Twenty-eight year old Katrina Jaitley is rebuilding her life after escaping an abusive boyfriend. The last thing she needs is the mystery she stumbles on during a bout of retail therapy. But she can’t ignore the coil of film — a piece of movie history — she finds hidden inside her purchase. Unfortunately, Peter, the handsome host of the estate sale, disappears before Kat has a chance to return it to him.
Curious, Kat watches the strip and is shocked to witness the brutal murder of a famous 1920’s silent film star by a fellow actor. When a news article cites Kat as the film’s owner, her already complicated life goes from bad to worse. Someone is stalking her. Are they trying to silence her or what she has discovered?
I was definitely surprised by ‘The Silent Treatment’ – it’s one of those books where the synopsis made me expect something hugely different to the finished product. Because it mentioned Kat being stalked and a brutal murder, I was expecting something a bit more adult in content, but it feels much more like a new adult story than a murder mystery novel.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though! As a new adult book ‘The Silent Treatment’ excels. Kat has just finished her relationship with her abusive ex, Jeremy, and has moved back home. This means that a lot of the novel is focused on her finding herself again and recreating an equilibrium with her family, as they had been extremely disappointed with her when she moved away in the first place. She’s just found a new job – the graveyard shift at a call centre – and is hating how her life has turned out, feeling uncomfortable in her new apartment and jumping at every noise in the night in case Jeremy has come to find her. There are very psychological aspects to the novel and Melanie does a very good job of making it easy to empathise with Kat; she is a very lovable character and it’s horrendous to see her so beaten down and broken because of the actions of a horrible person.
Similarly, I really cared for Peter’s character as well. We meet Peter at the estate sale at his grandmother’s house, as he’s needed to move her into a care home for her own well-being. He struggles with this decision, and other decisions from his family’s past, but it’s obvious how much he cares for the people closest to him – and to what extremes he will go to for them. Peter has a very troubled past which is also well written; his father was abusive to him, so him and Kat bond over their shared experiences of domestic abuse, and it’s inspirational to see two characters who have been through hell both recovering strongly.
However, other than the extremely strong characterisation, the novel was a little bit disappointing. I hate myself for saying that, but I have to be truthful. I’d been expecting an extremely exciting murder mystery novel: with an unknown murder victim or an unknown assailant, the hunt to discover the truth and the struggle to regain contact with the mysterious Peter following his disappearance. None of these things happened, so it did feel like the book fell flat compared to my expectations – I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I did have preconceptions and I hadn’t read the blurb.
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this book! It’s just that I didn’t fall in love with it as I had been expecting to. As a realistic portrayal of human emotions, it’s brilliant. As an ode to silent film, it definitely does its job – I’ve never been interested in the genre before, but now I have the overwhelming desire to research it further and watch some examples of the style. As an expose on the different types of conspiracy theories it’s brilliant: the murder of one silent film star, on camera, by one of his colleagues is reminiscent of ‘The Crow’, and events like this in history always grab imaginations. But as a mystery novel, it doesn’t do the job – there’s no question of who the perpetrator is, there’s no real cliffhangers or brain teasers, it just keeps a steady pace and unravels steadily, coming to a perfectly wrapped up conclusion.
There is a lot more I could say if I could go into details, but I’m trying to keep this spoiler free! Just know that this is a brilliantly crafted novel – I love Melanie’s writing, and she gives her characters very strong and individual voices, so the personalities are gripping and involving. I think this is much more of a piece of literature compared to a plot-based novel, so if you’re looking for a quick developing and hooking book this might not be the one for you – but if you are patient I think you’ll really enjoy this one by the end.
If you’re interested in getting ‘The Silent Treatment’, you can purchase it on Amazon UK and Amazon US now.
Now, I’d like to properly welcome Melanie to my blog, and pass it over to her to let her talk about her love of silent film and the inspiration behind her novel.
The image most of us think about when someone mentions silent movies has a lot to do with railroad tracks and mustache-twirling villains. That’s exactly what I thought when my mom sat a groaning tween me in front of the TV, put in a cassette of Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman”, and said, “Watch this. It’s funny.”
Initially, I was stunned at how much the characters looked like ordinary people (with a lot of makeup on). They weren’t too fast or being tied with rope – I thought “Wow, that’s what the twenties look like!” And then I got caught up in the absurd story. Yeah, it was funny, and it also opened a door for me.
Some twenty years later, I’ve taken the love for the genre and given it to one of my characters. In my book The Silent Treatment, Katrina Jaitley finds a reel of presumed-lost film at an estate sale. Upon watching said film, she discovers it had been hidden for nearly eighty years for a damn good reason. Spoiler alert: it’s murder. The director himself set out to destroy the film himself immediately after filming and just before scrapping the movie altogether. But someone saved it.
The idea of finding a lost film is nothing I made up. Unfortunately, because the technology to replay a film at home wasn’t around in the first half of the century when silent movies were the norm, many early films were intentionally destroyed to make room for new ones, or improperly stored, which caused them to deteriorate beyond repair.
Every now and then, one is found. Metropolis was one (existed for decades in truncated form – recently all the missing pieces were put together). The Cameraman, the first silent movie I ever saw, was another. And one of my very favourites: The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Silent movies, like modern ones, came in all genres, from nearly every country. Watching a silent movie is almost like reading a book (maybe because there’s reading involved) – you have to pay attention, and it gets to you. The stiff acting takes getting used to, but once you suspend your disbelief, they’re a fantastic escape.
Before reading ‘The Silent Treatment’, I knew literally nothing about silent film, so I’d like to say a huge thank you to Melanie for educating me on such an under-appreciated art form. I’d never heard of ‘The Cameraman’ or ‘Metropolis’, but I’m going to look into more about them because the stories behind them intrigue me completely – the fact that they’ve been lost and found again is so lucky.
I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Booktrope, for inviting me to take part in this book tour! This was a very different read for me, but I had a lot of fun exploring an area I’d never experienced before.