A(nother) Year of Orenda – The Quiet People by Paul Cleave

Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on the brand new thriller from Paul Cleave and Orenda Books, The Quiet People. I’d heard nothing ut brilliant reviews of the book and had been looking forward to tucking in. My thanks to publisher Orenda Books for the early copy for review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite to join in. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: Ebook 25 September 2021
Paperback: 25 November 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books

About the Book

Suspicion is cast on two successful crime writers, when their seven-year-old son goes missing. Are they trying to show that they can commit the perfect crime? A mesmerisingly twisty, dark thriller from number-one bestselling author Paul Cleave…

Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful New Zealand crime writers, happily married and topping bestseller lists worldwide. They have been on the promotional circuit for years, joking that no one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living.

So when their challenging seven-year-old son Zach disappears, the police and the public naturally wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time…

Are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime?

Electrifying, taut and immaculately plotted, The Quiet People is a chilling, tantalisingly twisty thriller that will keep you gripped and guessing to the last explosive page.

My Thoughts

I’ve been sat here starting at a blank computer screen for about fifteen minutes. Why? Because I don’t know where to start on this review. How to do it justice and to convey just how much fun it was to read. Well, from the perspective of a crime fiction lover at least. The subject matter is less fun, obviously.

I liked this book. A lot. Really liked it. Loved the mystery, the misdirection, the suspicion and the suspense. I even liked the characters, Cameron and Lisa, even if there was a very real chance that they may have been involved in the disappearance of their son. From the very beginning of the book this was a story that captured my attention, one hundred percent, and one I knew I would literally race through. And I did. There was just something absolutely compelling about the story that kept me turning the page way past the point at which I should have been asleep, and hoovering up the remaining chapters as soon as I could break free from work the very next day.

The opening scenes from this book are equal parts disturbing and shocking. They really set the scene for what is to come, but also put me into a bit of tailspin before the story really began. Did we, as readers, know more than the protagonists about how this story was going to end? Well, to a degree, yes. Did it ruin the suspense? Not for a minute. If anything it heightened it and it pushed the sense of jeopardy way, way up. This is the story of Cameron and Lisa Murdoch, two well known authors who find themselves at the centre of suspicion when their young son, Zach, disappears in the night. Police suspect foul play, with very good cause. And who could have better insight into the potential ways to rid themselves of a child they admit can be difficult, than two crime fiction writers. Afterall, they’ve already stated publicly how easily they could get away with murder …

The story is told largely from the point of view of Cameron Murdoch, a mechanism that works really well. He is a father at the end of his tether, prone to emotional outbursts that serve to make him look guilty, even if he may not be. It puts most of the other characters at a distance and pulls readers right into the heart of the action. It also made me completely invested in the story as I found Cameron an easy character to be around and to trust, in spite of the overwhelming evidence against him. Paul Cleave has really captured that terror, emotion and the anger that battle within Cameron, making me feel the anger on his behalf at perceived injustices, of which there are many, and the sadness of what must surely come to pass. At one step removed it made it harder to connect to Lisa, but there was no doubting the portrayal of her emotion or her reaction and distrust towards her husband, which adds conflict to an already tense situation.

The other key character in this novel is Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent, one of the main officers investigating Zach’s disappearance. There is a strained relationship between her and Cameron, twisted by the evidence put before her, but ultimately driven by a kind of understanding that is hard to convey but brilliantly portrayed. Her part of the story is told in third person, allowing a much more holistic view of the investigation but still making readers privy to her thoughts. I like Rebecca, felt her weariness and tension grow, and liked the way she worked. There is a focus to her mindset, but she is far more reticent when it comes to some of the more direct accusations against the parents and about the actions taken by her fellow officers.

One of the brilliantly observed aspects of this story is they way in which the media, and social media, can be used to sway the opinions of the public in a case that has such a high profile as this one. With two people very much in the public eye, there is a swell of support, but a greater appearance of those demanding justice for Zach, stirring up trouble and hatred and turning even the most innocent of situations on its head, giving it a very negative spin. Maybe as a reader I was biased, being present as some of the scenes played out. The author does a canny job of ensuring we are firmly on Cameron’s side from the start, making this very much a case of divided loyalties, much in the way the remote viewing public will judge the innocent and guilt of the alleged perpetrators of crime we see from TV, based only on our own conscious and unconscious bias. I liked Cameron, I knew what had ‘really happened’, and therefore believed in his innocence. But was I right to? Certainly there are many seeds of doubt planted throughout the story, certain situations that play out, which would have even the most ardent supporter second guessing their loyalties.

Fast paced and entirely gripping, this is a book which was both the perfect length and also over too quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed it, the rollercoaster ride of thrills, shocks and emotion that the author took us through. A sense of both justice and injustice playing out with each and every page turn. I do think Paul Cleave is a cruel, cruel man putting his protagonist through unrelenting turmoil and agonising, morally challenging decisions, but with top notch characterisations and a really true to life sense of time and place, it’s definitely a recommended read.

And so maybe it’s a red hot one too …

So yes. I struggled to start the review, but in truth, it’s also hard to stop. So much I could say, so much I want to say. But the only comment that matters is this. Just read it. You won’t be disappointed. Frankly, I can’t wait for more.

About the Author

Paul is an award winning author who often divides his time between his home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where most of his novels are set, and Europe. He’s won the New Zealand Ngaio Marsh Award three times, the Saint-Maur book festival’s crime novel of the year award in France, and has been shortlisted for the Edgar and the Barry in the US and the Ned Kelly in Australia. HIs books have been translated into over twenty languages. He’s thrown his Frisbee in over forty countries, plays tennis badly, golf even worse, and has two cats – which is often two too many.

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Books by Paul Cleave

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