The Slave of Silence

The Slave of SilenceThe Slave of Silence by Frederick Merrick White
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At the outset, this seemed like this would be quite an interesting story; a self-betrothed woman marrying a repulsive-albeit rich man in order to save her father from disgrace and ruin. The psychologial impact of such an arrangement on a woman would have been a fascinating study, if not abhorrently depressing. It looked to be a microcosm of how women of a certain class in England were treated around the turn of the century, likely not wholly different from the way American women of the same class were treated. That’s not what the story was about at all.

The betrothed Beatrice, resigned to her doom, made no secret, either to her father or her future husband, that this was not the life she would have chosen for herself. In fact, she already had her man picked out, but he was in no position to extract her father from the financial peril he had embroiled himself in, so she was ready to allow herself to mauled by the slovenly Richford all for her father’s sake, who seemed to have no empathy for her at all. But, as fate would have it…

Dad never showed up for the attenuated wedding, cut short by Beatrice’s boyfriend, who crashed the horrific party with the news that her father was dead. That’s where the story took a side road, and if there ever was going to be an in depth study of Beatrice, it ended there. Her commitment to Richford ended at that moment, and the cloak and dagger mystery that is this story began at the same moment.

I won’t give away the rest of the story, which wasn’t bad, as far as turn of the century detective fare goes. But, there are always a few things that just don’t add up in most of those kinds of stories, Arthur Conan Doyle being an exception to the rule, that bear some scrutiny.

Mark, Beatrice’s boyfriend was attenting some theatre in France, and just happened to be seated near the mysterious gray lady who was talking about…Beatrice! What are the odds?

Then there was Detective Field and Berrington having snuck into an occupied home, engaging in a full blown conversation while the other occupants neither heard or suspected a thing. In fact, even after the home owner found out that the two had broken in, made no attempt to find out how, or even to bother securing the premises from further breaches. Given the shenanigans going on there, you would have thought that that would be the first order of business. And, given the electrical marvels that were installed, you might have thought there would have been some kind of alarm system as well. In fact, there was no security at all. Due to that same lack of security, Berrington was able to Morse code information to the outside world after he had become prisoner in that house.

Then there was the old wig and glasses disguise stunt. Seemed to work every time in those days. It worked here as well.

There was also a part of the story, that frankly, could have been left out. Detective Field went to see a witness that figured into the case, an actress that was playing at the local theater. Well, the theater caught fire, and in the panic to get out, the crowd was stampeding towards the exits. Field threatened to kick ass on anyone who didn’t leave in an orderly manner. Yes, and entire theater full of panicked people! And apparently, they obeyed! We never found out what happened to the theater, or what the cause of the fire was. As I said, a part of the story the could have been left out.

Overall though, not a bad story. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and that was disappointing. Since this was written by a man, I should have known that he couldn’t have an inkling as to the thought process of a woman doomed to be married to someone she despised. I was hoping for Jane Austen, and I got Fred White.

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