Typecasting is always a challenge for an actor and I have to confess to being such a fan of Joanne Froggatt from her role as Anna Bates in TV’s Downton Abbey that it took the first ten minutes for me to warm into her new role as the narrator of this tense mystery thriller. Full credit to Froggatt for bringing my focus into the present and to Sarah A Denzil for writing such good material for her to work with.
Silent Child is Audible’s 2017 Thriller of the Year and, while I wouldn’t go that far myself, it’s a gripping, ripping yarn that is hard to pause. It begins as a drama and soon spirals into the depths of fear when pregnant, re-married Emma’s life is turned upside-down. A decade ago, her six-year-old son, Aiden, wandered away from school during a flood and was lost to the River Ouse. Now, as she prepares for the upcoming birth of her second child, Aiden reappears. He’s a traumatised, under-developed sixteen-year-old who has been held captive all this time.
Unable to speak or communicate except through horrific child-like drawings, Aiden provides no clues as Emma and the police try to unravel who could do such a thing. As secrets are slowly revealed about Emma’s family, her friends and the people she trusts, Aiden’s own bizarre behaviour adds to the growing danger.
Denzil’s prose is tight and gripping, while Froggatt’s narration brings it to life with the desperation and tension of the central character’s viewpoint. Whether voicing Emma’s frustrated ex-husband Rob, her mysterious current husband Jake, or one of many other primary characters, Froggatt defines each with speech patterns, pace and mood.
In a surprise twist (no spoilers!), Darren Howell takes control of the narration for one chapter only in the latter half of the book, and it’s an effective, if not distracting shock for the listener to hear what he has to say.
Silent Child is a decent thriller that builds slowly but effectively yet is always gripping. Right from the start when we learn of Aiden’s disappearance, we are hooked.
Audible Studios has become a real force in creating some of the best single, multi and full-cast audiobooks coming out at the moment. Silent Child is a welcome addition to their stable of titles. It was released in August 2017 and runs for approximately nine and a half hours. It’s available exclusively through Audible.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8