Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Book Review: Sue Grafton's S is for Silence

Ok, I tried to comment, but it didn't work. I'm going to make the SPOILERS readable. If you have not read S is for Silence by Sue Grafton, do not read the purple text below.

I finished this a couple days ago and just didn't feel satisfied with the ending. Wanted to share a few of my observations. This will contain SPOILERS. I'm going to try the trick of turning the font color the same as the background color so if you want to read this, you'll have to highlight the text after the next paragraph.

I enjoyed the style of the book. The reader gets a bit more insight than Kinsey does. It was interesting to read what happened to several of the characters then see what they told Kinsey. Which led me to feel the end was rushed and that as a reader I was denied some critical information. So, writing this, I've gone back and double checked dates and things. I think I have a few things worked out.

Wed, July 1st Violet started her affair with Chet to get the car she wants. That evening she hooks up with Jake for what sounds like the first time. Tom's at the bar thinking about a counseling session he had with his wife back in april. Violet and Tom talk about how a woman should help a husband. Tom says he's not trying to get in her pants, because she'll leave him for some one else. Earlier, it was implied that he had a relationship with her before.

Thurs, July 2nd Chet told Violet he'd help her get the car. We found out Jake had been with Violet before - and at one point says he had not seen her since Sunday, was he so drunk Wed he did not remember? He dumps Violet stating she'd been pulling away for weeks. She's pissed. Tom discovers a bank account that belongs to his wife's deceased first husband that the wife doesn't know about. He also thinks he needs an additional quick influx of cash to make a bank payment Monday.

Fri, July 3rd Foley bought the car in the AM, then Violet dumped Chet that afternoon. When Jake got to the hospital that afternoon, his father-in-law was clutching a Bible and a pink sheet of notebook paper accusing him of having an affair with Violet. (on wed we learned Chet's daughter Kathy kept pink stationary that she saved for special occasion - was it really Kathy who tattled, did Violet steal some of the stationary when she was at the dealership, or did Violet also happen to have pink stationary?).

So at the end of the book we find out Tom bought the dog for Violet, and asked the lady to call if anyone should come asking about it. When did he ask her to call? when he bought the dog? Was he really planning something that far out?

So here's what I think: I don't think Tom and Violet had been lovers. When BW said to ask Tom what happens if you drive her home, I think Tom really drove her home and either tongues started wagging or Foley believed it meant they were lovers. I think Jake was way depressed and drunk Wednesday night and didn't remember it the next day and some one saw them and ratted out. Everyone heard about Violet's money. I think Tom wanted it, but wasn't sure how to get it, but cultivated a friendship with her to get in her head and learn how to work her. He bought the dog, again as a friend. By being Violet's friend instead of trying to get in her pants she trusted in him in way she hadn't trusted anyone before. When he received news of the bank account he became liberated from his need for his wife. A quiet conversation with Violet - you take your money and I have my own now, we can take off together, we don't need our spouses anymore... I think that could have lured her out, especially since Jake dropped her - she didn't have any ties.
So, after a couple hours of re-reading and taking careful time line notes, I've been able to construct a plausible motive and means for the murder of Violet. I don't like working this hard to read a book. I think a chapter at the end from either Tom's or Violet's point of view tying up loose ends would have made this a better read.

Ok, that's the end of my babbling about this book. I shall do my best to put it out of my mind.

23 comments:

  1. Goody! A book review! of one of my fave authors!! But did i miss something? i got lots of white space between paragraphs 2 and 3. gee...i'm hoping grafton holds out till zed! wonder what she's gonna use for that title? "Z is for Zapped? Z is for Zoned Out? no matter. I love her books, but the last one (not THIS one) I read seemed to be missing a spark or two. Eh?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much for writing this because I was a bit confused as to why Tom would end up the killer. You brought up a number of good points which makes sense now. However, I totally agree that one should not work this hard to figure out/understand why that character had to end up being the killer. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for posting your thoughts. I listened to the book on CDs, so it's too difficult to go back to "re-read" to look for specific passages. I agree that there should've been a nice summation at the end tying up the story. I thought that Chet was the murderer, being upset about being used by her to get the car. The quick rehiring of Winston, who had seen a car out where Chet liked to go, next to the burial site, seemed to all fit. Many thanks for taking the time to summarize your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've been searching online for "spoilers" for this book because I'm still confused. I like your time line and summary, and I guess I can see why Tom would buy the dog for Violet now that I read this (to create a friendship). I have to say that as soon as I read the chapter where Tom realizes he needs a large influx of cash, I figured he'd end up being the killer, so the motive worked for me. What I'm still puzzled about, though, is how Kinsey would have put together that the man who bought the dog was also the killer? Why would she think that? It baffles me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I had a similar problem understanding why it was Tom who killed Violet. There was so much going on in the book and Tom was presented so early on that by the end of the story I could not understand why he would have done it. Perhaps Sue could have added a few lines about the motive while she was being pursued by Tom at the end of the story - to help us poor unfortunate readers with short term memory loss.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Who is Phillip? Towards the end, after Kathy admits telling about Liza's relationship with Ty, Liza says she told Winston about Phillip. I have a Nook so I did a search on Phillip and found only that reference. What did I miss?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I assumed Phillip was a guy that present day Kathy was having an affair with, but that's just a total guess on my part.

      Delete
  7. The ending confussed me....I thought it was Kathy who had killed her because she found out about her father. Also, what puzzeled me was why was Violet wrapped in the curtain? Did Tom hear Foley and Violet arguing? or did he just fallow Violet home? the author should of explained the connection at the end. I was really disappointed with the ending.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This was the first Sue Grafton book that I've read, and I feel like I've wasted all the time I spent reading, because it felt unfinished. It's not like it was a piece of profound literature meant to leave you questioning ethical or moral dilemmas, it was a who-done-it book, and why bother reading a who-done-it if the loose ends are left dangling in the wind. I was reading for fun, not to formulate my on opinions to write an essay for a criminology class. I did like Grafton's writing style, but if she can't bother to finish her stories, then I won't bother to wast anymore time by reading the rest of her books. :'(

    ReplyDelete
  9. I enjoy Sue G's books, but with this book I was so happy I found your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I started at A for Alibi and am currently reading K for Killer. I thought, and was hoping (hey, A-Z, 26 detective-type novels, my favourite genre) that I was sorted for bedtime reading for the next year or so, but sadly it appears that this is not to be. In all the books there are pages of unnecessarily descriptive mish-mosh that totally distracts from the story that is sloooowly unfolding. Kinsey comes across as a sad wannabe who only gets through her trials & tribulations due to the indulgences of the friends she seems to have acquired, despite being a self-confessed loner... Oh and when she does have sex, it's with a totally awesome guy. Totally believable, after you've been told that she cuts her own hair with a nail scissors and only has one dress which is usually kept bundled up in the back of her VW Beetle.

    I would love to see her character develop (hey, I'm up to K for Killer) but so far I haven't seen any development to speak of... After 10 books... Hey Kinsey fans, should I continue past Killer or should I just quit and never admit to reading a Kinsey Millhone story?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My post above - I didn't want to be Unknown'... My name is George

      Delete
    2. I'd quit. Also the fact that she's stuck in the 1980's makes a lot of this irrelevant. No cell phone, carrying around her typewriter, no DNA. She needs to be aged up. And needs therapy to get over her family issues. Her most significant relationship is with a man 50 years older that she is. I'm just waiting for Z to wrap it up but that's years off. Go to Stephanie Plum for some light reading. Janet Evanovich.

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    4. I'm on P for Peril now. All a bit predictable sadly.

      Delete
  12. Thanks for the suggestion of Janet Evanovich... Will check that out

    ReplyDelete
  13. I just finished S is for Silence and was confused about the ending. So, I want to thank you for your blog - you helped a lot with the timeline. I really like Sue Grafton's books, but this one I was disappointed about the ending - it was unclear why Tom killed Violet. And why the lace curtians??? I have so many more questions! Thanks again :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I tried to go back on the CDs and figure some of this out too. I thought it was great up until the last disc and then it became very confusing. She wrote it, so she knows who the killer was and why. We readers/listeners needed a little more from the ending!

    ReplyDelete
  15. The whole thing about the dog was crazy. The entire ending made no sense to me. I saw that Grafton wrote on her FB page that even people who are rich think they need more money, but personally, I don't think they'd kill for it if they already have enough. Also, how was Tom going to cash the check made out to Cora's dead husband? Someone would have clued in about that eventually, and he would have been in prison for fraud. This is the first book by SG that I think was not plotted out correctly. Shame on the editor and proofreader for not pointing out these obvious flaws.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I've been reading all the Kinsey books, starting about 6 months ago, and just finished S is For Silence. I agree with the previous posters that this book was confusing and didn't have a good conclusion. There were so many characters that when the killer was revealed, I honestly couldn't even remember who he was and what his relationship to Violet had been. Then, when I figured out who he was, I couldn't figure out WHY he would kill Violet. Thanks for the timeline but it still doesn't make much sense to me. Also, although the flashbacks were well-written and intriguing, I didn't think they belonged in a Kinsey book. I really hope this book isn't a harbinger of what is to come in the later books.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I enjoyed reading the comments on this site as I feel much the same way as other readers. Having read all her books I was not surprised at the abrupt ending but thought the epilogue would tie up loose ends. Thinking about the killer, his "motive" and the murder it made little sense that Tom would start digging a hole days prior, and why did he do so after arranging to cash in on his wife's first husband's account? Tom's desire to get Violet's money did not warrant the brutal way she was killed. The clues about the curtains and the person who purchased the dog made no sense either. Why would an elderly women remember to call Tom after 34 years to alert him about someone asking about the dog? Up until the end I enjoyed the book but was very frustrated with the abrupt ending. While I love reading Grafton's books the conclusion of this one made little sense.

    ReplyDelete
  18. In reference to the dog Tom gave to Violet, that could have easily been explained as a gift to make up for the death of her first dog. Tom seemed to be the only one of the male suspects who did not have an affair with Violet. The violent manner in which she was killed suggests someone very angry not a man who simply needed extra cash to pay off a loan. Sadly Ms. Grafton missed the mark on this one!

    ReplyDelete