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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review: Silent Scream: A Groovy Mystery Caper

It's hard to write, finish, and revise a book, and it takes courage and money to get it out there if the author wants to self-publish. Readers who are interested in self-published books but who don't want to waste their time on low-quality ones need a place to go for reviews. I'll post a review of a self-published book the first weekend of every month so that authors and readers can connect with each other. Interviews have been put on hold for now due to time constraints.

A disclaimer: I'm going to start with books by authors I know through real-life connections and through Twitter. If you're interested in getting your book reviewed, please email my assistant at bert{at}ceciliadominic.com or follow Bert on Twitter and message him there.

Title: Silent Scream: A Groovy Mystery Caper
Author: James Huskins
Genre: Historical Mystery

My father loves mystery novels, so I grew up reading books by Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Dick Francis, and other greats that I "borrowed" from his shelves. Consequently, I was excited to get the chance to review Silent Scream: A Groovy Mystery Caper by James Huskins.

Silence, whether it's for years or hours, can be deadly, and the different meanings and consequences of silence are the theme of this novel. Silent movie star Nora Bates and her cohort have kept quiet about an unsolved murder and a host of other scandals for years. The imminent publication of her memoirs causes someone to panic, which leads to two threatening notes, one attempted poisoning, and a murder. Main character Yancey Dunkle struggles to keep a secret from his boss, publisher Joseph Fitzroy, and everyone else. Fitzroy charges Dunkle to figure out what's going on, but after Dunkle is caught snooping by a real detective, the hapless driver becomes the primary suspect for the current murder.

If you're wondering what era the Groovy Mystery capers are set in, and the title doesn't give you a clue, consider that an Amazon.com search for Groovy Mystery pulls up a bunch of Scooby Doo books as well as Silent Scream. However, Dunkle, Bates, and the others precede the fictional Mystery Machine crew by about nine years and could be their parents or grandparents. There is no dog, but Dunkle does get to drive a pretty sweet car. Huskins describes 1960 Los Angeles and Palm Springs with enough detail to give a sense of place, but not so much as to be overwhelming. He also seems to have done his research into Old Hollywood and the culture around the transition from silent movies to "talkies."

Celebrities are a neurotic bunch in any era, and conversations about the past and old photos give Dunkle clues about motives and hidden relationships. As a lowly driver, he blends into the background, eyes and ears open, and has access to informative hotel staff. When his own secret is revealed, it adds unexpected depth and sympathy to his character, which has potential to grow during the planned series.

At first, the cast of characters seemed overwhelming, and I did have to refer to previous pages to keep everyone straight, especially once Bates and retinue get to Palm Springs for the official book release. Huskins adds a few more characters to the mix just before the climax, and earlier reference to those personalities and why they were important would have been helpful. There is one point-of-view shift away from Dunkle's perspective toward the beginning of the book, and it was a little confusing and unnecessary, as we got to know those characters through Dunkle's eyes immediately after.

Overall, I enjoyed Silent Scream and finished it in less than a day. Huskins' love of the era and his subjects come through in his writing, and I look forward to the rest of the series. Although Huskins describes his book as a "gay mystery," it should appeal to a wide range of mystery lovers. I'll likely give a copy to my Dad.

Silent Scream: A Groovy Mystery Caper can be purchased in paperback for $12.99 or for Kindle for $4.99 from Amazon.com.

Next up in March: Venturing into nonfiction with Perry Treadwell's From Sea to Shining Sea On U.S. 20: Boston to Newport, Oregon

Previous Reviews:
Laura Eno's Don't Fall Asleep: A Dream Assassin Novel
Donna Carrick's The First Excellence -- Fa-Ling's Map
Kenn Allen's The Golden Cockerel

Disclaimer: This review was of a courtesy copy received from the author for no charge. My opinion of the book was not biased by this or by the fact that Jim and I are friends.


  1. Thanks for the review. It sounds like something I'd be interested in reading!

  2. This sounds fun. I grew up on Agatha Christie too.

  3. Good review! It spiked my interest in the book.