Angela Marsons’s Silent Scream is an excellent, solidly plotted murder mystery. Detective Inspector Kim Stone and her team investigate a series of murders tied to a children’s home, something that resonates for Stone due to her extensive time spent in the foster system. The beginning of the book moves briskly and gets right into the first murder. In between the main narrative, Marsons weaves in an anonymous malevolent character’s point of view in short italicized chapters. I tend to like that in my mysteries. I like getting into the head of evil rather than just having it revealed in the end.
Initially I had a negative reaction to Kim Stone. She is presented as a hardcore female investigator who brooks no personal discussions, cuts everybody off at the knees, and suffers no fools gladly. Her closest colleague, a cheerful and loyal man named Bryant, softens Stone’s hard charging style. As much as Marsons tries to subvert the “tough male cop” and “emotionally intuitive female cop” trope, she ends up creating another type of caricature. Her female detective, Stone, fixes and rides big fast motorcycles, won’t engage in even the mildest social niceties such as returning a handshake, spits out every sentence, kicks ass and takes names and generally acts like the stereotype of what a real man is supposed to be. I felt somehow that the character reinforced stereotypes rather than challenged them.
About mid-way through the book, though, I started to warm up to Stone (though that name is a little too on the nose). Gradually we learn she has a wounded heart due to a terrible tragedy in her past that has made her tough, that has made her compartmentalize her feelings. The reader is also given glimpses of a woman with a sense of humor who has experienced true pain and loss. It occurred to me that Marsons had intentionally set up the story this way. Stone’s layers and defenses are peeled back bit by bit, until we see the whole person. She is no longer a distraction to the story, but an integral and emotional center.
I thought the ending was riveting. It was full of twists and they all felt earned. In the end, the book had an excellent balance of suspense and heart. This should learn me to give characters a chance.
Note: It contains graphic violence.