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The Silent Room

Did he jump or was he pushed? Northumbria's Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan frequently fields this question, but it's never been more pressing. Ryan's boss and friend Detective Inspector Jack Fenwick has been accused of harboring illegal firearms, and is caught on camera fleeing the prison van that was taking him to jail. Fenwick appears to be escaping, but Ryan is convinced his friend was abducted.

Ryan intends to aid in the investigation; instead, Professional Standards' John Maguire, acting on a personal grudge, suspends Ryan on the grounds that he was AWOL when Fenwick disappeared. Maguire's fair-minded boss Eloise O'Neil supports the suspension, feeling obliged to consider the possibility that Ryan is Fenwick's co-conspirator.

Determined to find Fenwick's missing notebooks and clear his friend's name, Ryan is hamstrung by his lack of access to the police station's incident room. Fortunately, Fenwick has earned loyalties beyond Ryan's: their retired colleague Grace Ellis volunteers her home as a base of operation; it was once a police house, and when she bought the place, the incident room's hardwiring was still connected. Her ex-lover, a former MI5 operative, rounds out the undercover team, presiding over the resurrection of what Grace calls the "silent room."

The first stand-alone thriller from 2017 Dagger in the Library Award-winner Mari Hannah, The Silent Room balances a crime novel's obligation to be spine-tingling with a literary novel's acute sense of place. Readers get to know Northumbria and its environs, as well as Norway, where things get really dicey, especially for Ryan and O'Neil. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and author