One fugitive. A deadly plot. No rules. Thus begins an ingenious and lightning-fast thriller that reviewers agree is “not to be missed.”
Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan wants to clear the name of his former boss, who stands accused of official corruption. But before he can do so, his boss disappears. Did he escape from police custody, or was he kidnapped? Or did something even worse happen to him?
The Silent Room has everything a good thriller should have—compelling characters, a gripping plot and storyline, superb pacing, and a strong sense of place. In addition it has heart, something many thrillers sorely lack. Add some truly scary villains, vast uncertainty about whom to trust, and a loudly ticking clock, and we have ourselves a thriller that will grip readers from the first pages and never let go.
“The explosive opening of The Silent Room introduces a gripping thriller with a very human face. Nobody understands the many faces of cops better than Mari Hannah.”—Val McDermid
“Very creepy. Read it on your commute, and you’ll be looking over your shoulder all the way home.” —Marie Claire
“I was annoyed every time I was forced to put the book down and do mundane yet necessary stuff like eat or sleep.” —Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
About the Author
Mari Hannah is an award-winning author whose authentic voice is no happy accident. A former probation officer, she lives in rural Northumberland with her partner, an ex-murder detective.
Mari turned to scriptwriting when her career was cut short following an assault on duty. Her debut, The Murder Wall--adapted from a script she developed with the BBC--won her the Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Settled Blood, picked up a Northern Writer’s Award. In 2014, she was shortlisted for the Dagger in the Library. Mari is currently reader-in residence for Theakstons Old Peculier International Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate, England.
Read an Excerpt
Jason Irwin locked his prison van. No armed escort today. The only copper he'd see for the rest of his shift was securely handcuffed in the back, a disgrace to his profession according to the grapevine, suspended from Special Branch on allegations of misconduct, something to do with illegal firearms. His name was Jack Fenwick.
Flicking away his cigarette, Irwin climbed aboard and fastened his seat belt. Waiting for the thumbs up from security, he rammed the vehicle in gear and pulled away, keen to get rid of his last delivery.
As he cleared the exit gate, he head-checked the road, turning left towards Newcastle Quayside, his eyes scanning the front steps of the Crown Court as he passed by. Outside the sandstone building, a gang of scruffy youths gave him the one-finger salute as he stopped at traffic lights, their eyes full of hatred. Not long ago, Irwin had transported one of the group into the care of Her Majesty – exactly where he belonged, in his opinion.
He turned right and immediately put his foot down, watching the group get smaller in his rear-view. Crossing the River Tyne via the Swing Bridge, he drove up a steady incline, following the signs to the south and on through Gateshead as the autumn drizzle worsened. Not perfect conditions for driving, but hey: he couldn't have everything. It was Friday. Tomorrow he'd be Cyprus bound, spending half-term with his family, a pocketful of euros and nothing to do for two whole weeks.
Irwin made good time. Somewhere close to the border between Tyneside and Durham, the sky darkened and the wind got up. The rain increased in intensity until it was almost impossible to see through the windscreen, even with the wipers on full pelt. Their inability to do the job they were designed for was not lost on his new colleague, Philip Storey.
Storey was a posh boy, a graduate in Roman Archaeology from Durham University. Even with an impressive degree, he'd struggled to find work in his field of expertise. He'd been forced to seek other employment to pay for his flat. The alternative was to go home and live with his parents, a fate worse than death, apparently. They, and he for that matter, thought security work was beneath him. Taken on by the company less than three weeks ago with minimal training, the lad had found fault with everything: the pay and conditions, the early mornings, and currently the state of the wipers, a thin strip of which had broken away and was flapping across the windscreen like a small black eel.
'Welcome to the private sector,' Irwin said.
'You should complain,' Storey grumbled.
'On what grounds?'
'We have a right to health and safety. It's illegal not to be able to see through the glass.' Storey's tone was flat. Disinterested. 'How long have you been doing this poxy job anyhow?'
'Twelve years, give or take.'
'On fifteen grand?'
'You're doing it.'
'Only as a stop-gap.'
'Don't knock it, son. It puts food on the table.'
As Irwin turned his attention back to the road, a red light forced him to depress the brake pedal. Stopping the van, he glanced at his watch. Right on schedule. He'd make Durham prison by four. He waited for amber, impatient for his shift to end, to be rid of the jumped-up kid sitting by his side. Storey had riled him once too often this week. What was so special about scratching around in the dirt anyhow?
At least his was a proper job.
A dark blue Clio pulled up behind, the volume on its radio turned up so high it could be heard in the next county. The driver was singing along to Coldplay's 'Yellow', his body swaying to the drumbeat. He was wearing a peaked cap and sunglasses. Optimistic, Irwin thought, unless ...
The soundtrack stopped as an Audi A6 overtook at speed, screeching to a halt in front of the prison van, boxing him in. Pressing his alarm, Irwin floored the accelerator, ramming the car. It hardly budged. Selecting reverse gear, he did the same to the Clio behind. He was about to repeat the action when two men emerged from the Audi pointing sawn-off shotguns at his windscreen, gesturing for him to vacate his vehicle.
'Open up!' one yelled.
A foreign voice.
Irwin froze as a young woman moved into his eyeline beyond the man holding the gun, the sound of crunching metal having drawn her attention. Time stood still as she stopped to gawp at the spectacle. When the armed man looked over his shoulder, she sprinted for cover. Irwin couldn't hear himself think due to the racket his cargo was making. Fenwick was banging on the inside of the cab, demanding the low-down on what was going on, begging him to take evasive action. This was serious shit.
Really? Like he didn't know.
In the distance, the running girl stopped. She turned, took out her phone and held it up. What was the mad cow doing? Willing her to get the hell out of there, Irwin yelled at Fenwick to quieten down.
He wasn't helping.
Praying that the Clio would back up, offering him an escape route, Irwin's hopes died as the driver exited his vehicle, leaving the door wide open. Keeping his head beneath the window line, he crawled to the rear of his car on his hands and knees and legged it across the road into woods that ran along the west side of the carriageway. Irwin didn't blame him – given the choice, he'd have done the same.
Realizing they were trapped, Storey began to weep.
Irwin urged him to get a grip. They were going to be fine. He'd get them out of there. Somehow. The words had hardly left his lips when the gun was raised. Both security guards ducked as the windscreen shattered, a large gaping hole appearing at its centre where the shot had pierced the glass. No longer could either guard see their attackers, but they could hear the shooter's instructions to climb down and open up the back, his voice muffled through a balaclava.
'Do it!' Storey yelled. 'It's not worth losing your life for peanuts – or that piece of shit in the back.'
Irwin told him to shut it. 'Do I look stupid to you?'
'No!' Fenwick bawled. 'They'll kill us all.'
'That's helpful, pal,' Irwin yelled back. 'Got any bright ideas? Because, if you do, now's the time to spit 'em out.'
The Special Branch officer's opinion was valid – and probably correct – but then he wasn't the one with the gun pointing at his head. His reply was lost in the general mayhem as the passenger door was yanked open. Whimpering in fear, crying for the mother he couldn't stand the sight of, Storey was pulled from the vehicle, the butt end of a gun rammed into his stomach. He dropped to the ground like a stone. With the gun now in his back, he was told to lie face down.
Seconds later, Irwin joined him, thrown with such force, two of his fingers snapped as he hit the deck. Out the corner of his eye, he saw keys dangling from the Clio's ignition. For a split second – no more – he wondered if he could make the car without getting shot in the back. He decided against. He couldn't leave Storey to the mercy of these two. Besides, this was no time to play the hero.
Sucking in a breath, Irwin tried to lower his heart rate. His chest felt like it might explode. If he were a gambler – which he wasn't – he'd have taken bets that the men in the masks weren't going to kill him. Why bother dragging him out of the van otherwise? Why not shoot him dead in his seat? Still, he decided not to test his theory.
Storey had gone into shock. He was shaking so much his safety helmet was knocking a tune on the road. Irwin wanted to comfort him but didn't dare move. The lad had shut his eyes tightly, expecting to get his head blown off at any second. It unsettled the older man, who had a flashback of his wife and kids packing suitcases at home, his eldest daughter singing along to 'Yellow' – a bizarre coincidence.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then Irwin heard the familiar squeak of the van's back door as it was pulled open. With sound but no sight of what was going on, he counted the seconds, his nerve gone completely. No longer sure it wouldn't end there on that wet and deserted stretch of road, he shut his eyes, wondered if he'd hear the shot that killed him.
Idling engines purred ...
Rain hit the tarmac ...
Flinching as a pair of heavy-duty boots arrived by his side, Irwin exhaled as they moved away again, his stomach heaving in relief. A door slammed, then another and another. Expensive. The Audi. As it took off at speed, he lifted his head. His prisoner was gone.
The events of the past month had caused Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan a lot of anguish, none of it of his own making. The arrest and detention of his senior officer, Detective Inspector Jack Fenwick, had shaken him to the core. It had come without warning, with no reason given. The first Ryan knew of it was when he received a flying visit from the rubber heelers shortly after five the next morning, the nickname for Professional Standards hardly apt on that occasion. There was no creeping around. No softly-softly approach. In fact, the opposite was true. Their rap on the door of his seaside cottage was so loud it woke half the tiny coastal village of Dunstan Steads.
Ryan asked himself if he'd ever doubted Jack. The truthful answer was yes – but only because he was half asleep when his Northumbria colleagues took him in for questioning. After three hours of intense and often hostile interrogation, common sense kicked in. Now he was as convinced as he could be of his DI's innocence.
In the course of his interview, Ryan had learned one or two significant details. Firstly, the allegation that Jack had firearms concealed in his garage had been delivered to the Chief Constable's aide. More importantly, it was acted upon immediately, despite the fact that the intelligence was anonymous and rubbished by those close to the Special Branch officer, an action guaranteed to raise suspicions among those in the know. A warrant was obtained, Jack's home searched – on whose say-so Ryan wasn't sure – but even he had to concede that the evidence was compelling. Guns had been found wrapped in an old army blanket Jack denied owning, and yet fibres from it had been lifted from the boot of his car. His subsequent remand in custody had put him out of reach. What little information Ryan had managed to cobble together since had come from Jack's wife, Hilary, who'd been grilled by police, the experience leaving her distraught and angry, unable to comprehend what was going on.
Hauled in for the same treatment, Ryan had told Professional Standards to back off, refusing to give the allegations houseroom. With no knowledge of the cache of arms in question, he had nothing to say on the matter. It was a fit-up, surely. Any detective worth their salt could see that. But those dealing with the case had Jack in their sights and they weren't letting go.
Ryan checked his watch. It was almost five.
It would be dark in an hour.
Time he wasn't there.
'That was a big sigh.' Caroline's cool hands began to massage his neck and shoulders, taking away the tension. He hadn't heard her approach or noticed her set a mug of tea by his side. 'Are you going to tell me what's up?' she asked.
'Up?' Even in his head, his response sounded lame.
'I don't need eyesight to see how worried you are,' she said. 'It's obvious you have something on your mind. If it's the house, just say and I'll put it on the market. It's not a problem.'
'It's not the house.' Reaching up, Ryan laid a hand on hers, stroking it gently. 'You live here because it makes your life easier. Mine too, knowing you're secure. I want you to stay for as long as you like.'
He meant it.
They had been born upstairs in the same bedroom where their mother had died peacefully in her sleep, with Caroline sitting in a chair beside her. After the funeral, Ryan had offered to move back in, but she wouldn't hear of it, insisting that she was doing fine all by herself.
The massaging stopped.
Caroline sat down under the scrutiny of her twin. Immediately, her guide dog shuffled forward, sinking his nose into the folds of her faded skirt. His sister was slim and very beautiful, with a dress sense most sighted women would die for. It pained Ryan to think that she'd never seen colour. Never seen him. He felt guilty about that.
It could so easily have been him.
Being blind from birth had never stopped her living. Ryan was immensely proud of her many achievements. She had first-class honours in criminal law, was a gifted musician with, it seemed, the ability to do anything she put her mind to. She was looking directly at him, dark curly hair like a shawl around her shoulders, bright eyes so normal an outsider would never guess that she lived in perpetual darkness.
'I want you to be happy, Matt.'
He smiled. Now they were parentless, she was the only one in the world who called him that. Everyone else called him Ryan.
The lie on the tip of his tongue came easy. 'I am happy.'
'You don't sound it.' His twin was a walking, talking lie detector.
He apologized. 'I've not been very good company, have I?'
She'd misread him. 'Roz has a point, doesn't she? This house is your inheritance too. You love each other. It's only natural she wants to live with you.'
That was never going to happen.
Ryan allowed the conversation to stay on his ex. Coming on the back of their mother's death, his twin had been upset by the arrest and detention of his boss, her friend, Jack Fenwick. He didn't want to add to her distress by telling her that his relationship with DC Roz Cornell was also over. A different type of blindness had hidden differences between them until a couple of weeks ago. He didn't have it in him to forgive her for what she had in mind for Caroline. Recognizing the value of a Grade II listed property in Alnwick – prime Northumberland real estate in a market town once voted the best in the UK – Roz was prepared to turf her out on her ear in order to release his newfound wealth. He hadn't spoken to her for weeks and that suited him fine.
It was an amicable parting – almost.
If his twin had known about the separation – more importantly the reason for it – she'd have felt guilty about holding him back. Ryan couldn't cope with that. He'd tell her when the time was right.
Suspicious of his silence, she was trying her best to make him see reason and put the house up for sale. 'It would enable you to buy a place in town,' she said.
'I don't want a place in town. I live by the sea because I love it. It's good for me —'
'Then explain what it means to you. I'm sure Roz will understand.'
'No, she won't. She detests it up there.' He listed all the reasons she'd given: too cold, too windy, nothing to do. 'How she can view the Northumberland coast as boring is beyond me,' he said. 'She thinks landscape is a page orientation.'
'Where is she anyway?' She didn't wait for an answer. 'Working, I suppose. Why anyone would join the police force ...' Stalling, she reached out her hand and found his, a pained look on her face. 'I'm sorry, Matt. You know what I meant. You both work too hard, that's all. Why don't you take a break, a long weekend, go somewhere hot? Roz loves the sun, even if you don't. It would be good for you.'
Ryan didn't comment. He'd never seen the point of taking a fortnight off to lie on his back and fry when there was so much more out there to explore: the countryside, the coast, the rich heritage of their own country – stuff he'd rather be doing on his days off – a lot of it on his doorstep, none of which Roz appreciated.
'She'll come round about the house,' Caroline was saying. 'Maybe if you had a bigger one at the coast?'
It was typical of her to play peacemaker. During spats between their parents – even when too young to fully understand what they were about – she'd say something silly or ask a question that would make them collapse with laughter, kiss and make up.
'Can we talk about this later?' Ryan saw off his cold tea and stood up before she had time to put forward a fix for his broken love life. He ruffled Bob's shiny coat, receiving a tail wag in return. 'I have to go. And don't give the house another thought. I'll pop by on my way home.'
Excerpted from "The Silent Room"
Copyright © 2015 Mari Hannah.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This had good moments and a action packed ending but I had a hard time following along with this book. It dragged at points and didn't have enough to truly pull me in. A decent read but I didn't truly love it.
About: The Silent Room is a thriller written by Mari Hannah. It was recently published on 1/16/18 by Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, 416 pages. The genres are thriller, crime, mystery, and fiction. My Experience: I started reading The Silent Room on 2/23/18 and finished it on 3/7/18. This book is a great read! I definitely like being able to follow everyone’s thought process because I am always curious what each character thinks. I like the change in this thriller with police going against each other and suspecting bad of each other. I like following Ryan connecting the dots and getting closer to solving the puzzle. I like Ryan’s blind sister, Caroline and her guide dog, Bob. I like how capable she is and that she doesn’t let her disability slow her down. I like the importance of a guide dog. This book is told in the third person point of view following Matthew Ryan, Detective Sergeant. His former boss, Jack Fenwick has been accused of concealing illegal firearms at his home, but during his transport to prison, Jack was either abducted or escaped. Detective Ryan was not at work during the hijack and he is now under suspicion as Jack’s co-conspirator and is put on suspension. He vows to prove his boss’ innocence and clears his name, but doing so is the tricky part. Another view is Eloise O’Neil, a Detective Superintendent investigating Jack’s guilt. Eloise’s team think that their fellow police officer decided to break the law for extra cash and it’s up to them to arrest him. Another view is Grace Ellis, a retired Detective who used to work with Jack. She and Ryan thinks Jack is being set up. Grace enlist Ryan and Newman, a spook and former love interest of Grace to help find Jack, but they will have the surprise of their lives! Readers will also be able to follow Jack’s view as he experience his whereabouts. There is a view from Newman as well as Roz, but the main views are Ryan and O’Neil. The mystery is the bad guy helping or hurting Jack. This book is well written. I like Ryan and his love for his twin sister Caroline. I like his loyal friendship with Jack’s family. I like the involvement of different countries like Norway or Scandinavia because I don’t hear of them often. I like Eloise, a female police boss. I like how she handles jerks like Macguire. There is attempt at romance and humor in this book but somehow the whole plot just doesn’t grab me. There were close calls where Ryan could have been killed if it wasn’t for Roz’s quick thinking. I do like the spy’s careful actions. This thriller doesn’t thrill me but I do like many details than I dislike it so I would recommend everyone to read this book. Pro: friendship, police against police, mystery, foreign countries, ***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Minotaur Books for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest. xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details