Wildfire | 2017 (29 June) | 352p | Review copy | Buy the book
Linda Moscow gets up in the middle of the night only to be given the shock of her life when she hears the voice of a man sitting in her kitchen. To Linda’s relief, it’s her grown-up son Gabriel but her feelings are mixed. They have an uneasy relationship and it isn’t a surprise to Linda to hear that Gabriel is in trouble again – a woman has been killed and Gabriel has been asked to report to the police station in a few hours. He needs his mother’s help. But is she prepared to help him? Can she believe him when he says he didn’t do it?
And so begins An Act of Silence, one of the most ingenious and brilliantly plotted crime thrillers I’ve read for quite a while. I don’t want to give anything away because I went in knowing very little and it held me gripped. It’s one of those books that, at the beginning, you think you know what you’ve got and perhaps you think it’ll be one of those mother and child psychological thrillers that flood the shelves at the moment. But how wrong you are. It’s true that the relationship between Linda and her son Gabriel is the emotional heart of the novel but there is so much more to it than that.
The novel moves between people and between years. Backwards and forwards it goes and not in a regular pattern. I thought I’d find this confusing but I didn’t at all. It’s done with great flair and skill. Linda isn’t easy to know. She’s closed herself off in many ways and it’s only as time goes by that we realise how deep her story goes. And it goes very deep indeed, right into the midst of something hugely significant and important. So many lives are affected by the events of An Act of Silence.
Colette McBeth draws her characters so well. It’s a running theme that there is good and bad in most people. This adds to the novel’s tension as we try to work out the true nature of some of its characters. There are one or two that are utterly tragic. Sometimes we witness an event from more than one perspective, from another point of view. Very little here is black and white.
I loved Colette McBeth’s previous novel The Life I Left Behind. That book, too, was dominated by beautiful writing and fine characterisation. But An Act of Silence takes that extra step and that’s due, I think, to the brilliance of its plotting. The plot is undoubtedly complex and full of shocks and surprises but the author keeps tight rein on it as it develops. It held me spellbound.
The Life I Left Behind