Book Review: Killing Silence by Peg Herring

Killing SilenceKilling Silence
The Loser Mysteries: Book One
Peg Herring
LL-Publications, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-9571527-9-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Is It Possible to Be a Rescuer When You Live Among the Lost?

Loser, who sleeps on the streets of Richmond, Virginia, washes up in gas station bathrooms, eats when an opportunity comes along, and spends her waking hours in front of the local drug store, watching the world pass by and speaking less than thirty words per day.

When a child is murdered and Loser finds herself in the company of the prime suspect, can she pull herself out of her own pain to help catch a killer? Her investigation is hampered by her inability to hold a normal conversation and her inner demons.

Why should anyone believe her anyway? She is Loser. A nobody. A freak who can barely speak.

Every street person has a story, and Loser is no different. Her past haunts her present.

Besides, Loser has good reason to avoid the police…and it goes way beyond loitering.

Once in a while, I come across a book that can only be called an unexpected gem. Killing Silence is one of those wonderful surprises. In many ways, it’s a standard mystery but Peg Herring has crafted a novel that is much more than just “standard”.

Tucked in with the mystery of what happened to this child that Loser barely knows is her more personal mystery of who committed a terrible crime in her past, a crime that drove her from a normal life into the streets, and here is where this author’s work takes a step up. I’ve always felt badly about all the people who are homeless but I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so much understanding of how some of them come to such a pass. It is Ms. Herring‘s own compassionate writing of Loser’s existence that made that possible .

“Loser” is, of course, a nickname, one that she bestowed upon herself, and she had some very painful reasons for doing so. One trait that really sets her apart from you and me is that she allows herself only a very limited amount of speech and yet she manages to communicate quite effectively. When she decides she has to ferret out the truth about this death because she simply doesn’t believe the logical suspect could have done it, her quick mind comes to the fore and the reader learns that there is much more to this homeless derelict than you might expect. Her mission is full of twists and misleading behaviors but Loser is determined to get to the bottom of what has gone on in a very dysfunctional family.

The author has a quite effective way of telling the story of this current crime as well as the one that has had such an impact on Loser. The storyline easily drifts from one to the other and back and the reader can see how the earlier crime preys on Loser’s very being and, yet, we also see how she is perhaps coming back to life because of her need to do what is right. What’s even better is watching the her develop the beginnings of connections with people like Verle and the adorable Bryn despite her best efforts to keep others at arm’s length.

Plot and character development are both masterfully handled by this author but setting also was in the forefront for me. The book is set in Richmond, VA, and having an author choose one’s hometown has two primary effects on the resident reader. One is a sense of coolness, a tiny bit of pride that others will get a taste of my town. The other is a quite natural inclination to look for the mistakes the author has surely made and, in fact, I did find one that’s fairly significant but, let’s face it, only to Richmonders or those who have lived here in the past, perhaps for college. There were also a few very minor slips, such as calling a particular street a boulevard rather than an avenue but I bring that up only because I want to point out that this author has done a fine job with her setting with remarkably few errors. A reader who doesn’t know this area can rest assured that the visual pictures created by their imaginations based on Ms. Herring‘s words are quite accurate.

Note: If you have a strong aversion to reading about bad things happening to a child, you may want to skip this book but you should know that the crime is treated with full consideration for readers’ sensibilities. The murder is handled quietly and largely off-page and I was not overly distressed beyond the great compassion I felt for the innocence lost.

It’s pure serendipity that I just finished this book in time to have it be my last review for 2012 but I’m delighted to say it will be on my list of best books read in 2012. I can hardly wait for Loser’s next book, Killing Memories, due out in April 2013. I’m so glad there won’t be an endless wait ;)

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.


Book Review: The Dead Detective Agency by Peg Herring

The Dead Detective Agency
Peg Herring
LL-Publications, April 2011
ISBN 978-1-9050-9170-6
Trade Paperback

This is a murder mystery unlike any other, with a premise so twisty, so surprising, so excellent, you’re bound to read it fast and beg for the next installment. I wish I could tell you how the story begins, but that would constitute a spoiler, so I won’t. Suffice it to say that when murder wipes out several staff members of PLK Investments, Grand Rapids police detectives Madison and DeMestrie need all the help they can get to first, discover the reason for the murders, and two, find the guilty party.

The reader is in for a great deal of woo woo because a lot of that help comes from another detective, one who has been dead for forty years. Even if you don’t like ghost stories, (I do) this one is sure to capture your imagination. And that’s just one of the great things about this novel. Author Peg Herring‘s concept of what happens after death is certainly original. I recommend The Dead Detective Agency if you’re looking for a story out of the ordinary.

Reviewed by C.K.Crigger, August 2011.