Solving a cold case is extremely challenging for a detective. Writing about solving a cold case is even tougher. You can easily get so caught up in unraveling the tattered mystery that you bore your readers silly. A particularly tricky task is to make readers care.
Sue Grafton has written one of the most satisfying cold case stories that I've ever read. She makes the missing person, Violet Sullivan, both sympathetic and off-the-wall. At the same time, Ms. Grafton shows how an unsolved disappearance leaves everyone who cared about the person wounded to the core. They are victims too. In the case of S Is for Silence, some of the victims are more sympathetic than others . . . but they are all interesting.
The book mainly succeeds because Ms. Grafton creates an interesting series of characters and plot interactions both in her flashback chapters and in her development of Kinsey's investigation.
Ms. Grafton wisely keeps the investigation short. The mystery is unraveled in five days. To have strung the investigation out would have made the book boring, in my judgment. I was very impressed to find that the flashback information wasn't a direct hint as to how Kinsey would solve the mystery. She followed her own unique path.
Those who like to focus on Kinsey and her life as a single woman won't find this book very satisfying. The cold case is the story. Kinsey's friends and family have barely cameo roles in this book.
For those who like a classic missing person's story against the backdrop of volatile relationships in a small California town, this book will, however, be the right stuff.