Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Silent Witness by Nicola Beaumont - Enjoyed the Characters!

Nina Thomas glanced at the envelope on the floorboard of her convertible and wondered about the stranger who had sent it. Why come forward after so many years? She had tried to find the mysterious H. Anderson--had gone through the six H. Andersons listed in the Hampton, Virginia, area where the letter had been postmarked, but she'd had no luck. Three had never heard of Shadow Creek, two had hung up on her, and one, she discovered, had committed suicide just two weeks before, leaving his very angry landlady with a considerable bill for back rent and utilities-and according to said landlady--"an apartment she wouldn't be able to ever rent again."
It was then that Nina knew she would have to make the trip to Shadow Creek. The tree-lined street came to an end as she eased the small two-seater onto the highway. No turning back now, she thought, as the white clapboard houses with pro-panel roofs faded into the distance. Wind whistled across the open top as she pressed on the accelerator. Her cropped hair bounced around her head, tickling the back of her neck, and her stomach rolled on a queasy wave of emotion. She wanted to investigate so badly--needed to investigate--but somehow she knew if she unlocked secrets from the past, things would never be the same again. She would never be the same again. A part of her dreaded that.
The uncertainty of disrupting her life hung in the air around her, picking at her relentlessly. Like the steady drip of a faulty tap. Every time she convinced herself that she needed to know the truth, something--fear, maybe--had her gut stalling, questioning, wondering. Her father was dead. Nothing could change that--even a letter popping up years later that turned an accident into murder. 
But what about justice? What about truth? What about? ... 
What about peace, moving on with life, not dwelling on the past? Searching for the truth wouldn't bring him back. It would probably serve no other purpose than to cause her further pain. And her life was finally painless. She'd saved enough money for college, she had a mother and stepfather who loved her more than life, and the dreams were finally beginning to subside. After all these years, she could finally trust people, she no longer feared going to sleep, no longer had to force herself to touch her head to a pillow. Did she really want to dredge up the past and risk reviving the nightmare that had haunted her entire childhood? Nina shivered and pressed the button to refit the soft top. 
At seventy miles an hour, even a July wind could be cold. Deep down, though, Nina knew the chill that hammered her body didn't have anything to do with the wind. The eerie images still frightened her. 
Reflections of an unknown known creature with the face of a boar and the body of a man--long arms and legs with huge, round black eyes and a stubbed snout. She had never been able to correlate the nightmare to the crash, but within the depths of her soul, she knew the two were related. Struggle as she might, she still couldn't remember the accident, except for a vague image of her daddy and a big green helicopter. The psychologists she had been shuffled to as a child told her the memories might come into focus one day, but not to pin her hopes on it. She had been awfully young, they'd said, and might never regain the memory of that one traumatic incident. Instead of realistic memories, an eight-year-old Nina had created her own version of what had happened that day. She was convinced the helicopter had been her father's vehicle to heaven, and as much as her mother had tried to persuade her there was no helicopter involved, Nina had still believed.
Then, one night when she was twelve, she dreamed of another man being in the car with them. The person just the misty haze of a faceless man in a blue suit-had helped her father into the Heaven Helicopter and taken him into the sky. The thought that the blue-suited man was an angel stayed with her until she was old enough to rationalize that angels don't wear blue suits, and God doesn't need a helicopter. Her mind came back to the present, and she nodded to a trucker passing her in a metallic, lavender-flecked Peterbilt before turning her attention to the radio. 
Static hissed through the speakers, so she flipped to the AM band. "Just remember, my faithful brothers and sisters, that our God is not a God of fear, but of peace. Walk with the Lord in righteousness, and you shall find peace"
As the preacher's voice drew out the "s" sound in peace, Nina forgot the road and stared down at the radio as if the voice had spoken to her directly. She wasn't a religious person, but recently, she had started to realize that she'd lived a great deal of her life in fear. Fear that people would think she was crazy for having to see a shrink. Fear that she should remember and couldn't. Fear that she would never save enough money for college. Funny thing was, fear was even driving her right now. 
Fear that if she ignored the letter H. Anderson had sent, she'd regret it for the rest of her life. Fear that if she investigated, she would find nothing but trouble ... Fear that she'd discover her father wasn't the honorable man she'd always believed he was.

Rylan Andies was sitting in his Arizona Highway Patrol car when Nina Thomas, in her little red convertible zipped by...What he wasn't expecting when he zoomed out to follow, was that Nina was actually coming to Shadow Creek, even though he had learned she was on the road, traveling...

Pulling over, Ry already regretting having to hassle her, but he had no choice. It was his job to protect her and she was heading into trouble, no doubt about it!
He was hooked as soon as she lifted her eyes...

She rifled through her purse again, then clicked open the glove compartment for her registration and proof of insurance. When she turned back to hand him the information, her gaze slammed into his chest like a bullet. Confusion etched her features--and fear. Not a fear of getting a ticket, but more a fear of the unknown--that doe-in-the-headlights look he'd witnessed so many times over the years. He really didn't like himself right now. This was a cruel game, but one that had to be played to the full if he were going to glean from her the information formation he needed...

Nina drove into Shadow Creek, immediately locating the Bed-and-Breakfast, then turned to finding a place to eat. Then immediately starting to look over the papers she had brought with her...she didn't want to waste any time starting her investigation... She didn't know who it was that had sent her the envelope and letter which revealed that her father had been murdered, rather than killed in the accident. While she hoped to discover who had sent it, she was mainly concerned to verify whether or not his message had been correct. Had her father been murdered? She didn't even know how to begin, but begin she would. She never realized that she was walking into danger when she made her decision to try to find out what happened.

But everybody who knew she was in town were on the alert! That included Carlucci, a criminal who owned the town, including the police, those in Washington who were leading the investigation in Shadow Creek, and those in town who were willing to support the activities there, to make money... or in fear... And Ry was right in the middle of them all! He worked for the government, but was undercover in the Highway Patrol, the latter office having three interesting characters that were in one way or another vying for Carlucci's favor... Ry's boss was Carlucci's brother-in-law, who thought he should have special privileges. But when he realized that Ry was being favored by the boss, he set out to compete with Ry in handling the orders...and specifically about Nina Thomas...

She had started asking questions even while she was checking in to where she was staying, asking if the owners knew of any accident that had occurred years ago. Most of the older citizens knew the story about a crazy vet who had gone over a hill, while his daughter was in the car...But nobody knew that any further investigations had occurred... And, depending on how close Nina got to answers, Carlucci would decide what to do...

Readers are learning the story as they read it, with no mystery except for the various whodunit activities, but a lot of suspense as various incidents began. The first major one was that the cabin portion of the Bed and Breakfast burned down while she was out, fortunately, but she lost everything including all that she had brought with her.

And Ry made his first mistake by inviting her into his home and loaning her money...She was confused--all he knew that his feelings for protecting her were so strong that he risked raising many questions--with everybody! Of course Nina was also attracted to him, but wasn't sure she could trust him...or anybody...since the fire... Especially when they confirmed it was arson...

But Nina didn't even have the money to go home, so she agreed with Ry that she might as well stay and finish what she started... until Carlucci had him fly down to meet with him to discuss Nina's plans...

Even though the plot was easy to follow, I enjoyed the various characters and what their interaction was with Nina... Nina? She was determined and obstinate enough to keep searching. What had happened to her father? Was it really murder? And who was the individual who had wrote to her, but then disappeared after stirring up all the memories of the tragic event so many years ago... The surprise ending was the icing on the cake and made the story a thoroughly enjoyable read. Do check it out!


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