Fredrickson, Jack - 'Silence the Dead'
The story opens in 1982 in Grand Point, Peering County in Illinois USA. This is a small town community, run by a few influential people, much of the population are poor. One such is Betty Jo Dean from one of the poorest neighbourhoods - Pinktown. This beautiful young woman has dreams of escaping, but she is scared of an influential benefactor. She takes up with a Polish telephone lineman called Paulus Pribilski. There is a dangerous undercurrent as book one ends.
Book two starts in Chicago where a one time ace crime reporter is now working features for the Chicago Sun-Times. He made a serious miscalculation when crime reporting, however his editor feels the time is right for him to investigate a double murder. We then learn that Betty Jo and her Polish boyfriend have been murdered. Jonah Ridl the journalist goes to Grand Point. Here he finds facts difficult to check. The local Sheriff Delbert Milner is flustered and his deputy Wilbur Reems is equally vague, as is young Jimmy Bale in the police office. Ridl finds that the town is controlled by newspaper publisher Horace Wiggins, Doc Farmount and undertaker Bud Wiley. His only ally is a young university student studying journalism, Laurel Jessup. Ridl suffers harassment by the local police, and suspects a cover up by the influential people. When Laurel is found dead at the wheel of her car, Ridl realises he needs to leave town quickly, but files his story before he disappears.
Book three brings us to the present day. Mac Bassett the owner of the Birds Nest restaurant, moved to Grand Point with his ex-wife April and ran for Mayor. He is made aware of the suspicious death of Betty Jo. Against local advice he starts to investigate. He has his own problems with a failing restaurant and a law suit by the State Attorney from the town where Mac moved from. Mac is obstructed by the influential people. Jimmy Bale is now Sheriff, Delbert Milner is dead, apparently committing suicide. Doc Farmont has retired, Bud Wiley is dead, succeeded by his nephew Luther and local journalist (working for Wiggins) is Jen Jessup who has a love/hate relationship with Mac.
This story starts slow but quickly builds into an exciting thriller. You are willing Mac to get to the truth, but the odds are against him. It's apparently based on a true story concerning a Mary Jane Reed born in 1930 whose dead body was found in late June 1948. The Chicago Mayor through his courage and tenacity solved the mystery. I enjoyed SILENCE THE DEAD immensely. Very highly recommended.
Geoff Jones, England
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