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I was simply browsing for a book in the library when I came across A Stain on the Silence, and being a "judge a book by its cover" sort of girl, this seemed right up my street; Simple, a bit sinister looking, and definitely intriguing! I have not heard of the author, Andrew Taylor, but a quick look on the inside cover indicates that he is a prolific author, with many titles under his belt.
A Stain on the Silence tells the story of James. He was barely a teenager when he embarked on a complicated relationship with the step mother (Lily) of his best friend (Carlo). Fast forward twenty four years to the present day, and James is settled with a wife, nice home and a good job when Lily reappears in his life along with a daughter, Kate, who is apparently the result of their affair. Lily, although imminently dying of cancer brings all sorts of troubles to James' door digging up a past which he would rather remain buried, and he knows that even though the past has continually haunted him over the years, it is time to face it and discover what truly happened all those years ago.
The story opens at the present time, and it was only after I had finished the book, and I went back to read the opening pages that they made any sense, although those few pages niggled in my mind throughout the book, helping me understand James' actions. When James first hears from Lily after twenty four years, his life is thrown into turmoil. The daughter that he never knew he had needs his help and whilst it would be easy for him to simply walk away, Lily is holding something over him which he knows will blow his life apart if it comes out.
The story is told in the present, but goes back into the past practically every other chapter to when it all began. As a boarding school student, James used to stay with Carlo and his Family - The Murthingtons during the holidays. It is easy to keep up with the story even with the flashbacks and every now and again a line is dropped in as a hint of what might have happened, and even though it is fairly obvious what occurred all those years ago, the true extent of it does not come out until the end, when there is a surprising yet unlikely twist.
I found James to be quite weak as a main character and I could never truly appreciate how he was feeling. Some of his actions were absolutely spineless, and made his situation a whole lot more complicated than it had to be - especially regarding his relationship with his wife. Lily is supposed to be a strong controlling character, but this really does not come across and I found her motives somewhat confusing. Kate may well have a dark side, but she keeps disappearing, and I found it hard to understand her character at all as her behaviour was very contradictive. There are several other characters in the book, none of which are particularly engaging, and often quite unnecessary.
I found the ending to this book very disappointing, and I actually turned over several times to ensure that I hadn't missed a page! It fell flat after a big build up and it made me think that a lot of what occurs in the book has nothing really to do with the story and simply feels like unnecessary padding. The plot of the story is essentially great idea, but it simply has not been done justice which I find a real shame and a complete let down, the synopsis on the back of the book builds you up to expect a fantastic read, and the fact that it is not adds to the disappointment. I did not particularly enjoy this book, but I did find it intriguing which is why I carried on reading it. I found the timescales in the present a little sketchy as too much time seemed to be elapsing and even though time was very much of the essence, there was never any sense of urgency and this is probably what led to a lack of suspense. This book seems to lack identity: it is not a tense thriller, there is nothing psychological about it, it's not a romance, it is far from gripping and I didn't find it mysterious. I am glad that I borrowed this from the library and didn't actually buy it because it was very simply a book that is easy to read, but not particularly engaging, and a long way off outstanding.