Not a Sound: amazing characterisation, with some reservations about the plot

Not a Sound Book review

What is this about?: Amelia finds a former friend murdered and dumped near a river and embarks on an investigation into how she was killed. And that’s when it starts to involve her almost ex-husband.

What else is this about: Amelia is deaf, as is the author. This is about showing a capable woman, not hindered by her deafness as she explores going back to work and re-entering her life.

Stars: 3.5/5 

Blurb: A shocking discovery and chilling secrets converge in this latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf 

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters–her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf has been described as “masterful” and “intelligent” and compared to Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult. Introducing her most compelling heroine yet, she delivers a taut and emotional thriller that proves she’s at the top of her class.

When the book opens, Amelia is a recovering alcoholic, living on her own after her husband kicked her out of their home for being a drunk. Over the past two years, she is slowly attempting to get her life back after she was caught in the middle of an attempt on a patient’s life and lost her hearing, which in turn led to her drinking. From that point, she cut off all ties with her former life as nurse – most especially with the friends she made, like Gwen – and it’s Gwen’s death that takes her back into her old life again.

Amelia is ready to try working, not as a nurse, which is what she did previously, but doing data entry at a cancer clinic. However the day of her interview, she discovers Gwen’s body, which almost costs her the job before some fast talking saves her.

With Gwen’s death, Amelia experiences a hearty dose of regret at ignoring her attempts to get in touch with her just after the accident, and with that, comes regret at what her drinking cost her. Gudenkauf uses the case to flesh out Amelia’s past, to let readers in to see what sort of person she was like once. However, I believe that if you’re going to make a person an alcoholic, to the point that it cost her her marriage, then go the whole hog. Having her keep bottles of alcohol in the house, but not drink it – is that some sort of strength of character test? Why? Is it supposed to make us in awe of her? It puzzled me that she didn’t go to Alcoholics Anonymous and that by all accounts going cold turkey, with the lure of alcohol hidden away in the house was enough to not get her to drink? It’s a flaw in what is otherwise strong characterisation in the book for Amelia.

Jake, her brother’s best friend, is a cop assigned to Gwen’s case. Theirs is a friendship, that might be more if only she’d let herself believe it could be. He has his own demons to deal with, and while we’re seeing them through Amelia’s eyes, it adds some much needed depth to him.

The writing is a little uneven in that Gudenkauf relies on red herrings that should be fleshed out more, and as a result left me unsatisfied in some ways by the ending.

But, don’t get me wrong Amelia is the sort of determined woman we need to see more in fiction, one that doesn’t let her deafness stop her from doing anything, and shares how scared it makes her. While there were elements of the case that needed a stronger, the joy of this book is in the strength of Gudenkauf’s characterisation of Amelia, who is a stellar centre of this novel.

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