An avid book nerd, Jennifer Branton loves to share her favorite book finds with her readers.
Red Jacket Among The Flood Water
As the rains made the river waters surge, young mother Emma, was told by her father to head back to the family home, but her maternal instinct told her she needed to get to the school and find her six year son, Aiden, who was currently in class for the afternoon. Arriving at the school, Emma is faced with a mother's worst nightmare in Silent Child by Sarah A Denzil.
As police are summoned to the school campus, there is no trace of Aiden until a red jacket belonging to the boy is spotted among the overflowing river. As authorities search for days, no body is recovered and Emma and her boyfriend, Rob have not given up hope that their son will be recovered as the media plays up the local story.
After seven years, Emma is forced to declare Aiden legally dead. Rob is no longer in the picture.
After ten years, Emma is now pregnant with her second child, a yet to be named daughter she refers to as Bump and is married to one of the former teachers from the time she was attending school, a man named Jake, whom she credits for literally saving her life after a near suicide attempt. In the future, Emma has lost her parents in a fatal car accident and Jake and her expectant child are her entire world. Emma remembers a time when she was pregnant teenager that had lost contact with most of her friends as they moved on to education and new careers, but she never regretted her and Rob's decision to keep Aiden. Her pregnancy with Bump makes her think more and more about the son she had lost and suddenly as if her thoughts could conger him into being, the police alert Emma to a young teen that was found wandering the street, shirtless, and utterly silent that was brought into a local hospital fitting the description of Aiden from a decade before.
Emma had filed his DNA using a toothbrush and a blood stained knee of a pair of jeans, and doctors alert her that the sample matches and they believe they do have Aiden but there is something she must know.
While there are no current signs of physical injury, x-rays prove that he at some point had experienced a leg injury, he is selectively mute, and has poor dental hygiene. Aiden flinches when anyone touches him or comes to near, and the doctors suspect possible sexual abuse from his reactions.
While Aiden refuses to make any forms of communication with Emma and his stepdad, Jake, or towards his own father Rob who has hung around to try to break the silence, it is hinted that maybe Aiden is more afraid of sharing his story with the people that he is around than that of people in general, after Emma begins to take him to see a child psychologist.
They have no idea where he has been all this time, and he gives no sign of sharing.
Overtime though, Aiden does seem to show interest in others around him, and a friend of the family that came visiting and brought over a Disney DVD that Aiden enjoyed as a kid, swears from the other room they could hear the boy singing along with the characters in the movie.
When Emma mentions this to the doctors, and police now reopening the case of Aiden's sudden appearance, they are in disbelief.
As the media has regained interest in the story, they are hot for the latest detail and begin to hound Emma and her family when she is still trying to get details for herself.
It is at this point that Silent Child hits a lull for me, where there is a bit of a destine already for Jake, the later half of the book doesn't have the same allure as the first two hundred pages, and as the rest of the "who done it and why they done it" unfolds, I have to admit it gets a little sloppy in the later half.
Without much introduction to Emma's friend's Jo and Hugh, Hugh who has not been seen in the story and his wife concludes has been having an affair after he drains their bank account and is suddenly absent, are brought to the limelight of the action.
It is divulged that Rob and Emma realize that Jake had an obsession with Emma early on, back when he would have known her as a teacher, and they find newspaper clippings about Emma, other girls, the disappearance of Aiden, and even the death of Emma's parents-which turns out to be that someone had cut the brake line as cause of the fatal accident that somehow the police never deduced. Emma accuses Jake of never wanting Aiden back and that he doesn't want to accept him- there is a reason for that as it was Jake that for some reason in his obsession with Emma, who apparently he also cheated on in the past but convinced her to stay with him anyway, had been stalking Emma for sometime and had been the one to push Aiden into the river.
Why drowning the child of the woman you had an obsession with would get you into their good graces, one only knows in this confusing tangle of a novel, but wait for the further confusion when Hugh, the cheating husband of Emma's friend is the one that has taken Aiden after finding him and has abused and confined the boy in secret for ten years. Finally growing tired of his pedophilia tendency, Hugh offers to let Aiden kill him so that he can be free again.
But how exactly did Hugh conceal Aiden for a decade? How is it in the same day during the overflowing of the river that one man that knew Emma tried to kill her son and another kidnapped her son and imprisoned him?
I'm sorry, but that is rather sloppy writing jammed into the tail end of a mystery to divert attention from Jake when all fingers have been pointed at how little he seems to be connected to the return of his stepson after a decade missing.
Aiden suddenly begins to talk again and there is a reveal from his point of view thrown in for perspective, and the novel closes with Emma bonding Aiden over conversation after everything has happened to them.
One Terrible Day For Aiden
Silent Child has a few solid things going for it, in its first half.
The plot summary is intriguing with the resurgance of a child that went missing at the age of six only to be found walking along a road mutely ten years later with no means of self expression to tell his tale.
Was Aiden just in shock, or selectively mute the entire novel? I am lead to believe if he was really singing along to the Disney movie as claimed, that he was afraid of who he could trust coming back into this new environment where his mother was married to the man that was stalking her and had pushed him into the river trying to drown him, and that the man that had kidnapped and tormented him for over a decade was still in her life as a friend.
It just felt too forced together and didn't flow as beautifully as the opening to the novel. I feel like I have read this same story from a hundred different mystery writers at this point working the missing child angle and I can't put my finger exactly on where or how Denzil drops the ball on this novel. The latter half of the novel just doesn't keep its grip on you and the pacing slows as we wait, and wait, and wait for Aiden to give his big reveal or some new information to be passed along that will move the plot.
Until the mention of Hugh disappearing with the money, there was no reason to even think of him as a suspect, or even at all other than he was Jo's husband in mention that was never a main character and always hidden away just off screen as the reasons to hate Jake mounted.
What I don't understand either was when exactly did Jake's obsession with Emma begin? How did it begin? She wasn't going off to college like the rest of her classmates as she was staying behind to raise Aiden. Why would Jake be jealous of Rob? Emma and Rob were just teenagers then? Was this obsession enough reason to believe that he killed her parents? Was that enough motive to try to kill Aiden, only someone worse came along and abused the boy for over a decade instead of drowning him?
I can't seem to forgive how the ending of this novel just fell flat. If I tried to map this out of a piece of paper, I can't find a path to connect the beginning to the ending other that it was somehow all convenient these people are were connected to the school in someway, and Aiden didn't even attend the same school that Jake was a teacher at so, that was a swing and miss.
Sarah A Denzil is a gifted wordsmith in her descriptions, but the plot ran away on this one and I flat out just don't like the ending of this book and admittedly did some skimming through the dim slow-paced middle, begging for the plot to move along to the day where something was revealed about where Aiden escaped from.
Maybe the four hundred page count was the issue and that trimming some of the fat in the middle would have helped move the story along at a better pacing.
It is a shame that I began to lose interest in the middle of Silent Child as a great plot early on began to fizzle out by the time of its reveal.