James and Nicky are a happily married couple, no kids, new big fancy house, everything seemingly idyllic between them. Until the day that James receives a call on his mobile: “Jamie .... It's me!”. The only woman who has ever called him Jamie was Lily Murthington. When James was a young boy his father was killed in a car accident and his mother worked overseas, eventually remarrying. James was bundled off to boarding school where he met Carlo Murthington. Carlo had a younger sister, Felicity and a stepmother – Lily. James spent a lot of school holidays with the Murthington family, but he hasn't heard from any of them, including Carlo, for over 20 years. Lily is dying and she needs to see him urgently. Along with the shock of visiting the dying Lily, she tells Jamie that the affair they had when he was sixteen, had produced a daughter that she never told him about and that daughter – Kate – needs his help. Kate is pregnant and she thinks she might be suspected of murdering Sean, the baby's father.
The return of a dying Lily to his life and Kate's emergency befuddles James and he can't process this sudden upheaval and does not want to get involved. Kate follows him home however, confronting him. She needs his help to hide, she says she didn't kill Sean, but Carlo did and Carlo is now after her. James finds himself woven into more and more craziness as Nicky hears that he has been seen with a young attractive women and leaps to the conclusion that James is having an affair. Kate disappears, Nicky disappears, Lily gets more gravely ill, Carlo re-appears, Sean's body can't be found, Sean's wife appears with two small children and the past re-emerges. Whilst his current life just seems to lurch from one bizarre situation to another, James remembers that past and what got him to this point – his lonely childhood; the friendship of the Murthington's; his attraction to Lily as he grows from a small boy to a teenager; the tensions in the Murthingon family, Carlo and his sister.
A STAIN ON THE SILENCE moves rapidly, through an increasingly bewildering series of events. It seems that there are connections between everything and everybody, past and present. It's also apparent that more than one person isn't telling the truth. Really there is nobody much in the entire book that you could like much and you certainly don't feel that you can trust anybody. James is increasingly dragged back into the Murthington's lives where there is a boiling and bubbling resentment and hatred amongst them all. There's an overwhelming feeling of manipulation and sheer nastiness in a lot of these characters, in fact it's one of those books where you struggle to find anybody that you could say you like much. Interesting people sure, but not exactly likeable.
The prose and style of the book is very engaging. It's a real mark of a good author who can present you with a story that's full of the bleakness of human cruelty, nastiness and treachery and keep you reading.