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A Time for Silence

Review by Andrea O'Brien

Thorne Moore's debut novel A Time for Silence has two timelines, which are set apart by about sixty years. One timeline is set in the present and features Sarah, a modern career woman living in London, who is undergoing a major crisis and on a whim decides to buy her grandparents' derelict cottage in Pembrokeshire. As the renovation progresses, Sarah learns that her grandfather John was the victim of a crime. Intrigued by this information she tries to shed light on her family's dark past.

In contrast to Sarah, who is often distracted by red herrings and romantically construed misconceptions, the reader - thanks to the second timeline - is provided with a first-hand account of her grandparents' tragic story, which unfolded more than sixty years earlier. Thanks to this narrative construction, the reader is always slightly ahead of the protagonist.

A tragic family secret

More often than not a painful life crisis will also open up new opportunities. This is what this novel's young, successful protagonist Sarah experiences when she is starting to have second thoughts about her career choices and her wedding. On the way back from visiting her mother, she inadvertently decides to stop and explore the Welsh village that was once the home of her grandparents. There, she also happens across their former cottage, now old and dilapidated, which is up for sale. On a whim she decides to buy the house and property and sets out to restore it to its former glory – or so she thinks. Driven by the apparent wish to reclaim the run-down property for her family, she soon obsessively embarks on a mission that helps her avoid dealing with her present. As the work progresses, she finds out that her grandfather John Owen was actually murdered...

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; (...) a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;"
(Ecclesiastes 3)

While Sarah is compelled to rely on the information provided by the few remaining witnesses to her grandparents' life – some more talkative than others – the readers are put in a privileged position as they are provided with a first-hand account of Gwen's story. The full extend of the tragedy however, is only revealed to both Sarah and the readers at the end of the story.

A life in poverty and dogmatic coldness

Set in the past, the second storyline recounts the life and times of Sarah's grandmother Gwen. In contrast to her pragmatic, outgoing sister Dilys, Gwen is rather shy and reserved. While Dilys quickly finds a good-natured husband, Gwen initially stays behind and takes care of her father. But when John Owen, an earnest young man, asks Gwen's for her hand in marriage, she accepts, albeit hesitantly. The couple marries and move to a cottage far away from Gwen's home and father. Soon Gwen is pregnant with her first child.

But Gwen's marriage is not happy. Her life is dominated by poverty and dogmatic coldness. Yet when her unfortunate situation culminates in a fateful tragedy, she is provided with kindness and support from unexpected quarters.

A dark chapter in the family's history

Sarah, who is initially obsessed with the idea of solving and redeeming the murder of her grandfather, soon finds out that her family's history is a lot more complex that she thought.

The truth of what really happened to Gwen and John Owen is revealed to her only after she has taken many wrong turns.

A game of deception or illusion and reality

A Time for Silence is not only a compelling psychological thriller but also provides a haunting portrait of a past generation whose central conflicts and issues have remained valid to the present day.

Readers are held in suspense by the narration's dual structure, they know more than Sarah but just too little to solve the mystery of John Owen's murder. Two different timelines, one with Sarah, the other with Gwen as female protagonists, are combined to create a game of deception, oscillating between illusion and reality, appearance and fact, subjective perception and true experience.

The author

Thorne Moore was born in Luton / UK and studied history at Aberystwyth University and Law at The Open University. She lives in Pembrokeshire, her mother's home, where she and her sister ran a small restaurant. Her debut novel A Time for Silence, which was first published in 2012, is also set in Pembrokeshire. Recently, her second novel “Motherlove” was published in the UK. Moore is a member of the British Crime Writers Association.

An exclusive Interview with Thorne Moore will be published here at Krimiscout very soon.

Additional information:

A Time for Silence

Thorne Moore's Website

Written and translated by Andrea O'Brien, 2015
Original review (German) published by www.krimiscout.de
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