Silence for the Dead

Silence for the Dead

Title:  Silence for the Dead
Author:  Simone St. James
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN:  978-0-451-41948-4

Book Summary:
After her mother runs away and her brother is assumed dead in the Great War, Kitty Weeks finds that living with her abusive and violent father unbearable.  She sneaks out in the middle of the day and finds work at a local factory.  Always looking over her shoulder, she slowly builds a life for herself.  When she overhears her roommate talking about a job for a nurse at Portis House, a remote and distant place desperate for nurses to aid in the care of a handful of soldiers, Kitty quickly applies.  She has no nursing experience, but is able to fake an application using her roommate’s job experience and a forge a letter of recommendation from her roommate’s boss.  The Matron at Portis House quickly sees through Kitty’s lie but allows her to stay on temporarily because of their extreme need of help.

Portis House is located on a small island, connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge that often is ice-covered because of the wind and water and fog.  Previously owned by the Gersbach family, the house had been refurbished into a hospital when the family mysteriously up and disappeared.  The hospital was able to get a very good price for the property and the location and isolation provided a solitary and quiet environment for soldiers returning from the war with mental and emotional distress.  The work is hard and the hospital is hopelessly understaffed, but there is a faint undercurrent of something sinister hiding in the shadows.  There are only about 20 patients, including the mysterious Patient Sixteen, but many suffer from emotional pain and are haunted by nightmares.  When Kitty works her first night shift, she hears haunting words seeping through the walls and she senses a ghostly presense.

When the doctors come to visit and evaluate the patients, it becomes evident that there is little effort being made for the patients to get well enough to return home.  With the help of war hero Jack Yates, whose presence at the hospital is a big mystery, Kitty searches for the secret evil that is haunting the house and the inability of the patients to get well.  When a fierce storm cuts off access to the island and patients begin to show signs of an influenza epidemic, the race to find the source of the haunting takes on a new intensity.  Kitty and Jack must not only fight for their sanity but also their lives.

Book Commentary:
This is the fourth book I have ready by Simone St. James and I really enjoy her style.  There is a bit of mystery, a bit of history, a bit of romance, and a bit of the supernatural.  I love the gothic, atmospheric feel of her books; they are exciting and engaging without being scary or horrific.  I have way too active an imagination for horror stories; St. James’ stories create a mood that makes the reader want to keep turning the pages without needing to hide under the covers!

Kitty and Jack are a little different than some of the protagonists in her other books; I really felt that their pain and suffering created a very believable plot and the reader becomes vested in their success. Her setting for this story was truly something from times past.  St. James spent more time in this novel describing the setting and creating the imagery so that the reader could visualize where everything was.  This was essential to the plot development but I didn’t feel that the added exposition slowed the story pacing down in any way.

Who might like this book:
I think fans of true gothic romances like Wuthering Heights or Rebecca will enjoy Silence for the Dead.  When favorite authors of mine like C.S. Harris, Deanna Raybourn, and Anna Lee Huber make comments on a book, I usually trust that it will be a good read!

St. James has three other books out – The Haunting of Maddy Clare, An Inquiry into Love and Death, and The Other Side of Midnight.  Her fifth book Lost Among the Living will be released on April 5, 2016.

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