The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe

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The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Don't be put off by the slow build-up to the pivot point of this heart wrenching story. A crime story that isn't about solving the problem, we know who the perpetrator is, it's all about the impact. The ripples in affected lives. It's about humanity, in its best sense.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: May 2017
Publisher: Constable
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472118011

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I'm always wary of author endorsements, even those from people I rate as writers, but the harrowing and humane quote from Ian Rankin on the front cover of The Silence Between Breaths does not overstate the case. This is an extremely powerful book.

It is also very finely judged. Staincliffe has allowed herself the risk of an incredibly slow build up to the action. The whole point is – it seems to say – these are ordinary people. This could be you, or me, or our family or friends. Any of these people could be someone we know, all living their little lives full of ordinary every-day humour and histrionics, pettiness and forgiveness, normal stuff. Except for the one who is not (by my tenets) normal…the one intending to bring normality to an end. The point is, however, that even that one could be someone we know, someone we love.

The 10:35 train leaves Manchester heading for London. Our focus is narrowed to the passengers in one particular carriage. One nearly missed the train, one is on it because they missed a previous one, a few would really rather not be on it at all.

Holly is starting her dream job and is excited, bubbly, talkative. Jeff has got an apprenticeship interview and is nervous, geeky. Naz is the dreamer, happily doing his train presentation job but planning his restaurant chain. Nick is off to a family wedding he'd rather not be at and the children are grizzling. Meg and Diana are getting on in years, an old partnership showing the cracks of age, but they're still up for a walking holiday, after which…well, maybe after which, some secrets might be shared. If a way to tell them can be found. Caroline is fending the repeat and repetitive calls that clearly show her mother's deteriorating condition, while her daughter is A.W.O.L. from school. Again. Rhona's travelling on business and caught up in a power play she's got absolutely no time for, not with little Maisie at home left at school, though not feeling well.

Then there's Saheel, with his hoodie in the heat and his rucksack…

Back home his thirteen year old sister is trying to finish a school art project, but her laptop has died – surely one of her brothers can help her out here. Only neither of them are picking up the phone. Life just isn't fair. Nearly half of the book is pen portraits of these characters, sketches of their lives, as revealed through their conversations and quick glimpses inside their heads, making sure we understand them as individuals, capturing their mundane and not so mundane realities. It is skilfully done. Then one of the passengers has a suspicion…and the unthinkable happens.

The rest of the book deals with the aftermath…the immediate and the following year. That's when you realise why all of that build up was necessary. That's when you realise just how much you have been made to care about all of these people…the ones who don't survive, and the ones who do, but also the relatives, the ones who were nowhere near the 10:35.

Wrenchingly brilliant.

For more emotional engagement from this writer with a very different approach to the crime genre we can recommend Split Second or Missing, both by Cath Staincliffe.

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Buy The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe at


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