3/5 14/25 Possible Score
Plot – 2(Weak)
Characters – 4(Strong)
Setting/World Building – 2(Weak)
Writing Style – 3(Fine)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 3(Fine)
The Burden of Silence by Eric Praschan is a suspense thriller that focuses on a brother, Jack, trying to find out what happened to his sister, Jane. Jane was murdered in the small Missouri town of Hollow Valley, a town that Jack has left behind for the last 6 years. Hollow Valley has a large meth addiction problem and there are many meth makers that use the nearby mountains to create their product. Jane was an addict, found stabbed in the chest in broad daylight, with many witnesses, but no one wants to come forward to say what they saw.
Jack arrives back in Hollow Valley, and with the help of his ex-girlfriend, Tessa, they start to dig around for answers to what happened to his sister. Tessa and Jack’s relationship did not end well, but she is his best hope to find some answers from the locals. Jack and Tessa must try to get the citizens of Hollow Valley to talk about what happened, while navigating their own resentments towards each other. They soon find that the secrets in Hollow Valley go much deeper than they ever realized.
I had mixed feelings with The Burden of Silence, but what was done well was fantastic. The first thing that I really liked were the characters. From the very beginning Jack seemed like an interesting character to me. He was wrapped in a lot of mystery and really didn’t like talking about himself much. I wanted to know why he left Hollow Valley and what his deal with Tessa was all about. As the book progresses we get some painful conversations between Tessa and Jack that I found to be the most engaging part of the entire book. Jack is dealing with the grief of his sister’s death, who was a meth addict, a father that is an alcoholic, himself being an alcoholic, and an ex-lover that hurt him more than anyone else, so this isn’t a lighthearted book in any way because these are some tormented characters. Another stand out character for me was Turner, the sheriff, Tessa’s father, and Jack’s mentor growing up. Turner doled out wisdom and influence to Jack while growing up and even during the present day.
Praschan has a wisdom in his characters that you usually only see from much older or established writers. The writing of this book was solid and I especially like the one liners of wisdom that a lot of these “salt of the earth” type characters told Jack. Praschan does a great job at giving the reader some advice through his characters. The advice and comments that characters made to each other helped make stronger interpersonal relationships between the characters, which made me care more about the characters. Forgiveness is such a strong focus of this novel and it is something that I’ll personally take away from reading this novel.
The plot was heavily focused on meth and addiction. I appreciated the research the author did with this subject and it is more than likely a subject that impacts many communities in Missouri, but it just wasn’t for me. I would of liked a little bit more focus on the actual mystery of the murder and less focus on the meth problem. Which brings me to another aspect I didn’t really care for, the mystery of what happened to Jane reminded me more of a scavenger hunt than Jack and Tessa figuring out the mystery. Jack was mainly a reactionary main character that luckily was able to follow a lot of clues that Jane left behind. This reader felt that if Jane had time to leave all these clues for her brother, because she felt like something would happen to her, that she had the time, and the smarts, to get out of town and seek help from the authorities.
The other thing that I didn’t really care for all that much was the setting of Hollow Valley itself. It seemed too setup for my belief. All the classic little town stores just seemed like backdrop for the story to go from one town person to the next. Overall I think the setting felt too much like scenes that would be found in a play. The setting definitely got better as the story progressed but near the beginning it just seemed very wooden.
I ended up enjoying the book but not as much as I would have liked. I am definitely going to read more of Praschan’s work because his characterization was fantastic and I realize that the drug focus just wasn’t for me, but something with a different focus might work better. I will be trying his novel Blind Evil next and then his The James Women Trilogy. There is a lot of commentary in this novel about addiction and forgiveness that can change a reader for the better. If you are looking for a solid small town mystery with great characters and some strong writing, The Burden of Silence is something you will enjoy.