|The prologue sets the tone…plastic surgeon, Dr. Reginald Pace has made an illicit deal to procure the patient on his surgical table. She is nameless, an almost lifeless form that has been severely burned to the point that she has no face. His plan is to recreate her to his liking, and he intends to keep forever.
A year later in New Orleans, the Dubois family sons, Antwaun, Jean Paul and Damon are all in law enforcement in different roles. Special Agent Damon responds to a call from Antwaun who begs him to come to a crime site. The New Orleans Police Department has found a severed hand in the swamp, a hand that Antwaun believes he can identify as that of his former girl friend Kendra Yates. He had given her the ring found on the hand shortly before she disappeared from his life. It is not long before Antwaun is charged with her murder, although no other remains are found.
Dr. Pace’s patient, now named Crystal, is recovering with the aid of a fellow patient Lex who sits with her during the nights. Probably suffering from traumatic amnesia, she has yet to see the evidence of the doctor’s work, still not knowing what she looks like, or who she was.
Damon, before becoming a special agent, had been assigned to a covert team of assassins. His memories of kills haunt him and he has merely been going through life’s motions. Damon and his brother Jean Paul, a senior officer in the NO PD, start their investigation to clear Antwaun by searching Kendra’s apartment. This leads them to the newspaper where she was an investigative reporter and the uncovering of a link in her investigation of a man named Swafford and his link to a plastic surgeon that works for the government.
Damon heads for the plastic surgeon to find Dr. Pace who, in this very complex plot, was assigned to the same unit as Damon and part of the past he wants to forget. He stumbles onto Crystal while there, principally because she looks and appears to be Kendra. Damon forces the issue, Crystal sees her face to be normal, and fearing Pace’s reason for keeping her, she asks Damon to take her away.
Damon is drawn to the beautiful woman and takes her to the police believing he can now exonerate Antwaun with the actual Kendra, only to find the hand has been fingerprinted and DNA has identified it as Kendra’s. Quickly thereafter, another set of remains is found.
One must suspend a great deal of disbelief to appreciate Don’t Say a Word, however this story is riveting enough that lines began to blur easily and it was well worth it. Rita Herron merits great accolades for originality, reflected within a very complex setting that has an incredible number of subplots which require obvious skills to weave together. She does so effortlessly, and manages to feature some local color as well. Her characters are not drawn but crafted, multi-layered individuals who work their way logically in a plot that borders on the surreal to reach surprising endings. (Plural intended).
And for the reviewer, this riveting story is just a beginning - of a search for the author’s backlist.