Silent Fear is the fifth novel by Australian crime fiction writer Katherine Howell featuring Detective Ella Marconi and, as with the other installments in the series, it is a page turning blend of police procedural, action and suspense.
Paramedic Holly Garland is shocked to find her estranged brother, Seth, standing over the body on a routine call out for a collapse, while two bystanders perform clumsy CPR on the man. When she discovers that her patient has been shot, she is certain her brother is somehow involved and is determined to keep her distance, wary of the secrets he keeps.
Detective Ella Marconi finds Seth suspicious as well, there is something the dead man's friends are hiding and she is determined to find out what it is, especially when an innocent man is brutally executed and the ring of conspirators begins to weaken.
Howell's Detective Ella Marconi series is distinguished by the inclusion of a paramedic as a major character in each book. In this instance, paramedic Holly Garland's own secrets become tangled in mystery surrounding her deceased patient, with devastating consequences. Howell skillfully weaves Holly's personal and professional story into the main plot, both which are potentially at risk from the past that has come back to haunt her. Her brother, Seth, becomes an omen of doom when a close friend comes under investigation for overtime rorts, a colleague is harassing her and she is fighting with her partner.
Solving the mystery of Paul Fowler's death is the priority for Detective Ella Marconi but as in any investigation there are uncooperative witnesses, false starts and leads that go nowhere. Trying to trace the shooters movements after the fact, there is a car lurking on a suburban street, another that screams out of a parking lot, bystanders who supply false names and addresses and objects dropped from a bridge. I really appreciate the level of realism Howell uses within her books. Her officers wade through paperwork, follow up on tips, interview people and piece together their case methodically rather than relying on improbable coincidence or lucky guesses. Marconi suspects a conspiracy but is surprised when their investigation leads them from the suburbs of Sydney to the seedy city streets of drugs, prostitution and vicious turf wars. The plot is layered and well paced with the author parceling out information judiciously, maintaining mystery and tension. The conclusion is tense and exciting though, realistically, not as neatly tied up in the way crime authors often seem compelled to do.
Howell's police officers are not just cops, while things for Ella are relatively calm in this installment, aside from a sleazy and smug colleague getting on her nerves, she does invest herself in this case. Ella doesn't like being made a fool of and makes one of the suspects a personal enemy. Her partner on the case is concerned for his father who is recovering from a stabbing. His distraction affects the case somewhat though as it ends up the two cases are tangentially linked. This is probably the only aspect of the plot I thought was entirely too convenient.
Exciting, authentic and a great read I enjoyed Silent Fear and read it in one sitting, unwilling to put it down. Silent Fear is a page turner, and just as the sticker warns on the cover,(as one of the 50 books highlighted in Australia's National Year of Reading program), it's "A book You Can't Put Down".