Review: “Silenced,” Nicole Givens Kurtz

Pros: Interesting worldbuilding
Cons: Rough writing; needs another edit
Rating: 3 out of 5

Nicole Givens Kurtz’s Silenced: A Cybil Lewis Novel (Cybil Lewis Mysteries) introduces us to Cybil Lewis, “private inspector and all around snoop”. This story takes place in the not-too-distant future. There are flying cars (“wautos”), laser guns, and moon colonies. The US has been divvied up into quadrants, and DC is “the now ruined former capital of the United States”. Cybil has an “inspector in training,” Jane, whose aunt is Mayor Christensen of the Memphis Quadrant. The mayor’s daughter Mandy is missing, and the regulators (the futuristic version of police) have been unable to find her. Cybil doesn’t want to work for the mayor, but she accepts the job for Jane’s sake. The two head down to Memphis to try to figure out what happened to Mandy.

The worldbuilding is really interesting. There are little mentions of things that fill out the picture, like cheese being incredibly rare due to cattle mutations. Some restaurants use robot servers. Most phone calls include video. It all adds up to give that futuristic vibe. It reminds me a little of the near-future world of J.D. Robb’s “In Death” books, but with less glamour and more constant grit.

Unfortunately, the writing is rough. The pacing is bumpy. The writing is often awkward (the book starts off with nearly two pages just about how it’s cold out and Cybil has to keep her jacket open so she can get to her gun). The side characters often seem to mug for the camera, with even polished, politically savvy characters prone to stuttering and similar issues when emotions get high. This book also seriously needs another edit. There are a lot of words that just aren’t used right, and some clear errors that got missed.

There’s some off-screen sex. It was hard for me to find lines like “I was panting like a mutt in heat” sexy, though. (Ugh.) Content note: sexual assault and mention of rape. I was also rather surprised at how casually statutory rape is treated. Cybil interviews Mandy’s 23-year-old boyfriend (Mandy was 16) and even comments on his “wholesomeness”. Ick! Okay, I just realized that they never actually give the age of consent, but I still wouldn’t see a 23-year-old going after a 16-year-old as run-of-the-mill. It deserved at least a little bit of comment.

Cybil sometimes seems to miss obvious possibilities or jump to weird conclusions. I can’t go into most of them because it would give plot details away. Other than that, the plotting is interesting and sufficiently convoluted without going too far.

I’m ambivalent about this book. On the positive side, it has strong women of color in it, which is wonderful. And like I said, the worldbuilding is great. I just wish the writing was up to snuff. Luckily, this is the sort of thing a writer can improve over time, so it’s probably worth giving later books a read.

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