The Woman Who Couldn't Scream
It was a struggle to read The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream. It’s difficult to describe exactly what bothered me about the book, but it was at least in part because things moved so fast and jumped around so much that I often felt out-of-sync with the romance. It was as though I’d skipped paragraphs somewhere. I also couldn’t understand two of the main characters, Benedict and Merida. I kept reading on, hoping that the next chapter would finally explain their motives only to realize in the end that not even a full explanation of their mysterious backstories could make me like or understand them. This is book four in the Virtue Falls series, although reading the other books in the series won’t provide clarity for this one.
We’re originally introduced to Merida Falcon under the name Helen Brassard. Many consider her ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’. That is certainly Benedict Howard’s first thought when he encounters her on a cruise ship, and he is naturally disappointed to realize that the lovely Helen is already married to the wealthy Greek businessman Nauplius Brassard. Helen/Merida is a mute, and it’s clear that Nauplius takes advantage of this, possibly to the point of abusing his much younger wife. His controlling nature is apparent when he demands that he and Helen leave the ship immediately after Benedict muses that he recognizes Helen from somewhere else. Although Helen assures Nauplius that Benedict doesn’t truly recognize her and that she wants nothing to do with him, the couple departs the ship as soon as possible.
Thirteen months later, Nauplius is dead of a brain aneurysm and Helen has appeared in the town of Virtue Falls under the name Merida Falcon, where she reconnects with her old friend Kateri Kwinault, the town’s new sheriff. Kateri is another main character in this book, with almost half of the story being narrated by her as she works to hunt down a local drug dealer and solve a series of murders which are plaguing the town. Her story is a continuation from a prior book in this series, but it’s very easy to jump into. Virtue Falls is a charming town, and Kateri’s practical approach to her life makes for an enjoyable read.
Given the fullness of Kateri’s storyline, which includes a small romance plot in addition to all the detective adventures, I couldn’t understand why Benedict and Merida showed up in this story at all. It’s as though two completely different books have been pushed together into this one novel, and although I could see the stories weaving in and out of each other, it took me a long time to wrap my head around how they actually fit together. Merida has shown up in town for an undisclosed reason, as have a number of other people including Benedict, Kateri’s sister, and another couple from the cruise ship. While Merida deals with a growing sense of danger and the conviction that someone is trying to harm her, Benedict works to get to know her, and the two fall in love.
Or rather, they fall back in love, because they did know each other in the past. It was this aspect of the plot that caused me to downgrade The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream, because all the mystery surrounding both Merida and Benedict’s backstories kept me from understanding or liking either one of them. There was a point where Merida seems to think Benedict is responsible for attempting to murder her, yet she still proceeds to get romantically entangled with him, which I just couldn’t fathom. Even though I gained a new perspective on this by the end of the book, I didn’t enjoy feeling that there was as much mystery in the romance as in the suspense plot. It felt like excess next to the robust storyline concerning Kateri.
That said, if you’re a longtime Christina Dodd fan, or if you have been following the Virtue Falls series, I would still give The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream a look. It may not have been my cup of tea, but Kateri, at least, is worth following up on. Just know going in that you may not understand the main characters and what drives them until the very end.