Monday, August 26, 2019

Book Review: Silent Night

By Jami Deise

After I graduated from the Trixie Belden and the Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators mystery series for kids, I moved onto Dame Agatha. I raced through her novels, eager to reach the climax where Hercule Poirot reveals all. Re-reading her books as an adult, I was annoyed by Christie’s tendency to withhold key evidence until that final reveal. I like to have the chance to solve the mystery myself. With American and U.K. crime writers being equally popular on the New York Times bestseller lists, I find it interesting to compare and contrast European writers to American ones. Perhaps the desire to solve the mystery herself is unique to American readers.

British publisher Bookouture has released Irish author Geraldine Hogan’s first crime novel, Silent Night, which is the first book in her Detective Iris Locke series. With its Irish setting, police detective protagonist, and gut-wrenching crimes, Silent Night strongly reminded me of a Tara French novel. The book has a strong premise and a shocking resolution, but the middle is a little slow.

Twenty-five years ago, Anna Crowe’s baby sister disappeared from her carriage when she was so young, she hadn’t even received a proper name. Now Anna herself is dead, along with her two young children – shot to death, then their bodies burned. The case becomes Iris’s when she accepts a temporary move to the Murder division. It’s what she’s always wanted, but it comes with a catch – the precinct is her father’s old station, and he was the officer in charge of the missing baby case – which was never solved. Iris is convinced that there has to be a connection between the two cases, although the other detectives on the case don’t seem to agree.

This is a fascinating plot, but the novel is more of a police procedural than a thriller. Many chapters center on detectives musing on who did it. With multiple third-person points of view, the reader never really identifies with Iris in a way that one expects to with the star of a new series. Other characters are bogged down with personal problems that have nothing to do with the case at hand. While such subplots can work to flesh out supporting characters, in Silent Night, it was more of a distraction, and kept Hogan from really delving into her protagonist’s personal life. Hogan’s resolution is fantastic, but it felt a bit like a Hercule Poirot summary. She withholds key information until the ending, which prevents the reader from figuring out the mystery on her own. That element may not bother U.K. readers, but it made the novel less enjoyable for me.

Still, all the elements of a strong procedural are here. Hogan leaves her heroine in pieces, a wounded bird that makes the perfect protagonist for noir. While not perfect, Silent Night is a good start for a series. I expect the next book will be even better.

Thanks to Bookouture for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit the stops on the blog tour.

No comments: