Title: Not a Sound
Expected publication: 1 June 2017
Amelia Winn was a skilled and dedicated ER and sexual assault nurse when a rogue driver slammed into her, almost killing her and leaving her fighting for her life in ICU. Amelia survived, but was left profoundly deaf. Depressed and drowning her sorrows in alcohol in the two years following the hit and run, Amelia now lives on her own in a remote cabin in the woods with only her service dog Stitch for company, trying her best to overcome the addiction that has cost her her family and most of her friends. When the craving for alcohol strikes these days, she takes her kayak to the vast system of rivers and channels near her home and paddles until her muscles ache and the calm of the water has seeped into her body. But her refuge is compromised when on one of her morning paddles she finds the body of a woman in the shallows of the muddy river banks. A nurse, who was once Amelia’s colleague and friend. Deeply troubled and touched by the incident, Amelia seeks out the dead woman’s husband and discovers that she had tried to contact Amelia shortly before her death to discuss some concerns she had about an incident at work. Is it possible that her work as a sexual assault nurse had put her in the path of a killer?
I really enjoyed Amelia Winn’s character in Not a Sound and, seeing the impressive list of books written by the author, I am amazed that I have not come across more novels by Heather Gudenkauf! This must definitely be remedied (I can see my Himalayan TBR pile growing even higher). In the epilogue to Not a Sound, Gudenkauf says that, like Amelia, she has first-hand experience of being hearing impaired. Perhaps it is this deep personal understanding of Amelia’s daily struggles that make her character so sympathetic and believable. Throughout the story I was constantly reflecting on the implications of not being able to hear even the slightest sound – no birdsong in the early morning hours, not the voice of your loved ones, not the warning crunch of an intruder’s footsteps in the snow outside your house. Even your own panicked voice, calling 911 after finding a dead body in the water, not sure if there is a person on the other end of the line receiving your call. I loved the inclusion of scarred service dog Stitch into the story, who added an interesting and engaging element – and not in the corny, overacting way that animal characters can sometimes appear in other books. Plucky, determined and not easily scared, Amelia made for a perfect amateur sleuth, with Stitch by her side.
Fast paced and full of action, Not a Sound is both a taut and engaging thriller as well as a story of personal growth and overcoming challenges. Being a nurse myself, I could easily put myself into Amelia’s position, wondering how I would fare losing a job I love and that fulfils me due to a freak accident (or was it?). I also take my hat off to the author for mastering the art of including medical terminology and detail into the story in a way that is easily understandable by a layperson but also rings true for medical professionals – it may sound trite, but as with any specialty field, this balance is not easily achieved. Gudenkauf not only brings her characters to life, but also paints an atmospheric setting that made for some wonderful armchair travel to rural Iowa. I just love thrillers set in wild and remote locations, where the terrain, the weather and the somewhat reclusive inhabitants create their own unique challenges. So whilst the actual mystery underlying Gwen’s death may have been fairly straight forward to me (and somewhat predictable), the action-packed cat-and-mouse game as Amelia tries to outwit a killer more than made up for it!
Not a Sound is a character driven, taut and action packed thriller that kept my interest throughout. With its atmospheric setting and sympathetic main protagonist, I enjoyed it immensely and would not be averse to seeing Amelia and Stitch back for another amateur sleuth adventure.
Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.
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