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'Broken Silence' starts as so many crime novels start, with the discovery of the dead body of a teenage girl. An hour later Detective Inspector Jack Brady, about to return to work that morning after a prolonged absence, is roused from his bed by a telephone call and told to get dressed: he's going to the crime scene. A shower and a coffee barely bring him round; then he remembers the young woman in his bed, not her name, just that she's there.
When Brady gets to the crime scene he learns that he's been sent there to replace his close friend and colleague DI James Matthews who had been sent away from the scene in disgrace having covered the woman's body with his coat, potentially contaminating any evidence that may have been left by the killer. The victim turns out to be the best friend of Matthews's daughter and then Matthews himself confides in Brady that he was with the girl the night she died. Brady wants to believe his friend had nothing to do with the murder but when Matthews goes to ground, he can't help thinking that Matthews hasn't told him the whole story, and with his boss demanding answers Brady needs to find his friend before the evidence condemns him.
The murder mystery element of 'Broken Silence' is a real cracker. I really liked the idea of one of the supposed 'good guys' being a strong suspect but there are two other equally strong suspects and like Matthews these guys are meant to be good ones too. On paper then you have a promising idea; unfortunately author Danielle Ramsay seems hell-bent on ruining her own novel and she's found a hundred ways of doing that.
Oddly she's managed to create central characters that are simultaneously clichéd and unbelievable. Brady is returning to work after a period of convalescence having been on the receiving end of some nasty gunshots. The victim's body is barely cold before we've learned that Brady is an amalgamation of every fictional detective before him. He's recently separated and now lives alone eating rubbish, drinking too much and bringing home women he doesn't know. Brought up on the wrong side of the tracks Brady is your typical 'lad made good' character; he is on good terms with every crook in North Tyneside, these being the ne'er do wells he grew up with. Actually there's hardly anyone involved in this murder with whom Brady isn't either professionally or personally compromised with and it just doesn't ring true.
The style is shocking; a case of bad writing and even poorer editing. I think Ms Ramsay learned about adverbs just before she started writing this novel and she wanted to demonstrate that knows how to use them. Except she doesn't: there's a lot of 'Trina gently asked', 'bluntly answered Brady' and 'he flatly stated'. Someone, I forget who, 'casually shrugged' - isn't shrugging always casual, how can someone shrug formally? Someone needs to tell Danielle Ramsay that you can't hiss the words 'Get out', you just can't. When the murder victim's face was described as 'horribly smashed beyond recognition' I was more shocked by the terrible abuse of the English language than I was by the violence inflicted on the young woman; could a face smashed beyond recognition be anything other than horrible? Some ruthless but essential editing might have helped make this much easier reading.
The setting of the story in Whitley Bay just down the road (or down the Tyne if you like) from me caught my eye. If you didn't know about Whitley Bay's reputation as a seedy, crime ridden seaside town that is besieged by drunken hordes every weekend you will by the time you're a few pages into this novel. Actually Ramsay has taken everything that's bad about Whitley Bay - and it has seen a shocking decline in the last twenty years - and magnified it tenfold. Maybe the inconsistencies with the locations seem worse to me because I know the places referred to but there's no getting away from the fact that Ramsay makes her points ad nauseam. It's almost as if Whitley Bay has wronged her and she's determined to expose it. I've no idea how or why; yes, the town isn't the sort of place that 'nice people' want to hang around on a Friday night, but it's nowhere near as bad as is portrayed here.
Ramsay has no idea where to draw the line. Jack Brady would never be a truly original character but in layering problem upon problem on his shoulders, she's ended up with a wholly unlikely character. He's been shot, he drinks and smokes far too much, he's had a string of failed relationships, his casual attitude infuriates his boss, he's a maverick, he's pining for his estranged wife: I'm surprised the police are having him back at all.
Somewhere near the end Ramsay suddenly starts writing quite well and the scenes in which the murderer is revealed are really quite dramatic and exciting and the twist is brilliant. If only she could have written so well from the beginning. I really can't recommend this novel unless it's to provide some laughter therapy. You really need to read it to believe it.
(This is described as the first in the Jack Brady series. I can't believe the publisher has asked for more)
Who killed Sophie Washington? Early one cold November morning in the run-down seaside resort of Whitley Bay, the body of a young girl is discovered. Found abandoned five minutes walk from her home, her face has been mutilated beyond recognition.