Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Splinter the Silence.
There’s a feeling of camaraderie in Splinter the Silence,
of returning to the fold. Mcdermid’s beloved characters--psychologist Tony Hill, DCI Carol Jordan, and DS Paula McIntyre--are
back together after their team was disbanded. In the previous novel, Carol left the Force in grief after the murder of her brother, Michael. She thought that a career
by which she once defined herself was over. Retreating to a rural Yorkshire valley to rebuild her brother’s barn, Carol is living the quiet life, albeit one laced daily with alcohol. She still blames Tony for Michael’s murder and hates him for (supposedly) not preventing his death.
Life gets even more desperate for Carol when, and after leaving a neighbor’s dinner party, she’s pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving
just a few miles from home. Whether it’s a setup or not is beside the point. The incident is in danger of damaging her prospects to lead a crack new team, an opportunity supported by Chief Constable James Blake and John Brandon.
They want Carol to put together an MIT that operates like a flying squad and will be the “ghost busters” of complex homicides. It will be
a small, smart team that goes where it’s needed when it’s needed.
The drunk-driving charge is yet another unfortunate circumstance that will test Carol to her limits and link her directly to the only other person she can count on in a crisis. That Carol calls Tony while in custody is hardly surprising. She knows deep down that Tony is more likely to help her climb out of the hole of her misery than anyone else. While Carol wrestles with remorse, struggling to put her past tragedies behind her, Tony bails her out of jail, deciding that he just can’t stand by and watch his best friend destroy herself. He tells her that drinking has become a wall between her and the people who care about her, and that she’s using the death of Michael and her anger at him to focus on her love affair with Pinot Grigio and vodka.
While Carol’s sudden withdrawal gives resonance to the early sections of the story, the plot ramps up with the discovery of a new type of serial killer who kidnaps and murders women by faking their suicides. Trolling his victims on social media, the killer persecutes women for speaking out as guest bloggers. The most recent--Jasmine Burton, who spoke out against rapists--reportedly drowned herself in a river.
A streetscape is torn into confetti and scattered on the diesel breeze. A killer is determined to strip his victims of anything that might make martyrs of them. As the bodies begin to pile up, Carol is able to form her new team just in time. At first it looks
as if the girls' own behavior drove them to their deaths. Only Stacey Chen, leading digital forensics expert with Bradfield Met. Police and newly appointed to the team by Carol, can break through the high-level firewall and crack the code of the killer.
Back and forth the perspective goes, between Stacy’s current-day tech forensics to the flimsy evidence that is left at the crime scenes. All is made more dramatic by Carol’s constant desire to drink (“a desire that burns through her like electricity in her vein”) and Tony’s determination to stop her. Between the muffled struggles of the women and Tony, who suddenly sees the pattern--strong, brave women who stood up to the trolls and acted with conviction--there are late-night meetings as the team work to build a case out of thin air. The obvious secrecy and cleverness of the killer is critical to uncovering his motives: a rage against those who have preached about feminism and women’s rights and demanded change from the way things have always been.
With McDermid’s multi-layered plot and compelling dialogue, there is a sense
of a healing of sorts as Carol and Tony begin to forge a new trusting bond. The author’s talent is that she can reveal new aspects of her stalwart characters over the length of a series while also reconnecting them in the face of great emotional and professional difficulties.