadowy figures, mysterious pasts, bloody crimes and dying breath clues: Stuart Neville's latest hard-boiled detective novel, THE FINAL SILENCE, has it all. Set in the tense Belfast landscape, where political and religious affiliation still colors relationships, it is a relentlessly paced story of murder and secrets, unafraid of violence and thrills.
The first chapter is a prologue of sorts where Neville introduces Raymond Drew, a pained and haunted man in the last moments of his life. The reasons for his guilt and anguish are soon revealed. Readers next meet 34-year-old Rea Carlisle. Having just inherited her uncle Raymond's house upon his suicide, she is excited to finally have a house she can make a home. But when she breaks into a locked room, she makes a horrific discovery: a book that apparently chronicles her uncle’s decades-long murder spree complete with grisly souvenirs. Bringing the book to her parents’ attention results in the unexpected. Her father Graham Carlisle, a local politician, refuses to take the book to the police, and her timid mother Ida doesn't argue against him.
"A high body count coupled with some poignant emotional themes make this an entertaining and chilling novel."
Desperate to bring her late uncle to justice and give the families of the victim closure, Rea calls former boyfriend and detective Jack Lennon for help. Lennon, never a team player or compassionate man, is hitting rock bottom after being shot a year earlier and suspended from the police force. Living with a woman he doesn't love, trying to keep his daughter away from her vengeful maternal family, and nursing an addiction to painkillers, Lennon is surprised to hear from Rea after so many years. Her story is unbelievable, but when she gives him a picture of her father together with her uncle, he promises to find out what he can about the two men, their shared past and the crimes in the book. Before he can get to work, however, Rea is found dead, and Lennon finds himself the primary suspect in her murder.
Enter Detective Chief Inspector Serena Flanagan, a tough and ambitious woman who is the survivor of at least two Republican paramilitary attempts on her life. Just as Lennon didn't believe Rea, Flanagan doesn't believe Lennon, and, in fact, she thinks he is guilty of the killing. When Lennon goes on the run, and as Flanagan begins to connect the dots, it becomes clear that there is at least one big missing piece of this terrifying puzzle. While Lennon struggles to clear his name and Ida Carlisle mourns the loss of her daughter, and as her marriage begins to unravel, Flanagan is keeping her own life-and-death secret. As Neville moves towards the novel's dramatic but not surprising conclusion, Ida and Flanagan bond, and Flanagan begins to believe in Lennon's innocence. Still, more people will lose their lives before the end of the book.
Dark and unrelenting with a cast of flawed and believable main characters, not to mention a spooky boogeyman, THE FINAL SILENCE moves deftly between various perspectives. A high body count coupled with some poignant emotional themes make this an entertaining and chilling novel.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on October 31, 2014