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Brenda Stanley
The Still Small Voice

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

Some secrets never die. A daughter's sin may be the only thing that can expose the truth. Madison Moore has been estranged from her family for years, but when her dying father summons her home, she reluctantly makes the trip back to the place that still evokes heartache. Her family's reception is lukewarm. They still hold the strict religious beliefs that cast her out. But when her father tells her about a murder years before and that he has proof the woman in prison is not the killer, Madison finds herself in the center of a decades-old mystery. Painful reminders of why she left home haunt her as she attempts to accomplish her father's dying wish to exonerate the woman who confessed. As she follows the trail of clues, Madison discovers the shocking reason her father asked her for help and how his confession relates to her own tragic past.
Stanley (author of The Treasure of Cedar Creek) weaves this classic whodunit into a web of family secrets. The day she turns 18, Madison Moore packs up her car and leaves her family and her hometown of Orem, Utah, behind, fleeing the conventional path that her conservative Mormon parents and community expect her to follow. While she creates a happy life for herself in Nevada, graduating college and becoming a journalist, she remains nearly totally estranged from her family: her parents and brothers do not even attend her wedding. However, she reluctantly returns to Utah when her dying father wants to see her one last time.

Madison’s raw emotions ripple across the page as she reluctantly returns to her beautiful but stifling hometown and struggles to navigate her rocky relationships: her interactions with her mother are strained and painful, and her stilted conversations with her brothers devolve into angry fights . Initially, readers will share Madison’s frustration with her father’s vague, cryptic appeals that seem like distractions from her compelling emotional journey. But as Madison searches for answers, she discovers that her father’s anguish has more to do with her than she realized As she sits at her father’s bedside, Madison hopes that during his moments of lucidity they will be able to mend the ugly rift in their relationship.

But Stanley builds smoothly to revelations, like Madison’s father’s deeper purpose for their reunion: to ask for Madison’s help in freeing a woman wrongfully convicted for a murder he knows she didn’t commit. As Madison struggles to understand her father’s role in the injustice, she discovers that her family harbors more secrets than even she realized. Stanley unravels this mystery carefully and deliberately, often using Madison’s dialogue and internal monologue to recap her progress. An unexpected twist in the final chapters is surprising but well-earned, offering a satisfying synthesis of Madison’s past and her father’s last request.

Takeaway: Well-constructed mystery of family angst, redemption, and satisfying twists.

Comparable Titles: Charlie Donlea’s Twenty Years Later, Ashley Flowers’s All Good People Here.

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