Following on with the theme of dark and thrilling reads, I decided to pick up another book this month which I hoped would continue to reflect the changing weather. I’ve read a fair few excellent and unsettling books during October, The Crow Garden being my current favourite, so this book had a lot to live up to!
Without a Word is the second novel by author Kate McQuaile. I’ve never read anything previously by this writer, but the allure of a book described as a psychological drama/thriller/crime really lured me in.
The novel has an interesting premise. Orla is on a Skype call to her friend Lillian, when there is a knock at the door. Lillian gets up to answer it, leaving Orla waiting for her return. Except . . . she never does. As time drags by Orla realises something terrible is wrong, an idea only confirmed as Orla watches in horror as Lillian’s house is engulfed by flames. For more than a decade Lillian’s strange disappearance has remained unsolved. Was she murdered? Did she walk out of her own free will and never return? These are the questions which have haunted Ned Moynihan, the detective who led the original investigation into Lillian’s disappearance. Now, all these years later, Ned finds himself the victim of letters which seem to suggest there is more to the case than first discovered. As both Orla and Ned try to move on from Lillian’s strange disappearance, they find themselves once more dragged into the mystery of what really happened.
One of the first things I noticed about this book is that it is very fast in plot. It jumps straight into the traumatic event which sees Lillian disappear as her friend looks on helpless and confused, wasting no time in establishing the main crux of the novel. This accelerated nature is also reflected by the structure of the novel; we follow both Orla and Ned, with the narratives flicking quite often between the two. It was because of this frequent changing of perspective, with only a few ages actually focusing on each character at a time, that I felt like I didn’t really get enough time in either of their heads. As such, I did not find the characterisation as great as I would have liked.
Having said that, the premise itself was what really kept me driven and eager to finish this book. It encourages readers to become immersed in the story because you need to know how Lillian has disappeared. No traces of anything untoward or suspicious have ever been found, with it being as if Lillian had just vanished into thin air. Logically we know this cannot be so, which only makes it all the more infuriating that there is no evidence. In a world of ever rising technology, it’s quite a realistic idea to think that we could ourselves witness something terrible happen on screen, yet be completely powerless to stop it or intervene. I liked how the author brought this mystery into the modern age, exploiting the dark possibilities of modernity.
What actually surprised me in this novel was how much I wanted to learn more about Ned’s life and personal history. We learn something about his childhood and the family life he was raised in, which I think made much more of a connection to his character than that of Orla, or indeed any of the others. His individual story felt more much established and I really did find myself wanting him to face his past and have a positive outcome. In contrast, I found the characters of Orla and her boyfriend to be a bit flat and not necessarily as well defined.
If you are thinking about reading this because you want to delve into a deep crime mystery, then this probably wont be the book for you. The plot is fairly simple and straightforward, despite the ambiguities surrounding Lillian’s disappearance. Likewise, the truth behind the night she disappeared was quite cliché and something which I managed to spot a mile off. Even the conclusion of the novel was neatly wrapped up and finished with quite unrealistic ease. I think that the multiple narrative threads following both Orla and Ned also confused the book somewhat. Even though Ned does not really do much investigating, his profession does make the book almost seem like a police procedural novel, whereas in reality it is trying to be much more of a psychological drama which is focused upon the people themselves. I don’t think the characters were quite fleshed out enough or that there was enough character development to truly achieve this, but I did still think Ned’s side of the story was much more engaging.
This was a quick and very easy read, which certainly explores an interesting idea which I really wanted to uncover. If you’re looking for a bit of light darkness, or a book with thriller/crime elements which isn’t too heavy or literary, then I think this would make a good choice.
Disclaimer – I was very kindly sent this book by the publishers to review. I will only ever post my own honest opinions and will NOT write a favourable review in exchange for complimentary books.