Written by Angela Marsons — You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d seen everything when it comes to serial killer novels. It’s been a while since something really different has come out in the sub-genre, and in its opening Angela Marsons’ Silent Scream does little to separate itself from the norm. But looks can deceive, and so can excerpts. This is a thriller that plays its cards close to its chest right to the end, a serial killer story with depth and a psychological edge, and a debut crime novel that really looks like it could do big things.
The story opens with five adults standing around an open grave. They have made a pact, to keep their secret. The body in the shallow grave is not that of someone who’ll be missed, and the five people around it feel that the secret will be buried with the corpse.
However, a decade later when public school principal Teresa Wyatt is found drowned, pushed down into her bath, DI Kim Stone must start digging deep into the Black Country’s past – a past that tragically mirrors her own. Her digging is literal and metaphorical. Kim – a tough loner who rose through the ranks of the West Midlands police force despite, or perhaps because of, her disregard for the rules – soon discovers that the principal spent her last days investigating an archeological dig beside Crestwood, a local orphanage which burnt down a decade earlier. Stone and her colleague, the patient DS Bryant (sweet to her sour in their sweet and sour pork, as one fellow officer points out), must find Teresa Wyatt’s connection to the orphanage, a facility for girls discarded by society.
This is a matter close to Kim’s heart. She too was one of the girls that society took no notice of, in and out of foster homes and orphanages from a young age. As decade-old bodies of young girls start being pulled from the ground near the orphanage, Kim takes it upon herself to be their voice, to give them names, to make sure someone notices these girls. As she digs, she learns more about the facility. Teresa Wyatt had worked there at the end, and so had a handful of other men and women around the Black Country who have died in bizarre ways, one by one. Stone and her colleagues must find out why. Three girls are dug up, and three of the adults who worked there are dead. Stone suspects these two groups of killings are not the work of the same killer. It seems one is patient and methodical, while the second is hasty and bizarre. But Stone must find the truth behind one set of killings before she can expose the culprit behind the other.
The author introduces an array of characters who were present at the end of Crestwood, many of whom could have been responsible for either set of murders. Marsons has written a novel which doesn’t read like a debut. It’s perfectly plotted, complex and succeeds in adding something new to the serial killer sub-genre. It’s a difficult novel to review, not because of any shortcomings, but because to reveal anything at all about the plot would be doing it a serious disservice. The book does occasionally descend into cliché. Things are said about serial killers that have been said before, and at times the characters feel like ones that have been written before. Yet this is a well-trodden area, and in the end Silent Scream is a great addition to it, from a writer who I hope to see more from.
Silent Scream will be released 20 February.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars