The Silent Ones by K. L. Slater is described by the author as “An absolutely gripping psychological thriller.” The self-description serves as a subtitle, and the author fully delivers on the promise. I could spend a lot of time trying to count the twists in this novel, but the time is better spent in reading. This five-star thriller should assure a readership willing to pay for eight of the other books the author has written. There is one additional novel that will appeal to readers who are conversant with Italian. The Silent Ones sells on Amazon for USD 0.99; the remaining Slater novels sell for USD 3.99. No Slater books are available through Kindle Unlimited. The Silent Ones is so impressive I am sure I will pay a higher price than I usually do to read other K. L. Slater novels.
The term “dysfunctional family” is used to describe aberrations in familial relationships on different levels. A story of sibling disputes might earn the description. With this novel, the family is dysfunctional through three generations. Maddy and Brianna act out a very substantial conflict about who has committed a possible crime. Their mothers, sisters Chloe and Juliet, have had conflicts from their childhood over the death of a sibling. The battle continues into their adult lives over the power roles in a shared business and mutual accusations over which daughter is responsible for the accident with Bessie. Ray and Joan are the parents of Chloe and Juliet. Joan completely dominates and emasculates Ray as the parents hide secrets from their daughters and emotionally favor Chloe over Juliet. Readers can decide how much this has further affected Chloe and Juliet’s raising of Maddy and Brianna. Secrets abound on all three levels with more than enough twists to fill the sixty-one chapter, three hundred two-page book.
We first meet two cousins, Maddy and Brianna, who exhibit the central conflict for the story. Maddy is usually confident, unassuming, and kind. Brianna is dominant, prone to having temper tantrums, and is not above bending the truth. Could these be typical ten-year-old children? The two are looking for fun during the last days of summer vacation, and they decide to visit old lady Bessie Wilford, something they have done several times before. Bessie is advancing through stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, but during her lucid moments, she recounts interesting stories while serving cookies and lemonade. On their most recent visit, Bessie has an accident after waking suddenly and striking her head. Maddy and Brianna become alarmed in the presence of unconscious Bessie and run from the room. When Bessie is found unconscious, police bring Maddy and Brianna to a police facility for questioning. Things turn serious when Bessie dies. Someone will be charged with responsibility for Bessie’s death.
Secrets are revealed by communicating in many forms, but primarily by talking. When police brought Maddy and Brianna into the station for interviews, the two refused to speak. Not one word. The two don’t even look at each other. Maddy and Brianna didn’t talk to the police, family therapist consultants, lawyers, their parents, or even each other. Their failure to communicate was a fascinating part of the novel for me as I have been involved in many interrogations. The cousins adopted the only effective resistance method to an interrogation, complete silence, but I found it difficult to believe two ten-year-old subjects held out so long.
It was bad enough that parents/grandparents Ray and Joan had always favored Chloe as a child; this family relationship continued into adulthood. Chloe and Brianna lived with Joan after Chloe’s husband, Jason, abandoned her. Chloe, therefore, spoke more often to Mom and always got her version of events to Joan before Juliet. An uncomfortable feeling of resentment, but not jealousy, consumed Juliet. A business run jointly by the sisters was not going well. Juliet, founder and theoretically dominant partner in the firm, felt that Chloe was telling all her business problems to Joan while neglecting routine business tasks and even deceiving Juliet about business problems.
Most readers will focus on Juliet as a likable, confused, and caring character. Juliet knows there are secrets but can’t figure out how to discover them. There are furtive looks between family members that will lead Juliet to believe husband Tom is having an affair. It is Juliet we watch as she tries to figure out whether daughter Maddy is responsible for a crime while at the same time trying to meet the contract deadlines of her struggling business. Dana, a family therapist and consultant to the police, will try to help Juliet and all members of the family in discovering the truth of the accident/crime as well as the hidden truths of the three-tiered family. Dana will also contribute secrets to the story as we learn about a past mistake that nearly disgraced Dana’s therapist career for good.
Lots of twists and turns in this fast-paced novel make this a book to schedule for reading in one session. Between chapters forty and forty-one, I experienced a shock that had nothing to do with content but with the timeline. Not every reader will experience this. I was so caught up in the story that I felt a temporal jolt. It was a form of a twist in a story with many twists. In the genre of psychological thrillers, I highly recommend The Silent Ones and consider it an excellent choice for a book club discussion.