The faint sound of the approaching engine grew steadily louder until it drowned out the fierce pounding of my heart. I had to time my move carefully so I could jump on to the moving ladder and hold on. Closer to the station would be slower and easier, but too close and they’d see me. Too far back and the speed would wrench my hand from the railing and knock me down. I would only get one chance.
The train roared in, brackets squealing as it neared the station. Closer and closer. The moment the engine passed me, blocking me from the sight of anyone standing on the platform, I came out from the steel barrels and started running. The noise was deafening. Wheels screeched against the track, cylinders pounded, steam hissed. The brass bell clanged to signal arrival.
There was no time to think at the very real danger to losing my balance and falling under the wheels. A ladder on a passenger car went by, but I had to let it go. Too fast. The second car could be my last chance – I couldn’t count on there being a third passenger car – so I threw myself on to its ladder, left foot and left hand at the same time. The speed nearly tore my arm from its socket and the whiplash slammed my head against the side of the car, but I reached for the other railing with my right hand and, dazed, pulled myself up the steps. The brackets hissed in protest and moved slower with every second. The acrid odor of the stream cloud engulfed me. On my knees, then on my feet, I climbed the steps and wedged myself into the vestibule between the two cars.
Renting Silence by Mary Maley is part of an ongoing mystery series set during the Hollywood silent era. This is the first novel I read in the series (though it’s actually the third in the chronology) and I have to admit, I have contrasting feelings about it.
I really liked the setting, especially when it came to the central part, all set in the vaudeville world. It’s apparent that the author did lots of the research, and she depicts a vivid world, where real people live real situations.
Instead, I’m not sure how I feel about the author using so many real-life people in the story, all related in some way to the main character. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Bob Hope, Myrna Loy and others, all find a place in the life of this one character. I’m not particularly keen on the fictional use of real historical people in general, and when they crowd like this…
I’m also particularly wary about some social attitudes: in some instances, these characters sounded and acted too modern for the period (in my opinion).
The mystery is good. I think it was clever, one of the best I’ve read lately. That really sounded grounded in the time and place, and I liked this. I’m less fond of the way the investigation was conducted. There are places where the getting of information is a bit forced – others when it’s so natural you barely realised you’re given a clue (I love this!). But there are events which are entirely disconnected with the mystery, but still get in the way. That really bothered me. In particular, the very long closing episode where, just before the reveal of the mystery, you get several chapters of a train robbery which has zero connection to the main plot.
All in all, I liked the book. It’s easy to read, the characters are easy to love, the mystery is clever. Not an unconditional love, but sure a lot of enjoyment.
In post is part of the Thursday Quotables mem. If you want to discover more about this meme and maybe take part in it, head over to Bookshelf Fantasies