I’m humbled by this brilliant review of my book. It also gives a flavour of themes and what the book is really about. My many thanks to the Reviewer, Cathy A.J.
Although the fifth in the series, A Conspiracy of Silence can definitely be read as a standalone as the author quickly brings new readers (like myself) up-to-date with everything they need to know about DI Gillian Marsh. She has a no-nonsense approach which can appear brusque but is just the outward manifestation of a steely determination to get to the bottom of any crime she’s given to investigate. In this respect, she reminded me of Ann Cleeves’s Vera Stanhope.
There are glimpses into Gillian’s home life, revealing her as a bit of a loner who has prioritised her career over other things. Although she enjoys a pie and a pint with colleagues after work, there’s a clear line between work and anything else. That is, unless she chooses to cross it.
As Gillian embarks upon the investigation into the murder of Bradley Watson, she soon starts to ruffle feathers, notably those of Whalehurst’s headmaster, Edwin Featherstone. Sorry, Dr. Edwin Featherstone. He seems more interested in protecting the school’s exclusive reputation than the fact a dead body has been found in its grounds. Or that the victim was killed in such an unusual fashion, given the school has a a society devoted to Medieval martial arts, which include archery.
The nearby village of Little Ogburn epitomizes a community separated along class lines, divided into “the leafy owner-occupied” Upper Little Ogburn and the “decrepit housing estate” of Lower Little Ogburn. If you were thinking it sounds a little like the Wiltshire equivalent of TV’s Midsomer Murders, think again. The storyline features distinctly darker aspects of contemporary society such as county lines drug rings, bullying, right-wing extremism and the murky side of social media.
The anguish of Rachel’s parents at her disappearance is vividly depicted and I got a clear sense of how this made the officer in charge of the case, DS Mark Webber, even more determined to find out who – and what – was responsible for Rachel’s sudden disappearance. I was less a fan of the use of the past tense in some chapters and the present tense in others.
In conducting her investigation, Gillian faces, as the title says, a conspiracy of silence. But not only that; there’s a conspiracy of misogyny too, expressed in sometimes crude language.
Although not overburdened with police procedure, A Conspiracy of Silence demonstrates the patient, detailed process of investigating a crime, the teamwork involved and the human impact on those waiting for answers about their loved ones. In DI Gillian Marsh, the author has created a character whose flaws are definitely outweighed by her desire for justice, making the reader root for her.
In three words: Realistic, suspenseful, mystery