Book Review: Dead Silence by Wendy Corsi Staub
By John ValeriAugust 6, 2019
In Wendy Corsi Staub’s riveting new thriller, Dead Silence, uncovering secrets in the past draws one woman into a killer’s web…
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub has written more than ninety books in a celebrated career that has spanned many years and many genres. While these have included YA, chick-lit, romance, and cozies, she is best known for her novels of psychological suspense—which often feature criminals masked behind familiar faces. Staub, a three-time Mary Higgins Clark Award finalist, launched her newest series (the Foundlings trilogy) with last year’s Little Girl Lost; that saga continues in Dead Silence.
The story opens in 2016, with Amelia Crenshaw Haines—who readers met as a college student in the 1968/1987-set Little Girl Lost—living and working in New York City, where she’s an investigative genealogist, helping others to solve the mysteries of their lineage. A foundling herself, Amelia has yet to discover the identity of her own birth parents but has faith that the boom in genetics testing will eventually provide the answers she desperately seeks. In the meantime, she has devoted her life to the cause. What she doesn’t know is that her work will put her on a collision course with a ruthless killer who has set his own course in blood.
Meanwhile, Amelia’s best friend and fellow foundling, Jessie, is living in Ithaca, where she and her husband, Sergeant Billy Hanson, have spent years fostering vulnerable children. Though they thought those days were behind them, they agree to take in a young boy (“Little Boy Blue”) who refuses to speak while the authorities investigate his discovery in a wooded area off the local highway. Little does Jessie know that Little Boy Blue was left for dead and that his would-be killer is intent on returning to fulfill that mission. When Amelia shows up on their doorstep, there’s a shadow following close behind. (It should be noted that there is a second, interconnected storyline featuring NYPD Missing Persons Detective Stockton Barnes, a recurring character in this trilogy and an earlier series.)
Unlike the majority of Staub’s books, the killer (“the Angler”) is not meant to be unknown to the reader. Rather, he is identified in the early pages, and given a suitably disturbing backstory to account for the atrocities that he’s committed against his own family and others. The central question, then, is whether or not he can be stopped before victimizing the unsuspecting Hanson family and their houseguests. The narrative, overall, is a penetrating character study that explores how past traumas can influence present-day behavior and the ways in which relationships—including Amelia’s strained marriage—can evolve (or devolve) over time. The action plays out against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election campaign, which vividly underscores the book’s unsettling tone.
Dead Silence, then, is a bit of a departure for Staub, who continues to challenge herself creatively after decades of writing and dozens of books. Murder, mayhem, and mystery still abound, but the quieter, more contemplative moments also reverberate. This entry satisfies as a standalone while foreshadowing what’s yet to come. The result is a story that is equal parts thrilling and thought-provoking—and altogether entertaining.