By Laurel Hightower
- Silent Key
Author: Laurel Hightower
Publisher: Flame Tree Press
- ISBN: 9781787588561
- Published: October 2023
- Pages: 297
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 05/10/2023
- Language: English
Listen to your kids. It can be hard sometimes as they can speak absolute nonsense, but they also speak the truth, and they may need you to listen. Perhaps they wake at night and tell you that things are not right in the house, you can dismiss this as childish fantasies, but their fears could be based on something. The Ambrose family believes their daughter when she says that she sees ghosts. Sammy may be the only things that saves the rest of the family from the same fate as her father and Great Uncle. Something is haunting the Ambrose family and wants revenge.
Cam Ambrose is a successful detective for the NYPD, but her family always comes first. When her husband is found dead his remains are left disfigured in a bizarre manner. Cam soon discovers that he was having an affair before he died, and her daughter Sammy says that there is a ghost haunting them and they must leave the city. Cam decides to move her remaining family to rural Texas and the house her uncle left behind, but it soon transpires that his death was more bizarre than her husbands. What is happening to the Ambrose family and what did they awake?
Many of the best ghost tales that you can think of are based on ‘real life’ stories. They work so well as there is a real fear in protecting your family, be it from a poltergeist or animated doll. Laurel Hightower’s Silent Key recreates this sense of the familial with a fictional household. The centre of the story is the Ambrose family. The powerful matriarch, the innocent child, and the mysterious brother. No matter what they face, they face it is as a team, trusting in one another.
This trust is key to the book working. Cam believes her daughter that there are ghosts. Her husband spoke of them too before his death. This belief means that the book can enter the spooky zone immediately, we do not have to sit through a hundred pages or more of scepticism. The family unit also helps develop Cam’s relationship with her new neighbours, the man who lives in the property next door, or the police. Her first thoughts will always be for her daughter if this means doing something ‘wrong’ she will not care.
There are some unerring moments in Silent that makes it a great ghost tale, but it also has aspects of a thriller and crime story. As an ex-police officer, Cam goes about trying to solve her ghost problem in a procedural manner. Not being hampered by being employed by the law, Cam takes on a maverick approach.
As the book progresses the supernatural world and our own comes closer, but no matter how fantastical things become the book remains grounded because Hightower wrote a character in Cam who refuses to be overwhelmed. Cam is the centre of the book, her actions, her love for her daughter, and her loyalty to her brother all dictate how things play out. It feels like Hightower allowed the character of Cam to lead where the story went, and it works. The door to the otherworld is left open and you can see the Ambrose family having to deal with the supernatural again.
Written on 5th October 2023 by Sam Tyler .