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by Linda Fairstein, read by Barbara Rosenblat
Whole Story Audio Books, February 2012
Unabridged pages
24.82 GBP
ISBN: 1471201953

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Just occasionally, when I'm listening to audiobooks, I have the suspicion that if I'd have had the print edition in my hand, it would have been cast aside long ago and that only a top-class narrator is keeping me engaged.

I think that might just have been the case with Linda Fairstein's SILENT MERCY. I was reminded constantly why I'd got bored of the series and stopped reading it several years ago. But Barbara Rosenblat's exuberant, unmistakable tones made sure I didn't give up on the audiobook. Her versatile, throaty voice has both male and female characters zinging off the page.

Don't get me wrong – SILENT MERCY is very far from being poor. But the series, thirteen books in, is feeling tired and old. And most of my misgivings are the same as those I had when I last reviewed a Fairstein novel back in 2004.

Alexandra Cooper, an assistant district attorney, is one of those characters it's hard to warm to. She's a woman who has it all – wealthy parents have enabled her to own a beautiful New York apartment and a lovely home on Martha's Vineyard. But she remains one-dimensional through the book – and then commits towards the end one of the most stupid acts I've ever seen from a leading character. The man in the car next to me at traffic lights was staring as I screamed at the audiobook!

Her NYPD sidekicks Mike Chapman and Wallace Mercer also promise more than they deliver. Noo Yawk rough diamond with a heart of gold Chapman verges on the clichéd at times and Mercer is under-drawn. I remember being bored by their fixation with the final Jeopardy question (which non-American readers will need to Google) eight years ago, so the gag is on its knees by now.

What Fairstein does do well, though, is provide a strong sense of place. In SILENT MERCY a religious fanatic is dumping women's bodies at places of worship. The book is at its strongest when we're taken to seminaries, dingy gyms and on a most unusual train ride, before culminating in a potentially very creepy night-time pursuit.

The weaknesses, though, are information dumps and a tendency to drag when things should be motoring. The early court scenes with a paedophile priest are nowhere near as involving as they should be. And at the end of the book, when Alex is running for her life (and making the astounding stupid decision), she treats us to a travelogue, which kills off any tension at a stroke.

And it needs a better writer than Fairstein to deal convincingly with the religious themes. There is too much unquestioning parroting of various gospels here and a superficial gloss over what could have been an intriguing plot idea. And Chapman some sort of biblical expert based on his Catholic education? Excuse me if I'm not convinced …

§ Sharon Wheeler is a UK-based journalist, writer and lecturer.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, October 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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