The Daughter of Silence is not golden

Daughter of Silence opens with Anna Albertini shooting the mayor of San Stefano to death at noon before turning herself in to police.

There’s no doubt Anna is guilty of murder. The only question is whether mitigating circumstances should be considered in her sentencing.

In a plot reminiscent of Robert L. Traver’s Anatomy of a Murder, Morris L. West follows Anna’s defense team as they probe for soft spots in the law.

Carlo Rienzi is the handsome defense attorney hoping to make his name with the case, Peter Landon the equally handsome forensic psychiatrist hoping to boost his career with the case.

The courtroom drama is offset by bedroom drama in the small San Stefano community. Carlo is jealous of his unfaithful wife. Both Carlo and Valeria resent her father, in whose law firm Carlo works. Ascolini is a great man to his law students, a nasty piece of work to his family.

Landon, meanwhile, has fallen for artist Ninette Lachaise who once had an affair with Valeria’s current lover.

The novel’s ending is predictable. The characters, while fascinating, are people you’d just as soon forget.

The real mystery in Daughter of Silence is why somebody didn’t murder all the characters: it wasn’t for lack of motive.

Daughter of Silence
By Morris L. West
William Morrow, 1961
275 pages
1961 bestseller # 8
My Grade: B-

© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

All This, and Heaven Too: 1847 Scandal Makes Sensational Novel

As a child, Rachel Field was curious about her great aunt, Henriette Desportes, whose tombstone told the date of her death but nothing of her life. In All This, and Heaven Too, Field fleshes out the facts she later learned with details she imagined.

After eight years in England, Henriette returns to her native Paris as governess to the children of the Duc and Duchesse de Praslin. The Duc is a handsome, unhappily married man. The Duchesse is a nut case.

When gossip links her name with the Duc’s, Henriette is sacked without a reference. Later the Duchesse is found brutally murdered, the Duc is accused of the murder. He commits suicide. Henriette stands trial. Defending herself, she wins acquittal.

Afterward, Henriette meets and marries a American minister, Henry Field, through whom she comes in contact with the most important figures of Civil War era America.

Field makes Henriette come alive in her warts-and-all imagining of the story. The tale loses steam after trial, so the latter chapters are less exciting than the early section.

By the time readers get to the end of the book, they may have forgotten the lesson of Henriette’s life: pride in one’s virtue can be deadly.

All This, and Heaven Too
By Rachel Field
Macmillan, 1938
594 pages
# 6 on the 1938 bestseller list
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni