On the Bookshelf...

Silent Girl

ML Rose

Her blonde hair was carefully arranged, forming a halo around her head. The young woman’s eyes were open, the blue of her pupils just about visible, fading in the wintry morning light. She looked stunned: as if she couldn’t believe this had happened to her. When Detective Nikki Gill is called to the crime scene of Charlotte Winspear, she finds the woman’s body in a secluded woodland at the top of a hill, her feet encased in heels without a speck of mud. Charlotte disappeared from a college party in an exclusive Oxford manor house the night before, and Nikki’s instincts tell her she didn’t die at this spot. So why did the killer bring Charlotte here? As Nikki builds a picture of the student, she digs into Charlotte’s home life and discovers a wild child who was threatening to damage her father, Jacob’s reputation as a powerful local businessman. And that’s not all she finds… Charlotte was having an affair with her married teacher. But just as Nikki starts to connect the secrets in Charlotte’s life and her father’s past, Charlotte’s friend is attacked and left for dead. Someone is silencing the women one by one. With the media frenzy surrounding Charlotte’s murder and the killer on the loose, Nikki feels the weight of pressure like never before. She’s edging towards the truth, but is she also about to put her own life in grave danger?

Silent Girl by ML Rose is the second Nikki Gill novel. After the wonderful Stolen Souls I wondered if the second novel would hit the same heights. I really liked the character of Nikki and the struggles she had with both her work and private life. It was a breath of fresh air to read at the time. The setting of Oxford immediately makes me think of Morse, but you're soon in the world of Nikki Gill.

Nikki is called to the murder scene. A young girl is found laid out, murdered. No identification, but it turns out to be the daughter of a prominent local councillor who aspires to be the next MP for Whitney. (yep, David Camerons old seat). The action cuts with flashbacks to twenty years before.

I loved the way the action switches across the decades. Trying to work out who the voice from the past adds another layer to the suspense. There's loads of it in here. Political skullduggery, the murky world of the Oxford college system. All along Nikki must confront her own past. Her work relationships come under scrutiny. She has to find why a member of her team is giving her so much grief.

The ending when it comes is well thought out. A fitting climax to a complex story. This is a real page turner as you furiously try to come up with whom the killer is before the author reveals all. The pace and style of writing suited me. An easy and thoughtful plot is exposed slowly.

There's a bit in the first half of the novel where I thought it could have been left out. It was when one suspect tries to flee to France by smuggling on a wagon. He meets a group of asylum seekers eking out a meagre existence on the cliffs living in tents hidden by rocks. I'm glad ML Rose left this in. It added a poignant touch and showed the plight of those who are trying for a better life. A stellar moment.

Nikki Gill is one of my favourite protagonists in crime fiction. She has a quiet demeanour about her which matches the pace and style of book well. It's not a heavy noir novel, yet it nots a light cozy novel. A refreshing series that keeps me coming back for more.

A solid second book in the series. Can't wait for the next from ML Rose.

Thanks to Netgallery and Storm Publishing for the eARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Review by
AJ Steel
January 29, 2024

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