When it comes to psychological thrillers, there is nothing more terrifying than a plausible premise. After all, it’s one thing to read about someone befalling a dire set of circumstances, but it’s another level entirely when readers begin to see themselves on the page. Case in point: Ulla Håkanson’s THE PRICE OF SILENCE. The story opens in British Columbia, where Amy Robinson has joined her cousin Willa for a kayaking trip. Determined to put her complicated past behind her, Amy fully embraces the change of scenery and soon finds herself surrounded by a new group of friends (including an officer named Ben). For once, everything seems to be going her way, that is until Amy’s ex-fiance (Tyler) suddenly shows up. Embittered by their recent breakup, Tyler is in all sorts of trouble and needs cash. Still, Amy has been down this road before and promptly refuses to help him. Undeterred, Tyler refuses to take no for an answer, and Amy soon finds herself slipping back into the life she desperately wants to leave behind. To make matters worse, she’s falling for Ben. Seemingly trapped in a ‘no-win’ situation, the last thing Amy wants is for someone else to get tangled up in Tyler’s web. Unfortunately, that ‘someone else’ just might be the only person who can save her.
THE PRICE OF SILENCE works on so many levels, primarily due to Håkanson’s skilled writing. From the nuanced characters to her hyper-descriptive prose, every aspect of Håkanson’s novel aids in establishing and sustaining tension. Of course, at the center of it all is Amy Robinson. An ex-boyfriend-turned-stalker is hardly new ground, but despite her somewhat ‘tropey’ circumstances, Håkanson’s protagonist is anything but a dimwitted damsel-in-distress. Self-reliant to a fault, Amy was a successful business owner before Tyler came along. And while he initially operated on his best behavior, Amy wasted little time severing ties once his criminal past came to light. Amy’s independence is a small but crucial point distinguishing THE PRICE OF SILENCE from other run-of-the-mill thrillers. As for the ‘crazy-ex,’ while Tyler initially feels paper-thin, he ultimately becomes a deceivingly complex character. From the shrouded motivations to his unwavering resolve, Tyler is a constant source of unease.
The ominous tone and ever-present fear make the romantic subplot between Amy and Ben all the more impressive. Again, a new love interest (who just so happens to be a detective) would probably feel a bit ‘too’ convenient if the simmering romance weren’t so well written. The same could be said for the surprisingly restrained manner in which Håkanson explores Tyler’s drug use. Rather than paint her antagonist as a ‘druggie’ caricature, Håkanson tethers Tyler’s violent extremes to his unchecked addiction. Håkanson even finds a way to weave her Swedish heritage into the narrative, further setting THE PRICE OF SILENCE from the fray.
A taut, psychological thriller masquerading as a chick-lit page-turner, Ulla Håkanson’s THE PRICE OF SILENCE is an impressive debut that works on every level.
~James Weiskittel for IndieReader