Monday, June 13, 2016

The Silent Women: Review

In The Silent Women (1953) by Margaret Page Hood, finds young Gil Donan, the recently appointed deputy sheriff from Fox Island, sent to Spruce Island, a near-by sparsely inhabited place off the Maine coast. The island is shrouded in a brooding fog which ideally matches the mood of the inhabitants. John Brown, whose original Italian name is Giovanni, has sent a message asking for help. He claims his beautiful and fiery daughter Gina had returned from the mainland only to be murdered. But there is no body and the island women, whose grapevine knows all the gossip and doings on the island--almost before they happen, claim that Gina has never returned.

They represent Giovanni as a lonely father whose loss of his wife followed by the desertion of his daughter has made him delusional. When Gil investigates and finds women's clothes--all of recent fashion--in the young woman's bedroom, Martha, a shopkeeper and leader of the island women, tells him that Giovanni would order gifts for Gina just as though she were still living with him. After that, the women go as silent as the fog that engulfs them. Finally, when the men of the island (fishermen who spend little time at home) arrive after their latest sailing journey, a plausible account of Gina's arrival and apparent departure is given. Gil decides to change his wild goose chase into a successful duck hunt before returning home. But when he goes into the underbrush after a wounded bird, he finds more than he bargained for. Gina did come home one last time...but she didn't leave.

Hood manages in this short book (192 pages) to completely transport the reader to this secluded island. The brooding fog and the insular characters provides an atmosphere of  seclusion, mistrust of outsiders, and secrecy that creates the foundation for the tragic story. She also gives her characters a lot of depth--providing substantial background and cultivating sympathy for both Giovanni and the culprit. A suspenseful story with solid clues. Gil makes for an interesting detective--and one who develops over the course of the story. I would definitely be interested in getting my hands on The Scarlet Thread and In the Dark Night to see his further development. ★★ and a half.

With the woman's blue skirt, this counts as the "Blue Object" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.


Peggy Ann said...

Bev, Maine is one of my favorite places. I've got to read this! Thanks!

fredamans said...

I'm so intrigued by this one... is the dad crazy or what?!

Bev Hankins said...

Peggy Ann: Hood wrote several books set in Maine. So--if you find this and like it, there are others to find as well.

Anonymous said...

This sound really good Bev - thanks, brand new to me!

Ryan said...

Love the sound of this one. I can always count on you to add to my wishlist.