Warning: Discussions of imprisonment and sexual assault on a child as pertains to the story.
Title: Silent Child
Author: Sarah A. Denzil
Date Added: March 13, 2017
Date Started: May 26, 2017
Date Finished: June 9, 2017
Reading Duration: 14 days
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Crime Drama
In the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son’s red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year – a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned.
His body was never recovered.
Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She’s married, pregnant, and in control again…… until Aiden returns.
As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime?It’s Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell the unspeakable.
Silent Child tells the story of a parent’s more fervent prayer answered after their worst nightmare, but with complications. While Emma Price’s son Aiden is returned to her after ten years, he is far different from the energetic, little boy whose red jacket was fished out of the flood swollen river. Stricken with psychological mutism, his body tells the tale of imprisonment and sexual assault that he can’t bear to utter.
By the time Emma received that phone call from the hospital, she’d finally come to terms with Aiden’s disappearance and supposed death. No longer with his father, her high school boyfriend Rob, she is currently married to a man named Jake and is pregnant with his child. Aiden’s reappearance back into her life initially evokes obvious joy, but when she realizes how broken her son is, her happiness quickly turns to horror, grief, and an eventual terror and uncertainty about what Aiden might do to his new baby sister. Her husband and the ex-boyfriend who’s now back in her life only serve to complicate matters more.
Right off the bat, Jake (the husband) comes off as a complete asshole. There’s a part in the beginning where he fat shames her. Um, she’s your wife, and she’s pregnant with your fucking child, but it was when Emma mentioned how he had to “train” her that my suspicion meter really went up.
Jake is an excessively tidy person whereas Emma is much messier, but when she moved in with him, she learned that in Jake’s house everything has its place. Rob (the ex) points this out a bit derisively, and there’s a point where Emma recalls how Jake moved her beloved childhood desk to the garage, replacing it with a newer one (that Emma in no way asked for or wanted), because it didn’t fit in with his perfect scheme. Throwing a potentially unpredictable Aiden into the mix upsets everything, though Jake does try to be supportive for Emma’s sake.
The author does an excellent job of showing how uncaring the media can be when there’s a story to be had. The well-being of those involved means nothing, and a perfectly valid outburst is ripe fodder to be used against you, as Emma learns to her rue.
No one is as fickle as the public, and the reason they’re that fickle is that the media tell them how to think and how to feel. Why else are talent shows packed full of sweeping emotional music edited just right to make you feel the pain and heartbreak when a hopeful doesn’t get through? Why else are shots of tearful audience members shown during a sad rendition of a song or a tragic backstory retelling? It’s all manufactured to make you buy things. Whether it’s a car or a lifestyle or a newspaper, you’re buying it because you’re buying the story and that is the truth of it all. When I lost my cool at that woman, I shattered the story she’d bought into. I made her reconsider what she thought was true.
But I didn’t resent people for buying into Aiden’s story. I didn’t begrudge them their sadness over his tragic life. What I hated was the idea that I had to be perfect and if I wasn’t perfect, then they weren’t sad for me anymore. I hated and resented that. I was in pain and I was allowed to snap or make mistakes or do whatever the hell I wanted. I was a human being, not a story, and the world forgot that.
This is one of her many hard lessons. Some of us are lucky to have a sheltered youth, but then as adults, we have a better understanding of what the world is, but there’s often more than one awakening to this truth, and the lesson Emma learns about masks and the ones who wear them breaks down her trust and that shelter even more.
With books like this, the whole question is how good of a mystery writer is the author. Are they able to manipulate what their readers are more than likely suspecting? If they are, then they’ll be one step ahead of us all the way. Another question to be considered is “Is the plot predictable?” or “Is the plot predictable to me?” The nuance is slight, but important. Was this novel’s climax predictable because I’m good at figuring such things out, or is the novel just predictable. Unfortunately, I’m learning towards the latter.
By the middle of the story, I had a suspect, and the narrative did nothing to dissuade me, which I thought was fantastic. It’s a red herring. Ms. Denzil wants us to suspect this person. I even had an idea that one of the officers assigned by the DCI was actually poisoning Emma, because everyone is a suspect in a mystery novel. There was no red herring, at least not with the suspect presented by the middle of the book. There’s an attempt at one, but since it’s obvious, it’s either a vastly diluted red herring or not even one at all.
Silent Child definitely has some disturbing and dark psychological motifs, but there’s not really a big payoff at the end of novel when the truth is revealed. True, it’s messed up, but it’s also expected. The actor/actors fit into well established molds, and there’s nothing new to break or even crack it. It’s not a terrible story, and the lesson about never knowing what people are hiding is both necessary and painful, but the execution of the mystery itself leaves something to be desired.
By popular demand, I’m going to discuss the climax of the story. I thought about giving it away when I initially wrote the review, but decided against it for a few reasons, the main one being I was too tired to do so at the time, but it’s a new day, and I’m ready to get spoilery!
I knew there was a reason I disliked Jake from the beginning, and that reason was because he’d been literally watching Emma from the beginning. I didn’t buy her statement that their student/teacher relationship wasn’t creepy. It sure as fuck was creepy. You don’t erase the creepiness just by declaring it isn’t..
Emma eventually finds out that Jake was lying about the tutoring sessions he claimed to host every Tuesday and Thursday when she calls the college where he’s supposed to be employed. This is around the time her and Rob (the ex) locate Jake’s shed with news clippings of Emma when she was in grade school in addition to another girl and most importantly articles about her parents’ car accident and Aiden’s disappearance. Now Jake has admitted to cheating on her by this point, but he manipulates Emma into staying with him and helping him deal with his sex addiction *rolls eyes*, but after this discovery, Emma is pretty much done. Granted, the cheating was easy to admit, because him stalking her since she was a girl is far worse.
So when Aiden wandered off during the flood, Jake had already been secretly stalking Emma for a while. He followed the little boy to the river and saw his chance to not only be rid of an obstacle between his victim’s heart and him, but also a way to make her vulnerable and more easily manipulated. So he pushes a six year old child into the water, thinking he drowns. Jake was also responsible for her parents’ accident as he cut the brake lines to their car.
The person who kidnapped and imprisoned Aiden for a decade was a man named Hugh. He’s the husband of Josie, Emma’s best friend, whom Josie suspects of cheating. It was pretty easy to figure out it was Hugh, since he was absent the entire book with whereabouts unknown. It’s even more fucked up because Amy, Aiden’s old teacher and someone Emma considered a friend, knew about the kidnapping and was helping Hugh keep up the ruse that he was off on business trips in America (the story takes place in England) while he was with Aiden. The author gave away the fact that Amy was a horrible person though when she had her throw Emma under the bus on national TV.
One of the final chapters is from Aiden’s point of view. Hugh, tired of the decade old secrets, begs Aiden to kill him with a baseball bat, after which Aiden escapes. He eventually does talk again. We know the story is going to end with him getting his voice back. There are very few stories with silent characters who don’t have that dramatic speech moment (even Mario and Link get some lines in some of the media they’re in), though Aiden’s speech is obviously a bit stunted and rusty. He understands more than he can say.
So Aiden was pushed into the river by Jake. He was found by Hugh (Josie’s husband), who kept and abused for ten years. Hugh was protected from discovery by Amy, Aiden’s old teacher. Jake is killed at the end by Emma in their final showdown when she bashes him in the head in order to escape, and Hugh is killed by Aiden at his (Hugh’s) begged request.
I’m a bit sad I wasn’t as blown away by this story. All the pieces are there to make a spectacular finish, but unfortunately some of them are too trite. Jake, as the asshole husband, is just too obvious of a choice , and if the author was going to go for a red herring, she could’ve directed that towards Rob or, even better, the grandparents. She attempted to by having Rob’s father taken in for questioning, but it was resolved too quickly. I knew Hugh was going to have some involvement, because you don’t see hide or hair of him throughout the entire story, and the “cheating” excuse was already tried with Jake. You know there’s more to it than that. The book isn’t an awful attempt, but it leaves a few things to be desired.