4 stars out of 5
If nothing else, I'll give the author points for putting a unique twist on the lead character: Former trauma nurse Amelia Winn is deaf, the result of a hit-and-run accident that killed one of her patients in a hospital parking lot. Being totally unable to hear gives her a different perspective - and at times increases the tension - and gives readers a look at arguably the real star of the book, Amelia's lovable service dog, Stitch.
Her deafness really doesn't make Amelia herself more lovable, though, at least in my eyes. She's another of those headstrong females who questions the words and actions of every other character in the book (occasionally, even the dog) and is incapable of keeping her nose out of places she's been warned not to go - up to and including actually breaking the law several times over. But needless to say, without her interference there wouldn't be much of a story; and on the plus side, it was great to watch her regain confidence after falling into an alcoholic stupor for a time following her accident two years earlier (she lost her husband David, an OB-GYN, and stepdaughter Nora as a result of her alcoholic histrionics).
They haven't yet divorced, and Amelia - who narrates the story - holds out some hope that they might get back together, or at minimum, he won't try to stop her from seeing Nora. In the interim, she's been banished from her former home by her estranged husband and is living in a (where else?) remote cabin in the Iowa woods. On one of her relaxing kayak voyages on the local river, a restless Stitch discovers a body that turns out to be her former nurse friend Gwen. After placing a 911 call, the authorities arrive and she bumps up against another of life's complications; childhood friend Jake, who's now a police detective. From then on, Amelia's emotions hop on a does he/doesn't he, should she/shouldn't she roller coaster with David on one end and Jake on the other.
Gwen's murder leaves her devastated, though, in part because she lost Gwen and most of her friends when she was drinking heavily. Now, she wants to get to the bottom of things not only because of the guilt she feels for not staying in touch with Gwen, but also because she's afraid the murderer thinks she saw him. Still, she tries to forget it all and manages to land a job at a cancer clinic as a medical records clerk, in the hope it will lead to a return to her beloved career in nursing. Even though David is friends with the much-loved head of the clinic, though, he's not at all supportive. So what's up with that, she wonders?
As the story progresses, Amelia's snooping leads her from one suspect to another to another to another. She pleads her cases to Jake so often, in fact, that he pretty much tunes her out, and conversely, his pleas that she butt out and let the police do their jobs fall on deaf ears as well (pun intended). Along the way, she finds evidence that someone may be stalking her, at best to discredit her and at worst to, well, you know.
Will Amelia identify the killer before the killer kills her? Will her insistence on ignoring his warnings to stop nosing around kill any chance she may have for romance with Jake? Truth is, I didn't care all that much how she fared, but the whats, hows and whys kept the story moving along quickly and interestingly from beginning to end. Good job!
Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books, June 2017); 352 pp.