Bone Cold

Shocking Pink

In Silence by Erica Spindler
(Mira, $23.95, PG) ISBN 1-55166-699-5
Journalist Avery Chauvin takes a leave of absence from her fast paced newspaper job to return to her hometown of Cypress Springs, Louisiana. This is yet another tiny southern town where time has apparently stood still. Progress in the form of industry was spurned and resisted, and the town still holds itself to the high moral plane it had enjoyed post World War II.

But under this façade, there are evil currents of unrest, manifested in a vigilante group calling itself The Gavel, which is committed to maintaining the high moral level of its citizenry through whatever method is necessary. The fact that their methods have included murder at times is not viewed as inconsistent with the decency they claim to embrace.

Avery’s mother had died the year before and Avery had not enjoyed a close relationship with her. When notified of her father’s suicide, her emotions vacillate from the deep grief of loss to guilt that she had not seen it coming.

Chief of Police Buddy Stevens and his family welcome Avery home and the town closes ranks around her. Helping to assuage her anguish, the Stevens family is still the home away from home it had been in her childhood. Not quite the same however, is her relationship with their adult twin sons and daughter.

Matt Stevens, now in county law enforcement, had been Avery’s steady boy friend through high school. Avery had been unwilling to stay in Cypress Springs and their relationship had died of inattention. Matt’s twin Hunter had left the town to become a partner in a prestigious New Orleans law firm. Hunter is back in town, under a dark cloud of disgrace but no one seems to really know much about it. Avery discovers that all is not as it seems with the Stevens, and Hunter is the discordant note that the family refuses to talk about.

Avery is having a tough time believing that her physician father took his own life. Even more puzzling, when she is going through his personal effects she finds a box of newspaper clippings that relate to a single incident - a murder that occurred many years ago in Cypress Springs.

. When a young woman is found savagely murdered, Avery begins to talk with the coroner and others involved in the investigation of her father’s death. The novel is layered in deceit, and Avery and her newfound friend Gwen become more and more enmeshed.

In In Silence Erica Spindler uses what appear to be her favorite themes - friendship, obsession, deviant behavior and murder, to construct a complicated mystery novel. The story starts at a snail’s pace and continues as slowly as one would expect life to be in sleepy rural southern town. The characters are developed rather unevenly and the dialogue at times regresses to “southern hokey,” whether intentional or not.

Given the foreshadowing in the prologue that introduces the vigilante group, the evolution of events is never really a surprise, resulting in the removal of much of the tension of the story upfront. To have such a sinister plot, the story is remarkable for its lack of tension, both on the romantic and suspense fronts.

There is much, however, that is good about this story. Spindler accurately portrays life in a small southern town, exhibiting the closeness of friendship that is built with the interrelationship of families over several generations. It also illustrates in a powerful way the dangers of ideology fueled by illusion and supported by the belief that their role in life is to protect, whether or not it is appropriate.

--Thea Davis

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