Don’t start reading The Silent Reporter unless you have time to finish it the same day. I couldn’t put it down. The characters were introduced scene by scene and at first the scenes seemed unrelated. But you saw the relationship by the time you knew who everyone was. To make it easy, I will introduce them all at once here.
Cast of Main Characters
- Hyder Ali, American-born Muslim of Pakistani descent, who works as temporary reporter at The Daily Times
- Lester Glasgow, works at the technology desk at the The Daily Times, Hyder’s friend
- Caroline Dunny, Hyder’s boss, AKA Dunny the Killer Bunny
- Amanda Hansborough, an accountant at TriGate Management Group, whom we see die in an auto accident when her brakes fail
- Peter Hansborough, Amanda’s husband
- Tom Nolan, a police officer whose wife died in that same accident who had turned into a alcoholic since his wife’s death and been on leave from the police force
- Police Captain ‘Rudy” Ross, who cares for Tom and wants to see him back on the force
- Sergeant Doug Halton, Nolan’s supervisor on the Franklin Police Force, who would love to fire him if Ross would let him.
- Detective Angelo Pascale, who despises Nolan and wants him fired
- Detective Marina Lopez, who is sympathetic to Nolan, and has his back.
- Jessica Freeland, daughter of Professor Eric Freeland, who was found hanging in his home, an apparent suicide.
- Charles Marshall, CEO of TriGate Management, which had just been awarded a 1.2 billion dollar contract to build an extension for the city nuclear reactor plant. Nolan had seen the announcement on television when he was drinking at a bar.
- Ian Marshall, son of Charles
- Terry Scott, President of TriGate ManagementGroup
- “Grant” the “fixer” of problems for the Marshalls and TriGate Management
- Hyder’s widowed mother, whom he calls Ammi
- Hyder’s brother Akbar, a doctor
- John Kroft, Jr., Publisher of the The Daily Times
The author brings the characters together in such a way that they advance the plot bit by bit until you begin see it coming together. There are plenty of clues you can grab along the way to the plot’s resolution. Several themes run through the book. As you read, you will probably be rooting for some characters and hoping to see others get their comeuppance. I was most drawn to Tom Nolan and Capt. Ross. I wanted to boo or hiss every time Haldon, Grant or Marshall appeared after I had first met them.
Tom Nolan is an alcoholic detective. He had been headed for a very successful police career because before his wife’s death he had been an excellent detective. After her death he had fallen apart and turned to the bottle, hoping to drink himself to death. After almost a year’s absence, Ross had gone to his house to get him when he wouldn’t answer his phone calls. He had to break his window with a rock to make him finally open the door. He told Nolan to come back to work and clean himself up. Ross would not take no for an answer. Ross let Nolan know he considered him valuable enough to save, even when Nolan could see nothing good in himself.
Nolan’s first case back back at work was to investigate the death of Professor Eric Freeman, reported as a suicide. Freeman had been a mentor to Hyder when he was a student, and Hyder just couldn’t believe it was a suicide. Jessica Freeland couldn’t believe it either. Even Nolan saw a couple of signs that weren’t consistent with suicide, but he was still not completely himself, and when asked to make a decision, he called for the coroner, and handled it as a suicide.
Hyder and Jessica try to convince Nolan it was a murder, but he said he had no proof, so the two work together to try to figure it out themselves. Then Jessica notices she is being watched by someone in a black sedan. She tells Hyder.
We then see Ian Marshall in his mansion discussing Freeland’s death with Grant, who was responsible for it. They wonder aloud if anyone else knows too much. Grant says he’s keeping an eye on Jessica.
Most of the book deals with the investigation. When Nolan is pressured by Halton to close the case in three days or prove it wasn’t a suicide, he takes another serious look at the file. He sees the coroner’s report somehow is missing from the file so he talks to the coroner. Nolan is told someone had picked up the report to hand deliver, but the signature of the one who picked it up was undecipherable, and it had never arrived.
A talk with the coroner revealed that the death was not consistent with suicide. Nolan remembered he inconsistencies he had seen and he retrieved he evidence he had removed from the scene he had filed away. He let Jessica and Hyder know he now agreed with them, and they began to work together to share information. You will have to read the book to see how they finally pieced the solution together.
The second theme is the author’s attempt to portray how an American Muslim family practices its religion in everyday life. This is shown in the scenes that take place in Hyder’s home, which becomes the meeting place for Nolan, Jessica, and Hyder to work on the case. Hyder found it strange that his mother, who wore traditional Muslim dress, prayed five times a day, and regularly read the Quran, could enjoy watching figure skaters in skimpy, tight costumes dance on the ice in front of crowds (on TV.) She had told him “It didn’t matter how someone lived, talked, ate, or even worshiped. What mattered was how they lived their lives.”
Another quote deals with Hyder’s perception of the Muslim view of suicide: “Contrary to what was reported on the news, suicide was also not permitted in Islam. Life was a gift from God and no one had the right to take it away except for God.”
Hyder had talked with Freeland (who was Jewish) “about Islamist suicide bombers and they both had agreed that no God, no matter from what religion, would accept the death of innocent people in his name.” This may be true, but it may also be true that Muslim views on who is innocent may differ both from those of other Muslims and from non-Muslims.
It is clear that the author wants readers to see Islam as a religion not much different than Judaism. “Freeland was Jewish and Hyder was Muslim, but they both shared a common trait: a love for God and an appreciation of his people.”
The third element in this novel is the rehabilitation of Tom Nolan. The beginning of the book vividly shows us the despair and pain Tom suffers and his degradation as he continues to rely on alcohol. We see it is only Ross’s belief in him that makes him drag himself back down to the police department.
We see many scenes that portray his grief. His wife, Simone, had been five months pregnant when she was killed. Her accident was caused in the aftermath of the accident that had killed Amanda. In one scene he is in their bedroom and almost kills himself, but couldn’t go through with it. He sees their wedding rings on top of the dresser.
Nolan kissed her ring and held it tight in his hand. The tighter he held it,the more he felt like he was holding her But this was not true. She was gone, leaving behind the object that was once a sign of their love.
He then replays in his head the last day of his wife’s life and his reaction of denial when he got the call that she was dead and he had to identify her. When he saw her body, he stopped wanting to live. Though he couldn’t make himself take his own life, he hoped either the alcohol or another person would kill him.
During the course of the year he was on leave, Tom occasionally drives by the Hansborough house and watches Peter with his children. He wonders how Peter can laugh again and live like a normal person when he can’t. He thinks it’s because Peter has his children. Tom has no one. He can’t bear to go into the room of his house that was to be the nursery for his unborn child.
Nolan finally collects his “marbles’ as he decides he will give his all to solving the case of Freeland’s death, which he now believes is a murder. By the end of the book you see that Ross’s faith in him was justified. He demonstrates he is still a sharp detective, and a brave one. Of course it helps that he isn’t afraid to die and that he is convinced the same people who killed Freeland also are also responsible for his wife’s death, and he wants them brought to justice.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Silent Reporter (Hyder Ali #1)
look forward to reading the sequel, The Rogue Reporter (Hyder Ali #2)