Silenced Girls by Roger Stelljes

Silenced Girls by Roger Stelljes
Publisher: Bookouture (an imprint of Storyfire Ltd)
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The beautiful young woman is perfectly still, curled up in the trunk of the car, her long dark hair hiding her face. Her cotton blouse has ridden up a little, revealing two small dots an inch apart on her back. Just like the others.

Guilt has kept FBI Agent Tori Hunter away from her home in Manchester Bay, Minnesota for twenty years, ever since her twin sister disappeared on the Fourth of July, when the girls should have been together. But when she receives an anonymous newspaper clipping about another missing girl, Genevieve, Tori is dragged back to the past. Just like Tori’s sister, Genevieve vanished without a trace, her empty car abandoned on a lonely lakeside road as Independence Day fireworks lit up the sky overhead.

Returning to Minnesota lake country, Tori finds Genevieve’s distraught parents desperate for answers. How could their beautiful, popular daughter be snatched so near her own home? Under pressure to make an arrest, the police have no time for Tori’s theories. Besides, they already have a suspect for Genevieve’s abductor: a local man seen flirting with her the night she disappeared.
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But then the suspect is found dead in his isolated cabin, days before another girl’s body is discovered bound and strangled in the trunk of her car, two strange dots on her back. The bloodstains surrounding her body belong to the one man Tori thought she could trust. Reeling, Tori knows the closer she gets to the truth, the more her own life is at risk. But can she catch this killer before it’s too late for Genevieve?

I enjoyed this strongly written suspense/thriller full length book. While I found the plot to be fairly mainstream (twin sister of kidnap/murder victim returns home as an FBI agent after twenty years trying to get her life back on track after her world was shattered) this book is totally noteworthy and saved by both the author’s writing style – which I loved – and a large cast of very strong and exceptional characters. Indeed, I feel this book could have all too easily slipped into the category of “yet another FBI thriller”, but I enjoyed this story enough to feel compelled to write a review.

The characters – Tori in particular – really struck a chord with me as being believable and interesting but not picture-perfect. Tori comes across as intelligent and sensitive, but still warm and caring. She has a well-deserved ego and is confidant in her abilities but is still humble enough to understand she can miss things and make mistakes and doesn’t just automatically assume she’s right or her way is best. I really felt the author did an excellent job in balancing her character with realism while still making her gripping and intriguing enough to keep me as a reader turning the pages.

I found the plot well thought out with a good number of red herrings and false starts. To be honest the main draw back I felt with this book was the fact when you simplify the plot (unknown serial killer kidnapping and killing girls and burying them so they’re never found and the killer can fly under the radar) it’s pretty standard and nothing too exciting. That said, the way in which the plot unfolds and the story is written completely saves this book from being “one of many” to a book that really manages to stand out in my mind. The characters, the small town, that intricate network of everyone knowing and dealing with everyone else – that side of this book is so very well done and really takes up a huge portion of the story. This totally saves the book and makes me happy to recommend it to others and go back to order the second in this series.

There is a slow unwinding of the plot, and I enjoyed following along with Tori and Detective Will Braddock as they try to follow the few clues in the new case and slowly unravel a huge web of mysterious disappearances from all around the local area and state over the past twenty years. I love how while the case – and number of victims – grew throughout the story it was all totally logical and well-woven. Not once did I roll my eyes or feel anything was too coincidental or anything other than good writing. The mystery and thriller aspect to this story was great and the characters were phenomenal. There is a little (mostly off-screen) romance between Tori and Will, and a few (non-gory and only lightly descriptive) thriller/killer style of scenes.

Overall I feel most readers should feel this book stays within the usual acceptable boundaries and doesn’t push too far over the line into the thriller/horror category. This isn’t a cozy mystery, nor is this a romantic suspense, this is a strong mystery/suspense and light on the thriller aspects and in general I don’t feel it should upset or trigger the majority of readers. While the plot isn’t fresh or new (to my personal perspective) I feel it’s exceptionally well written and strongly plotted. I adored the characters and found the whole range of them complex, well written and really interesting. I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to more by this author.

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