The Silent Girls – Eric Rickstad

silentgirlsI picked up Eric Rickstad’s novel, The Silent Girls, on a whim. Creepy cover. Compelling blurb. Killer opening. But. (Trust me, you’ll get it in a moment.)

So, Frank Rath is a former cop turned private investigator who lives in Canaan, Vermont. He’s a single dad to daughter, Rachel, who is away for her first semester at college. By his own admission, Rath was a womanizing asshole, until his sister and her husband were brutally murdered in their own home. Now he’s a middle aged ex-cop with a bad back and too much time on his hands.

Then local cop, Harland Grout, calls about a missing girl who happens to be the daughter of his wife’s cousin. He wants Rath’s help. Looking into the case, another cop, Sonja Test (yes, all the names are this weird) discovers that there have been several other missing girls in the area over the last few years. Rath starts poking around, as you do, allowing the reader to meet a strange (and often reprehensible) cast of minor characters complete with the requisite red herrings.

As far as mysteries go, this one is okay. Not fabulous, not horrible. I think part of the issue for me was that there was – perhaps – too much going on. The latest missing girl is one thing. All the other girls another thing. And Rath’s own troubled past also factors in and contributes to a completely implausible denouement. I don’t mean to imply that the plot is convoluted; it’s not hard to keep track of any of this. It’s just that…

I was distracted by the writing. So, instead of staying with Rath the whole time, Rickstad chose a less limited point of view. Okay – fair enough. However, he had this weird writing tick that drove me nuts.

“She sort of seems familiar. But. In that way that reminds you of someone from TV or a dream.”

*

“But. State borders aren’t going to stop a sicko,” Sonja said.

*

But. How did one person, or even two people, choose these girls. And why?

*

“Of course I can read.” Gale sighed. “But. Her handwriting is a first grader’s. I’ll give it my best.”

*

“That was when I thought you were an intruder. I’ve been known to fib, if circumstances warrant. But. He’s harmless.”

I’m sure you get my drift. It would be one thing if one character said “But.”  in this manner. Unfortunately, Rickstad uses it in exposition and every piece of dialogue I’ve quoted above is a different character. Is it a Vermont thing? Drove me bonkers.

Is The Silent Girls a page-turner? After all, that’s why we read books like this, right?  I was intrigued by the book’s opening  – which was uber-creepy and reminiscent of the movie The Strangers. (It took me three tries to watch that thing) but I can’t say that the rest of the book lived up to its promise. I didn’t really care for any of the characters and I hated the ending. I turned the pages, sure, but I wouldn’t turn the book over to someone else.

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