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The Silent Sleep of the Dying    by Keith McCarthy order for
Silent Sleep of the Dying
by Keith McCarthy
Order:  USA  Can
Carroll & Graf, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Silent Sleep of the Dying is Keith McCarthy's second novel featuring pathologist John Eisenmenger and lawyer Helena Flemming. A young woman dies of an unbelievable number of cancerous tumors after complaining of flu symptoms. Questions concerning her death arise and are immediately quashed by unknown persons. The woman had been a member of a research team on a remote Scottish island. Other members of that team either die or disappear. Helena and David team up to determine if wrongdoing by a chemical company could be the cause. Blackmail, stalking, intimidation, kidnapping and murder flourish between the covers of this exciting book. Action-packed pages will keep the reader opting for one more page and then one more before turning out the bedside lamp. As they did me.

THE WRITING? Ah, the writing. Superb. The author has a way of expressing himself wonderfully. Take his description of a villain ... 'The eyes, in shedding softness, donned clarity and lines that Leonardo might have massaged into stone; the mouth thinned the lips and accentuated the jawline, the cheekbones more noticeable. Rosenthal was never more handsome than when he was going to kill.' Chilling. McCarthy's command of little-used words had me scrambling in the dictionary. I finally stopped looking up the words, just accepted them in the context of what surrounded them. I didn't want to slow down the action. Explanation of how cancers formed was easy to understand as long as your mind didn't stray while reading the words. Fascinating, but more than I needed to know or was able to absorb. The author is definitely erudite.

McCarthy understands the human psyche. That is evident in his descriptions both of the characters involved and of their actions. 'She was slightly overweight and she looked upset, two qualities that caused Rosenthal some amusement; fat, angry women always seemed to think themselves an irresistible force.' There are a number of typos in the novel. Not enough to cause you to give this thrilling story a pass. Just be forewarned. Disconcerting but not insurmountable. The climax is worth reading just for itself. Terror clutches the heart as the last scenes unveil. Written by a master. Don't - I repeat, DON'T - read the ending first. The dénouement needs to be worked up to, as you might start a memorable meal with an appetizer, and then continue to enjoy several courses before the grand finale.

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