An Act of Silence opens with former Home Secretary, Linda Moscow, being awoken in the early hours by her son, Gabriel, who has been asked to report to the police later that day. The police have questions over his suspected involvement in the death of Mariela – a young woman who went home with Gabriel, and whose body was later found in an allotment near his house.
He pleads his innocence to Linda, but she isn’t entirely convinced and, following a misunderstanding, he runs out.
Linda may have retired from politics but she still has some influence. The question is, should she help him?
When I started An Act of Silence, I was expecting something fairly run of the mill. It starts with a dead body, and the question over Gabriel’s guilt – did he do it, or is he telling the truth when he denies his involvement? Will his mother stand by him, is she right in whatever path she chooses? You know the sort. But, about a third of the way in, there’s a twist, and it made this novel a stand out in the genre.
In terms of the structure, An Act of Silence may come across at times as being a little disjointed, as it touches on multiple perspective and jumps around in time with flashbacks to Gabriel’s childhood, events in Linda’s career, and in her time since she left the world of politics, as well as other key moments that are relevant to the plot. Whilst in some novels this can be confusing, I thought that it worked brilliantly here, as much of what goes on needs the historical context, and everything became clear by the end. There are also instances in which the reader sees the same event from multiple perspectives. This can sometimes be a little repetitive, but again, it’s handled so well here, and there were times when it changed my perception of what had really been going on in an event that I’d already considered to have understood.
No one is good or evil.
McBeth’s characterisation is also spot on, with a few rotten eggs, but the majority of characters being neither wholly good or bad – they’re just people, trying to get through their respective situations. And even the bad guys do good things occasionally, even if their reasons aren’t always admirable. I found that I couldn’t fully sympathise with Linda, although this wasn’t an issue for me in terms of enjoying the novel. Linda is a former Tory politician who resigned following a scandal, and has since become something of a recluse. It was clear that the situation she finds herself in is at least partly down to her own actions, and I did judge her for it. It made for a great story though, and I liked how all of the little details all came together at the end – even those that seemed almost irrelevant at the time.
It’s worth noting that An Act of Silence touches on some darker themes. I found these to be sensitively handled, and whilst there is no ambiguity as to what is happening, there is also nothing gratuitous in the descriptions either.
An Act of Silence is both brilliantly written and expertly plotted, and has that “just one more chapter” feel to it. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers.
An Act of Silence was published on 29 June by Wildfire. Many thanks to the team at Headline for the review copy, which I picked up at their Blogger Evening earlier this year.