Concept: ★★★★★ – I honestly don’t know how Simone St. James continues to do it, but the concept behind “Silence for the Dead” is truly amazing. In this amazing, historical and paranormal mystery, we visit the era between the World Wars in the countryside of England. The main character, Kitty, is simply looking for a way to survive and lands at a haunted mental hospital, surrounded by men who don’t seem to be recovering and fellow staff members that appear to be out to get her. As the story unravels, we find that those who appear to be the enemy aren’t always as dangerous as they appear.
Writing: ★★★★★ – The most important part of a book – at least for me – is the descriptive narrative that an author utilizes to enthrall the reader, tugging them deeper into every aspect of the tale. St. James does not fail, in this novel, to provide a setting that my mind only enhanced. While reading this, I felt as though her flawless writing tugged me into every page of every chapter. If the writing had been any better, I may have glanced up from the pages to find myself in another time.
Character Development: ★★★★★ – This is the third book that St. James wrote that I’ve read and, I must say, she never ceases to amaze me with her ability to work character development into the storyline. While reading this book, specifically, we get to know people through their interactions with others more so than through their reflection on the past. Although reflecting on the past isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a fresh sip of lemonade to read a book that develops characters in their present.
Plot: ★★★★★ – This plot was incredible! The cleverly braids together a haunted house, a mental hospital where patients seem to get worse, a covered up murder, a family that disappeared, and a girl with a home life that she wants nothing more than to escape. Not only does she develop a plot laced with thrills, heartbreaks, and eminent fear, but she manages to provide a conclusion for every single aspect she introduces.
Pacing: ★★★★★ – This book moved so quickly that I read it in two days, as I was fearing that otherwise, I might not be able to keep up. It seemed like every turn of the page brought along a new, unexpected twist that threw me – the reader – off kilter. From missing people appearing to visits from the past, the book had so many twists and turns that my head was almost spinning, but not quite.
Ending: ★★★★★ – My favorite part of the ending of “Silence for the Dead” is that every beginning is thoroughly addressed. There’s nothing better than reading a book that plants questions in your mind and then answers every single one prior to the conclusion. Additionally, for all the characters that aren’t villains, happy endings do ensue.
Overall Rating: ★★★★★
Part One: Angel of Mercy
As the story opens, we are introduced to Kitty Weekes, the main character. Eventually, we learn about the troubled past that led to her arrival at The Portis House where she establishes herself as a nurse. Before she manages to get through her first meeting with her new boss, the Matron, she finds that her lack of experience and education precedes her.
However, turning a blind eye to the bold lies in front of her, the Matron agrees to let Kitty begin her new employ, assuring her that she is watching her carefully. As anyone that is pretending to be a nurse would do, Kitty stumbles and repeatedly fails. However, the other nurses on staff – Nina, Martha, and the Matron’s favorite, Boney – manage to cover her tail successfully. In fact, we find later on that Nina was aware that something wasn’t right from the very first moment on.
Throughout her first days, the Matron continues to almost taunt Kitty by placing her in horrible situations that she is utterly unprepared for. She leaves her to fend for herself in a dining room full of rowdy and troubled veterans, all shell-shocked from their ghastly experiences during the Great War. It’s only after she manages to work her way through that catastrophic situation, she sits down to dinner with the other staff members and learns about the mysterious patient 16. In the case of Kitty, curiosity definitely got the cat.
The next day, she tricks Nina into letting her take patient 16 his food and finds out that he is, in fact, the infamous war hero, Jack Yates. He defends her breaking the rule by stating that he had requested she remove his dishes. The Matron reluctantly accepts this reasoning but finds another way to punish Kitty.
That’s how Kitty ends up being forced to clean the absolutely filthy restroom in the patients quarters. The bathroom is filled with black mold and slime, as well as chilling sensations that seem to materialize into cowardly accusations in her mind. Utterly terrified, she cleans the bathroom as thoroughly and quickly as possible. After her traumatizing cleaning experience, Kitty knows something is amiss, yet even her imagination cannot reach the hauntingly dark secret that lies behind closed doors.
Part Two: The Night Shift
After to being forced to clean the relentlessly filthy restroom, Kitty is then instructed to cover night shift. Had she been a nurse with actual, legitimate experience this may have not been such a daunting task. However, as the story played out, we find that her lack of nursing experience is quite troublesome at night.
The beginning of the night shift is less than notable. Then the patients begin screaming that he’s coming. The issue is, no one – including the nosey – orderly is aware of who he is. After being attacked by one of the patients, Kitty catches a glimpse of him – or so she thinks. She follows him to the stairwell and watches as he silently walks down them. He walks through the door and he’s gone. At that moment, Kitty suddenly started to grasp what was wrong at The Portis House.
The next morning, Kitty is called into the Matron’s office to discuss her disappearance into Jack Yates’ room the night before. Well, she’s called in under the pretense that her report from the night watch was incomplete. The Matron informs her that she must file complete reports because, should one of the men be sent home because an incident wasn’t reported, and then if he hurts someone, it will come back on The Portis House, the Matron, and – finally – Kitty. It is then that she threatens to file an incident report and have her dismissed by Dr. Thorton, Dr. Oliver, and the owner, Mr. Deighton.
Later that morning, Kitty goes for a walk and notices that Jack Yates is watching her out of his window. However, its the appearance of a strange girl – not a nurse – standing outside of The Portis House that sends chills down her spine. After the illusion she’d seen the night before and seeing the unfamiliar girl outside, she begins to ask fellow staff about the family who used to live in the house.
The cook informs her that their name was Gersbach and they were from Switzerland, although – during the era, especially – people frequently assumed they were German. We later find that this is one of the many issues that led to dreadful events playing out at the home. Since the cook only had so much information to offer, she was promptly instructed to talk to Bammy, a younger man that grew up in the village. In Bammy’s version of what happened, the family moved in and kept to themselves. The son went off to serve in the military and then the family just moved away. The one thing that Bammy notes as odd is that, when they moved in, everyone noticed because of the large number of belongings they had, but when they left, no one saw anything.
Due to the finding of the previous nurse’s – Maisey’s – belongings in the nurse’s quarters, Kitty sent her a letter. Maisey then responded and asked her to meet her in a hollow, not far from The Portis House. Curiosity alone persuaded Kitty to meet with her and that’s when things regarding the Gersbach’s and The Portis House start to fall into place.
As it turns out, Maisey also grew up in the village. Her father was the magistrate in the village, so when the Gersbach’s arrive, it was determined that Maisey held a high enough status to be allowed to be Anna’s, their daughter, friend. Maisey explained that, after years of being friends, Anna had just suddenly stopped writing her. She couldn’t believe that her dear friend no longer wanted to be friends, determined that something had happened that made it so Anna couldn’t write.
Maisey then explained how Mikael, Anna’s brother, had left to serve in the military. Jack Yates was present, as he’d followed Kitty, and promised to look into Mikael’s military service. The three continue to talk and realize that the state of the house – rotting and falling apart – is peculiar, as the house less than two decades old.
Skipping Part Three
Normally, I would continue to play out the events here, however, I actually read the book almost a month and a half ago – fell ill immediately after. So, instead of recanting every event in the story – there were so many, so read it – I’m going to tell you how it ends, in a few quick words.
In the end, members of the staff and patients alike fall ill. The house is out of power and rain is gushing out of the sky. It’s then that Kitty discovers that Anna is alive and has been living out of the cellar since her mothers passing. Anna has been hiding because, after her father murdered her brother for being a coward in the military, she murdered her father. Maisey’s father, the magistrate, covered up the crimes by ushering Anna and her mother into hiding.
After finally getting all of the patients out of The Portis House, Mr. Deighton and Maisey’s father are both found guilty of crimes that included covering up a murder. And, finally, of course, Kitty and Jack Yates fall in love.
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