Kate Wilhelm

"The Price of Silence"

(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky OCT 30, 2005)

The Price of Silence by Kate Wilhelm

Kate Wilhelm's The Price of Silence takes place in the small desert town of Brindle, Oregon. Todd Fielding and her husband, Barney, are low on funds and Todd is thrilled when she gets a job at a small newspaper, the "Brindle Times." She edits, does layout, and troubleshoots computer problems for the eighty-year-old publisher, Ruth Ann Colonna. In addition to her regular duties, Todd is helping Ruth Ann with a special centennial edition of the newspaper that will deal with the history of Brindle. It seems that back in 1888, there was a fire in an inn that killed four people, including a young woman named Janey. Was the fire deliberately set or was it an accident? Ruth has uncovered sources that reveal shocking secrets about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy. She intends to tell the town the truth about what really happened and why.

When Todd starts working at the newspaper, she is startled to learn that a series of teenaged girls have disappeared over the years and, recently, a fourteen-year-old named Jodie Schuster has just gone missing. Did these girls run away or were they abducted? Todd senses that there is an evil presence in Brindle, and she stirs up a hornet's nest when she decides to write a series of articles about the disappearances.

The Price of Silence is a solid psychological mystery with spooky supernatural elements. At night when she is staying in Brindle, Todd occasionally feels a tremendous chill spreading throughout her body. After the chill subsides, she feels depressed and even breaks down in tears. As time goes on, Todd believes that she is experiencing a paranormal phenomenon in which a ghostly presence is attempting to communicate with her.

Wilhelm's characters include the aforementioned Ruth Ann, who is a crusty, brilliant, and forceful woman. Her son, Johnny, manages the newspaper, and he bitterly resents Todd. He would love to get rid of this nosy interloper, but Ruth Ann will not hear of it, since Todd's skill with computers and her insightful reporting quickly make her an indispensable asset. Todd's doting husband, Barney, a doctoral candidate in philosophy, fears for his wife's safety when she begins to receive hate mail. His fears prove well founded when someone makes an attempt on Todd's life.

The Price of Silence effectively deals with the themes of complacency, family dysfunction, and courage under pressure. The inhabitants of Brindle would prefer to believe that all is well in their town, although the evidence points to the possibility that there is a dangerous predator in their midst. It takes a fearless outsider, Todd Fielding, to shake things up, but can she find the killer before she becomes his next victim? Wilhelm maintains a high level of suspense, and she skillfully describes a place where people would rather live in a world of illusion than face unpleasant truths.

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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

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About the Author:

Kate WilhelmKate Wilhelm was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1928 and grew up in Kentucky. She married fairly young, had two sons before the marriage fell apart.

Wilhelm began publishing science fiction stories in 1956 and by the 1980s was a ranking figure in the field. Ms. Wilhelm's science fiction has won the Nebula Award, the Prix Apollo, the Hugo Award, and the Jupiter Award. Over the span of her career, her writing has crossed over the genres of Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, fantasy and magical realism; psychological suspense, mimetic, comic, and family sagas, a multimedia stage production, and radio plays. Her works have been adapted for film, stage, television, and radio and has been translated into many languages.

Along with her second husband, well-known writer and critic Damon Knight, Wilhelm was also involved in the founding of the Milford Science Fiction Writers’ Conference in 1956, as well as its offshoot, the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop.

Wilhelm lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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