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Kathleen Bailey
Silence Says the Most
Five days before Halloween, fall turns frightful in Apple Station when a child’s drawing entangles Olivia in a murder at a park lake. Olivia’s hometown is gearing up for its annual Halloween festival, and pumpkins, corn mazes, and autumn vibes are everywhere. All is cozy in the crisp fall air as excitement builds for the costume parade on Friday. A casual Monday lakeside picnic lunch with her forever friend, though, sets off a chain of events that catches Olivia in the wrong place at the wrong time. When a body is discovered amid an algae bloom under mysterious circumstances, everyone points fingers, but one among them is not telling the truth. The only apparent witness to the crime is a child who doesn’t speak. Motives abound, suspects are plenty, and it’s up to Olivia to discover why the child has implicated her as the key to solving the murder. Can Olivia unmask the killer before the endangered evidence vanishes, and she becomes the next victim? If you like small town, cozy mysteries with heart and humor, a charming cast of characters, and a twisty plot that celebrates the connections of friends and family, you’ll love Silence Says the Most, the second book in The Olivia Penn Mystery Series.
The second in Bailey’s Olivia Penn mystery series, after Where the Light Shines Through, finds advice columnist Olivia facing another riveting and deadly puzzle after departing the Washington, D.C., area to her hometown of Apple Station, Virginia. In the thick of October’s spooky season, Olivia’s picnic outing at Lake Crystal gets disrupted by the discovery of a body—what the local newspaper editor calls a “floater”—with only a child in a red jacket as a possible witness. Although at first reluctant, Olivia, true to form, can’t resist trying to find out who would kill a fieldworker from Virginia’s Department of Envitonmental Quality, and soon she’s trrying piece together the details of the murder, with the help of some new friends, before she becomes the next victim.

“You’re a regular Nancy Drew,” Olivia is told early on, and in this warm and humorous cozy Bailey pays welcome homage to the famed teen sleuth, even as her adult hero balances grown-up responsibilities—and gets warned off the case by local law enforcement. Bailey pulls readers in with charming descriptions and personalities, giving Apple Station an inviting downtown where a chatty local will hitch a chestnut quarter horse outside Daisy’s Feed and Saddlery, and a wag observing the library notes “Somebody just took two books. What happens if the library runs out?” Even Olivia wryly notes that she feels like “an extra in a Hallmark movie.”

For all the good cheer, the tensions mount with each passing page, and fans of small-town amateur detectives will be hooked from the start, as Olivia gets tangled up again with the police, strives to connect with the recalcitrant witness Mikey, and learns more than she ever expected about copperheads, algae blooms, and other surprises. The case is arresting, but Silence Says the Most also offers that crucial ingredient for the standout series cozy: a hero worth rooting for and capable of surprising readers.

Takeaway: This enthralling small-town cozy abounds with suspense, surprise, and autumn atmosphere.

Great for fans of: M.C. Beaton, Annette Dashofy’s Zoe Chambers Mysteries series.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A