Ears Not Required: Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

Originally posted October 2017

It’s almost Halloween — let me see if I can scare you.

Imagine you’re on a wooded trail. It’s pitch black outside. It’s freezing. There’s half a foot of snow on the ground.

And there’s a guy that wants to kill you chasing after you. Oh, and he’s immobilized your service dog.

Did I forget to mention you are deaf?

Amelia Winn is working a mystery with four senses instead of five in author Heather Gudenkauf’s latest, “Not A Sound.” Gudenkauf has long been a favorite of mine, since her debut with “Weight of Silence.” I compared her before to an improved upon Jodi Picoult — someone that can create a compelling narrative without resorting to *the* twist that is certain to piss off a large majority of readers.

This time around, I’d liken her read to something similar to a Mary Kubica story. “Not A Sound” is instantly engaging and will keep most readers guessing back and forth between several characters when it comes to the “Whodunit?” aspect of her tale.

Gudenkauf sticks to her Iowan roots, placing Amelia and her cast of supporting characters in Five Mines, a river town in eastern Iowa. Amelia is down her luck — a once respected ER nurse-turned-alcoholic, that is on a road to recovery and trying hard to make the best of her circumstances after an unsolved hit-and-run robs her of her hearing. The prospect of a new job is on the top of her to-do list one sunny cold October morning — if only a dead body floating in the river hadn’t gotten in her way.

So who killed Gwen Locke? Is it Amelia’s soon-to-be ex-husband David? Her maybe-he’s-obnoxious-maybe-he’s-not neighbor Evan? Her hubba-hubba-hubba cop buddy Jake? The town odd body, Peter McNaughton? Amelia is not one to wait around for answers and spends the book sleuthing, only to find herself confronting the killer in an epic midnight chase through the woods.

What makes “Not A Sound” particularly engaging is that like any good story, readers can relate. And since most of us aren’t deaf and trying to make it through the freezing night running down dark trails, we find ourselves rooting for Amelia because she’s human. She’s faced adversity and withered first before making a comeback. She’s made mistakes. She’s embarrassed herself. And now, she’s just trying to get back on track.

Like any mystery, there are always a few loose ends that authors need to brush aside or ignore altogether for the sake of story progression, and this is no exception. I’d spoil the ending if I named them here, but honestly they’re not really that distracting.

If you are looking for a quick read to keep you company on a plane, over the weekend or on the sidelines of a kid’s hockey game, this is a great choice.

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