The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart. (2021).
**4 out of 5 stars**
In 1960, 11 year old Joy lives in constant fear of her father. She tries to make him happy but he keeps reminding her she’s nothing but a filthy sinner destined for hell. Yet decades later she returns to the farm to nurse him on his death bed. She is surprised to find her perfect sister Ruth there, urging revenge. The day after their father confesses to a despicable crime, Joy finds him dead… For Senior Constable Alex, investigating this murder revives memories of an unsolved case from 1960: the disappearance of 9 year old Wendy. As seemingly impossible facts surface about Joy’s family – from the past and present – Alex suspects Joy is pulling him into an intricate web of lies and Wendy’s disappearance the key to the bizarre truth.
I really appreciate that the author has shined a light on a topic that we as a society often shy away from: family violence. And in particular, the cases where the perpetrator is commonly seen as a ‘good guy’ to everyone other than to his (or her) family who he (or she) is causing harm to. Of course, given the topic, the novel could be triggering or distressing for some readers. However it’s an important topic and I’d recommend this novel for reading. Through the use of three timelines (1940s, 1960s and 1980s), we experience how George charms Gwen into marriage and quickly exerts his control, onto him as a father being violent towards his children while Gwen is a broken woman hiding away, to when Joy is an adult and traumatised from her abusive father. It’s certainly a tension filled read, with the mystery of what exactly happened to little Wendy underlying the suspense.
I’d highly recommend this intense and dark novel.