Thank you once again to Audiobook Jukebox and Blackstone Audio for allowing us access to Silence for the Dead, Simone St. James’ latest novel. They were also kind enough to grant us An Inquiry into Love and Death by St. James when it was first released in audio as well. Rosalyn Landor was the narrator for Inquiry and while an accomplished narrator, I did not enjoy it as much and perhaps this diminished the story a touch for me, unfortunately. However, here, not only do I consider Silence for the Dead to be one of the best of St. James’ three novels, the narration by Mary Jane Wells was also fantastic. She was the perfect choice for the voice of Kitty Weeks. After a mere few minutes of listening to her voice, I knew this one going to be an excellent audiobook.
“He’s coming” (the patients at Portis House)
The Great War has finished, and Kitty Weeks is continuing her “on the run” from potentially a someone or a something that is not quite revealed to the reader at this time. Remembering stories about working in a hospital shared from her most recent roommate, Kitty uses this information to falsely claim her nursing experience and applies for a nursing position at Portis House, a very remote hospital for soldiers recovering from shell-shock.
Portis House is a well known estate with equally well-known occupants, all of whom seemed to have mysteriously disappeared in the night. Now the Portis House operates as a remote hospital hiding away the former soldiers shamed into hiding because of their mental instability. But is it only the after effects of the war that do not allow these men to fully heal and calm their minds?
Portis House is showing some major problems with it – strange noises coming from one of the bathrooms, employees completely scared to go into the basement, crumbling and falling down parts of the house and a heavy case of mold festering too. All the men are also very reluctant to admit to their harrowing nightmares and soon Kitty is piecing together facts that all seem to share the same dream. “He’s coming” seems to throw them into great distress and despair.
There is also this mysterious “Patient 16” that no one is supposed to know is there and whom requires special clearance to visit. Kitty soon discovers that this patient is actually the famous war hero, Jack Yates, but she cannot discern if he is actually mad, or a hero simply needing rest and relaxation following his harrowing war experiences.
Soon Kitty is turning to and developing plans with Jack on how to uncover the truth of what is happening in Portis House and why. The more they uncover, the more Kitty and Jack turn to each other, also sharing their troubles and building a closer connection that moves beyond a patient and nurse relationship. As they get closer to revealing the truth of Portis House and its former residents, the patients and staff are hit with the Spanish flu leaving only Kitty and Jack to battle this evil force that has taken over the house.
Silence for the Dead offers plenty of twists and turns throughout and all along the way ensuring you are consistently engaged from beginning to end. The mystery behind Portis House and its original owners is a very good one and comes to a satisfying end/reveal. The treatment of the patients suffering from shell-shock, but also suffering from a haunting and evil presence was very well done as well.
As an audiobook, I cannot say enough about how much I truly loved Mary Jane Wells’ narration. I sincerely hope that every one of St. James’ audiobooks features Wells. Her narration had me caring even more for the characters as she brought their individual personalities to life so very well. For instance, she made Kitty’s fellow nursing sister Nina sound so very much like Miss O’Brien from Downton Abbey that I could only grin every time she spoke. She also completely refrained from reading the male voices as lowered, gravelly and annoying. She only read it in her normal, female voice – yay. It definitely earns the 4-star narration where it was excellent and made the book that much better.