Silent Witness would be a better book if it weren’t a romance novel. It’s a fast-paced, emotionally intense tale, but the love story doesn’t work at all.
Andrea Hunt’s sister Vicki returned to their hometown after her husband left her for another woman. Andrea, a paramedic, wants to help Vicki make a fresh start in Courage Bay with her young son, Kevin, who hasn’t spoken since his father left. But one afternoon she discovers Vicki dead in her house, the victim of an apparent accident that also injured Kevin. She makes a courtesy call to Kevin’s father, Grant Corbin, to inform him of the accident. She never expects a man who abandoned his family to rush to his son’s side.
Grant knows that Andrea doesn’t know the truth about the end of his marriage and that Vicki left him, not the other way around. He suspects there’s a great deal Andrea doesn’t know about her sister, things that lead him to suspect that Vicki’s death was no accident. He slowly begins to put the pieces together about what happened to his ex-wife, while Andrea starts to discover some information on her own. But the issue of Kevin’s custody stands in the way of any partnership they might form. Andrea’s parents want the boy and she doesn’t want Grant to have him. Grant wants his son, but doesn’t know if he’d be a good enough father for the boy on his own. As they square off over these issues, an unexpected attraction forms between Andrea and Grant.
This is the second prequel to Harlequin’s upcoming Code Red series, but it definitely stands alone. If it wasn’t for the Code Red banner on the front cover, there would be no indication that it was part of a series. The plot and characters are completely self-contained and there is no reference to any larger storyline. That may make it easier for readers who are interested only in this story to enjoy it without any distractions, although it does have some flaws in its own right.
Unlike the first prequel, Father by Choice, Silent Witness is an emotionally involving story that wastes no time pulling the reader into the hearts and minds of its characters. Exposition is quickly dispatched with as the author jumps right into the story with Andrea discovering her sister’s body. It’s easy to get pulled into the fierce emotion all of the characters feel for Kevin, and also the animosity in Andrea and Grant’s relationship. She thinks her sister never lied to her and believes everything Vicki told her about her husband. He knows she’s wrong and doesn’t think he owes her any explanation.
The plotline moves very fast as the characters quickly deal with the aftermath of Vicki’s death and the rapid developments of the mystery plot. The suspense element is generally well-done, never overwhelming the character drama until it moves toward a climax in the end. Clues are gradually revealed as first Grant, then Andrea, discover new facts about what happened. Some readers may wish that they came together to solve the mystery sooner since they each hold half the pieces they need, although it’s not unreasonable that they wouldn’t considering the animosity between them. It’s a mostly well-executed mystery plot, although the reader will likely figure out the puzzle long before the characters do, making Grant and Andrea seem frustratingly dense near the end.
The character drama really is engaging material. No one is truly unlikable or unreasonable. They’re all acting with the information they have and with the best of intentions, even it if puts them at cross-purposes. For instance, Andrea’s parents’ belief that they would get custody of their grandson after their daughter’s death at first seems really presumptuous, since he does have a father they believe is a perfectly good man (Vicki never told them that Grant supposedly abandoned her). But they’re not bad people, and their belief that Grant, an LAPD detective, may not be able to take care of Kevin by himself is not entirely absurd. The characters are all engaging, the situations are believable, and the emotions are real, which makes for a compelling read.
Wait – did I say the emotions were real? There is an exception: the love story, which I didn’t buy for a moment. Grant and Andrea are two people locked in a battle of wills. Her sister just died. They’re both focused on Kevin, who still refuses to speak after the death of his mother. So the little moments that pop up where they each notice how attractive the other is or suddenly have a lustful thought about the other person didn’t ring true at all. The attraction could not feel more forced. This is the kind of book where they’re fighting on one page and two pages later they’re in bed, the revelatory moment in between completely skimmed over. The ending is rushed, and it isn’t at all plausible when Grant tells her he fell in love with her given everything else that has been occupying their time during this story. There’s also an uncomfortable element where Andrea looks enough like her sister that they could be twins, which makes Grant’s attraction somewhat suspect, despite the author’s attempt to show the inner differences between the sisters. It’s never really dealt with. The issues involved with Andrea falling in love with her sister’s ex-husband also go unresolved.
I almost want to Silent Witness; it’s a fast, gripping, and entertaining read. But this is a romance, and the love story is slight and unconvincing. If you’re looking for a compelling emotional drama and mystery and can overlook a weak and intrusive romance, this book is worth a read. But if you can’t look past an inexplicable love story, this one likely won’t work for you.