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BURIED SILENCE by Susan Hemphill


Under the Big Sky

by Susan Hemphill

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 2023
ISBN: 9780997277715
Publisher: Self

A suspicious death prompts a former Wall Street broker to look more closely at her wealthy Montana community in Hemphill’s debut thriller.

Katherine Hawthorne isn’t like the other wives in Livingston. She’s a power broker now in early retirement and definitely not one of “the Dolls”—the “prized possessions” of rich, white-collar men. Even so, Katherine has made friends, and she’s understandably shaken when Stacey Olsen’s house suddenly explodes, with Stacey presumably inside. It doesn’t take long to surmise the explosion was no accident, and her death is considered a likely murder. Allegations of Stacey’s multiple affairs give quite a few of the community members potential motives. That’s an angle local sheriff Dan Bentley considers, though he quickly butts heads with Nick Conti, a private investigator and old friend whom one of the Dolls calls in. Katherine stumbles onto something else entirely, turning up a much more viable suspect for Stacey’s death. Hemphill deftly establishes this “über-rich community,” zeroing in on a handful of couples entangled in all sorts of shady stuff, including copious marital affairs. Katherine herself has noticeable flaws (“she rarely looked back at the fact that she was a facilitator of the liar loans that helped create the devastation of the American economy”), but this razor-sharp protagonist makes for a capable amateur investigator and ably drives the mystery plot. Much of the goings-on are delightfully soap-operatic and sometimes humorous. There’s a bit of violence and some frankly described sex acts, some of which are unnerving. While most readers will guess who the killer is, that won’t lessen the impact of the novel’s exhilarating latter half, in which Katherine finds herself up against a genuine menace. Everything builds to an unexpected turn (or two or three) and a memorable ending.

Melodrama among the privileged opens the door to a dark, gripping mystery.