- Author: John Burley
- Performed by MacLeod Andrews
- Released: August 2017 by Harper Audio
- Category: Psychological, Mystery, Thriller, Fiction, Crime, Audiobook, Books, Review
From the award-winning author of The Absence of Mercy, comes a gripping and darkly psychological novel about family, suspicion, and the price we are willing to pay to protect those we love the most.
It’s the summer of 1954, and the residents of Cottonwood, California, are dying. At the center of it all is six-year-old Danny McCray, a strange and silent child the townspeople regard with fear and superstition, and who appears to bring illness and ruin to those around him. Even his own mother is plagued by a disease that is slowly consuming her.
Set in 1950s California, the McCray family live in the small town of Cottonwood. Kate McCray was born and bred there and when she married Michael McCray that’s where they set up home. Their two boys, Sean and Danny, ten and six respectively, complete their family. Michael adores his wife and boys but things aren’t going well. Danny has never spoken or made a sound, although he’s perfectly healthy. Kate is sick, with her condition worsening. Michael is beginning to be afflicted by tremors. The residents of the town see Danny as a threat, somehow causing the deaths and illnesses within the community. They’re fearful, superstitious of someone different, regardless of the fact he is just a child, who they see as impaired, even cursed.
Then Sean and Danny are snatched from the parking area of the market where Michael had taken them to get ice cream, and driven away in the family’s stolen car.
Tiny beads of sweat erupted from Michael’s upper back and forearms as the pieces came together in his mind. The man in the tan jacket crossing the street, heading in the direction of the parking lot. Danny in the back seat of the car, gazing out the open window as he waited for them to return. The engine starting. The spin of tires on gravel. And Sean, standing there less than a minute ago. But now….
Sheriff Jim Kent coordinates with two detectives from the Shasta County Sheriff’s department, partners Tony DeLuca and John Pierce. He, and they, are determined to do everything in their power to get the boys back. The investigation turns up little hard evidence over the following days, and then Michael takes off alone to find his sons.
The Quiet Child is a haunting and tense mystery, alternating between the boys’ captivity and the desperation of the hunt to find them. The contrast between police investigations then and now is huge, you forget and take for granted just how much things have moved on. Back then even tracing a phone call required considerable time and effort. With lots of vivid imagery and detailing, the narrative moves along relentlessly with blindsiding twists.
My first book by John Burley and I enjoyed the writing style very much. The short chapters work well in building tension and suspense. Popular culture references, along with the derogatory attitude towards women in the workplace, the details and insight into the way the police worked, all place the story exactly in the era it’s meant to be.
The story is told predominantly from Michael’s point of view, but several other third person perspectives are introduced, giving a rounded picture and a good sense of the characters and their innermost thoughts. Basically, this is about family, tragedy and loss. And how far desperation might drive a person, however misguided the reasoning or terrible the consequences. It took me a while to gather my thoughts when I’d finished listening to The Quiet Child and even now the story continues to resonate.
MacLeod Andrews gives an impressive performance, with voices perfectly matched to the characters.
About the author
John Burley grew up in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay. He worked as a paramedic and firefighter before attending medical school in Chicago and completing his emergency medicine residency training at University of Maryland Medical Center and the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. His debut novel, THE ABSENCE OF MERCY, received the National Black Ribbon Award in recognition of an author who brings a fresh, new voice to suspense writing.
John lives in Northern California where he works as an emergency department physician. His books have been described as dark psychological thrillers that take place in small-town America.