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Review: Silent Key - Laurel Hightower

Genre: Horror Published: Flame Tree Press, October 2023 My Rating: 3/5 stars

"Death is the one thing secret keepers can't plan for, or at least, most of them don't. Maybe like many of us they feel immortal until they're not. Or maybe since they now they won't be there to face the consequences, they don't bother to put the effort in."

A young mother finds herself tangled in a web of grief and supernatural mysteries in this detective-horror-hybrid novel by Laurel Hightower.

After the loss of her husband under mysterious circumstances, former Detective Cam Ambrose learns how little she truly knew him. Reeling with the grief of her loss and the realization that the man she loved was a stranger, she must learn how to keep her young daughter safe from a world of the supernatural she never knew existed. With the help of her best friend Dimi and reclusive neighbor Eric Morgan, she sets out to solve a decades-old mystery entangling the machinations of an obsessed killer, her husband’s mistress, and a series of deadly hauntings.

I had admittedly high expectations for this novel based off the author’s previous work. Last year, I read Crossroads by her, a novella that blew me away with its visceral depiction of a mothers grief over her son, and the desperate lengths she would go through to be reunited with him against all costs. It’s one of the best examples of “the true horror of grief” captured on page in a novel, and for me stands toe-to-toe with the likes of Pet Sematary. I was hoping to find that same level of emotional connection and depth of character in Cam, especially since she gets quite a bit more page-time for development than her novella-counterpart in Crossroads. Unfortunately, I never clicked- or became truly invested in Cam. Where Crossroads felt like a more intimate character-piece, Silent Key focusses more on the plot and mystery, which for me took away from the authors true strength. The mystery itself was intriguing enough to keep me going, but due to the more detached and distant writing-style, I was never completely immersed or invested.

A minor gripe that bothered me more than I’d like to admit has to do with the books cover. The combination of the cover, title and some of the marketing (comparisons to The Deep!) had me believe this would have a strong element of underwater-horror. Through my reading-experience I kept excitedly waiting for it to show up and was disappointed to see it only happening in the very final chapters. Literally around the 90% mark is when the cover-scene becomes relevant. If, like me, the underwater-horror-element was a big selling point for you: know it only comes into play at the very end.

Many thanks to Flame Tree Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Silent Key is set for release on October 10th. You can find it here on Goodreads.


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