The book under consideration here is an example of a type of novel I like very much. It’s a “small” mystery, localized and character-driven. No international conspiracies; no shadowy government agents. An End to a Silence is the sort of mystery that’s produced more in England than in America nowadays, and as it happens the author is English, though the story is set in America, in a small town in Montana, and seems right at home.
Detective Newton is a burnt-out case, a cop whose career stalled long ago. Now he’s just marking time until retirement. But he’s called to a local nursing home, where an old man’s death has been identified as murder. When Newton sees the victim, he’s suddenly galvanized. This man, Bill O’Donnell, is a suspect in 25 year old case, the disappearance of O’Donnell’s own grandson. Newton is certain that O’Donnell killed the boy and hid the body, despite the fact that he was a kindly man, loved in the community and active in his church.
A new policeman has come to help. His name is Ward (he never explains whether it’s his first or last name), and he’s straight out of a Hollywood western. He’s from Texas, he’s tall and lean and taciturn, he wears a cowboy hat, and he has secrets. Along with investigating the murder, he gets involved in protecting a local woman from her abusive, junkie ex-husband.
The story is all about secrets, and what people do to protect themselves and those they love. There’s a surprising reversal at the end, giving us a resolution that’s not entirely satisfying, but true to life as we know it.
I enjoyed An End to a Silence very much, and regret that this is the author’s first novel. I fear I’ll forget his name before there’s another. Sex, language, and violence are relatively mild, and on top of that the Christians in the book are treated respectfully.