Friday, October 30, 2015


GRAVE SILENCE by Rose Beecham (Bold Stroke Books, 2005)

Reviewed by Megan Casey

It occurs to me that a reader can bond with the style and tone of a certain books very quickly; with others not at all. This is one of the former. I liked Jude almost immediately and more importantly, I liked the style of writing, the flow of words, the tone of the story, and the immediacy of the emotions. Still, this book has an unusual setting and some damn weird characters. Think of Erskine Caldwell meets Zane Grey.

Jude Devine herself has a unique occupation in the literature. She is an undercover FBI agent working as a Sheriff’s Detective in a small town in Colorado, near the Utah border. When a young woman is dredged up from the Dolores River, Jude comes to fear that fundamentalist Mormons may have been responsible. That’s right, and if you think that Zane Grey painted them harshly in Riders of the Purple Sage, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Granted that Beecham is careful to distinguish the offshoot Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints from the rank-and-file LDS, I doubt she voted for Mitt Romney in the last election. She paints a society of sullen, gruff, interbred woman haters and child molesters and it’s hard not to root for Jude to cut the balls off every last one. With dull scissors.

Beecham isn’t making this stuff up. These guys really exist; he-masters who think that getting into heaven depends on the number of wives you have, and that child-wives are another plus. The brainwashing that goes on is incredible to anyone who is not actually in the cult, but normal to anyone within. Interesting, too, that Beecham seems to indicate that the Utah authorities turn a blind eye on some of these isolated enclaves. If so, then bravo to Beecham for bringing it to our attention. And even more kudos for making everything seem totally genuine and realistic. The research that she put into this novel must have been stupendous.

But politics aside, this is a well-written, thrilling mystery with characters we care about (unless, of course, we want them dead). Beecham alternates point of view so that we see some chapters from Jude’s eyes, some from the eyes of others. There is no letdown from one POV to another; all are equally interesting.

Some parts of the mystery are unconvincing, but that’s to be expected in modern mysteries, when most of the realistic possibilities for plots have already been done. Most obvious was the fact that the murdered girl’s missing legs were never accounted for. And the actual method of her death and the disposal of her body were almost shrugged off as either not important enough to have to explain, or not thought out as well as it should have been. Take your pick.

In the end, though, this book was exciting from beginning to end, with a beautiful love interest that will be developing through the series. Will I buy the second book? I already have

Megan Casey is an avid booklover from Billings, Montana. Born in Canada and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Megan studied English literature and library management, and has worked as a book editor and librarian. She moderates the "Lesbian Mysteries" group on Good Reads, and created the website The Art of the Lesbian Mystery Novel

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