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The Silence of Murder by [Mackall, Dandi Daley]
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Length: 338 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

DANDI DALEY MACKALL has written many books for children and adults. She has held a humorist column and served as freelance editor, has hosted over 200 radio phone-in programs, and has made dozens of appearances on TV. Dandi conducts writing assemblies and workshops across the U.S. and keynotes at conferences and young author events. She writes from rural Ohio with her husband, three children, and their horses, dogs, and cats. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

The first time Jeremy heard God sing, we were in the old Ford, rocking back and forth with the wind. Snow pounded at the window to get inside, where it wasn’t much better than out there. I guess he was nine. I was seven, but I’ve always felt like the older sister, even though Jeremy was bigger.

I snuggled closer under his arm while we waited for Rita. She made us call her ‘Rita’ and not ‘Mom’ or ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mother,’ and that was fine with Jeremy and me. Pretty much anything that was fine with Jeremy was fine with me.

We’d been in the backseat long enough for frost to make a curtain on the car windshield and for Rita’s half-drunk paper cup of coffee to ice some in its holder up front.

Jeremy had grown so still that I thought he might be asleep, or half frozen, either one being better than the teeth-chattering bone-chilling I had going on.

Then came the sound.

It filled the car. A single note that made it feel like all of the notes put together in just the right way. I don’t remember wondering where that note came from because my whole head was full of it and the hope that it wouldn’t stop, not ever. And it went on so long I thought maybe I was getting my wish and that this was what people heard when they died, right before seeing that white tunnel light.

The note didn’t so much end as it went into another note and then more of them. And there were words in the notes, but they were swallowed up in the meaning of that music-song so that I couldn’t tell and didn’t care which was which.

Then I saw this song was coming from my brother, and I started bawling like a baby. And bawling wasn’t something you did in our house because Rita couldn’t abide crying and believed whacking you was the way to make it stop.

Jeremy sang what must have been a whole entire song, because when he closed his mouth, it seemed right that the song was over.

When I could get words out, I turned so I could see my brother. “Jeremy,” I whispered, “I never heard you sing before.”

He smiled like someone had warmed him toasty all the way through and given him hot chocolate with marshmallows to top it off. “I never sang before.”

“But that song? Where did you get it?”

“God,” he answered, as simply as if he’d said, “Walmart.”

I’d just heard that song, and even though it seemed to me that God made more sense than Walmart for an answer, I felt like I had to say otherwise. I was the “normal” sister, the one whose needs weren’t officially special.

“Jeremy, God can’t give you a song,” I told him.

Jeremy raised his eyebrows a little and swayed the way he does. “Hope,” he said, like he was older than Rita and I was just a little kid, “God didn’t give it to me. He sang it. I just copied.”

The door to the trailer flew open, and a man named Billy stepped out. Rita was breaking up with Billy, but I don’t think he knew that. We’d stopped by his trailer on our way out of town so Rita could pick up her stuff, and maybe get some money off her ex-boyfriend, who didn’t realize he was an ex. Billy stood there in plaid boxers, his belly hanging over the elastic like a rotten potato somebody’d tried to put a rubber band around. If I hadn’t been so cold, I might have tried to get Jeremy to laugh.

Rita squeezed up beside the potato man. She tried to slip past him and out the door. But he took hold of her bag and grabbed one more kiss. She laughed, like this was a big game. Then she stepped down out of the trailer, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

I would have given everything I had, which I admit wasn’t so very much, just to hear Jeremy and God’s song again.

The tall heels of Rita’s red knee-high patent-leather boots crunched the snow as she stepped to the car, arms out to her sides, like a tightrope walker trying to stay on the wire. She jerked open the driver’s door, slid into place, and slammed the door hard enough to shake the car worse than the wind.

Without saying a word, she turned the key and pumped the pedal until the Ford caught. Then she stoked up the defrost and waited for the wipers to do their thing. I figured by the scowl on Rita’s face that Billy hadn’t forked over the “loan” she’d hoped for.

Jeremy leaned forward, his knobby fingers on the back of the seat. “Rita,” he said, “I didn’t know God could sing.”

She struck like a rattler, but without the warning. The slap echoed off Jeremy’s face, louder than the roar of the engine. “God don’t sing!” she screamed.

That was the last time Jeremy ever spoke out loud.

Sometimes I think if I could have moved quicker, put myself in between my brother’s soft cheek and Rita’s hard hand, the whole world might have spun out different.



2

“Your Honor, I object!”

The prosecutor stands up so fast his chair screeches on the courtroom floor. He has on a silvery suit with a blue tie. If he weren’t trying to kill my brother, I’d probably think he’s handsome in a dull, paper-doll-cutout kind of way. Brown hair that doesn’t move, even when he bangs the state’s table. Brown eyes that make me think of bullets. I’m guessing that he’s not even ten years older than Jeremy, the one sitting behind the defense table, the one on trial for murdering Coach Johnson with a baseball bat, the one this prosecutor would like to execute before he reaches the age of nineteen.

The prosecutor charges the witness box as if he’s coming to get me. His squinty bullet eyes make me scoot back in the chair. “The witness’s regrets about what she may or may not have done a decade ago are immaterial and irrelevant!” he shouts.

“Sit down, Mr. Keller,” the judge says, like she’s tired of saying it because she’s already said it a thousand times this week.

Maybe she has. This is my first day in her courtroom. Since I’m a witness in my brother’s trial, they wouldn’t let me attend until after I testified. So I can’t say the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what’s gone on in this courtroom without me.

“I’ll allow it,” the judge says. “Go ahead, Miss Long.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 3185 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 11, 2011)
  • Publication Date: October 11, 2011
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004JN1CKQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,684 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Rogers ClarkIV on February 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Hope Long hasn't had the best life, but she's been able to cope. Her father was killed in a pedestrian accident when she was three, her mother, Rita, is a drunk and a pretty poor excuse for a mother. The only family member who really matters to her is her 18 year old brother Jeremy. Unfortunately, Jeremy has problems of his own. He hasn't spoken for ten years, has been given more psychiatric diagnoses than carter has pills and collects empty bottles. In fact three walls in his bedroom are filled with them. Jeremy, however is no dummy. He communicates with Hope by writing elegant letters in perfect penmanship. When the story begins, Jeremy is on trial for murfer, having been accused of killing the high school baseball coach with the wooden bat he carries with him most of the time. Because Jeremy is electively mute and there are no other possible suspects, Prospects for anything other than prison or a very long stay in a psychiatric facility are pretty slim. Hope knows Jeremy is innocent, but how can she prove it?
The bulk of the book involves her efforts to figure out who really did kill Coach Johnson. She's not as alone as she first thought. Her brother's defense attorney is a very decent man who is willing to keep an open mind when Hope starts shaking loose some facts that might alter the outcome of the trial. Her long time friend T.J. (who would like to be a lot more than a friend, but Hope is clueless about that), is willing to help her even though he's creeped out by some of the places she needs to investigate. Enter Chase, son of the sheriff. He's a pitcher like T.J., but has a history of getting into minor scrapes back in Boston where he lives with his mother most of the year.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Review by Jill Williamson

Coach Johnson is dead, and sixteen-year-old Hope Long is the only person who believes that her eighteen-year-old brother, Jeremy, is innocent. Sure, Jeremy is a little different--he's always been that way--but he's no killer. But there are no other suspects, so Hope sets out to find some and prove that Jeremy didn't kill Coach.

I'm totally impressed! This was a wonderfully creative mystery novel. The writing was excellent, and the characters were even better. I was completely sucked in and didn't see the end coming. I'm so glad I bought this book! This is the first I've read of MacKall's books, but I'm going to keep an eye peeled for whatever she writes in the future. If you like John Grisham, you'd like this book. With the wrongly accused and the search to find the truth, this book was one I couldn't put down. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this because I love mysteries and love Dandi Daley's books. I have to admit I began it thinking it was written for teen-agers and wondered if this grandmother (me) would find it simplistic and maybe boring. NOT! The book kept my interest from the first pages and I changed my mind several times throughout the book about who the murderer was---a definite plus for a mystery! Hopefully this will not be the only mystery we'll see from Dandi.
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This excellent mystery, an Edgar YA winner in 2012, tells the story of Hope Long who is convinced that her brother Jeremy is not guilty of killing baseball coach John Johnson. Since Jeremy is autistic and selectively mute, he can't explain why he was running away from the barn where Johnson was found. That the murder weapon was his own wooden bat doesn't help either.

Hope knows that her brother couldn't have done that but she is alone in her opinion. Her brother's lawyer and her own mother are trying for a Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity defense. Hope decides that she needs to investigate if she wants to clear her brother.

Her companions in the investigation are TJ who is her only friend in town and Chase who is the son of the sheriff and who spends summers with his father. She and the boys try to find other suspects. Could it be the coach's wife who is dying of cancer? Is it another member of the baseball team that Johnson coached?

This story was intensely emotional. I loved Hope's determination to prove her brother innocent. I loved that she knew about all of Jeremy's quirks but still thought he was special and wonderful. I felt bad for her and for Jeremy because of the mother they had. Rita was extremely self-centered and an alcoholic who dragged her kids all over the country before returning to her home town picking up men all along the way to give her "loans."

The writing was excellent and the pacing in this story helped build the tension as Hope comes closer and closer to finding out who really killed John Johnson. I recommend this mystery to all ages.
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Format: Paperback
The Silence of Murder is an excellent, but pretty formulaic murder mystery with multiple plausible suspects, strong motives and great clues. Author, Dandi Mackall, also included a great realistic fiction story. It is a winning combination that most YA readers will enjoy. Hope is a hard working teen determined not to throw her life away making the same mistakes her alcoholic mother did. Hope is also fiercely protective of her autistic older brother Jeremy. When Jeremy is arrested for murdering the town hero, Hope is the only one who believes he is innocent. Since no one else will do it, Hope decides she must find the real killer. With the help of friends Chase and T.J., Hope uncovers several long held town secrets, and someone desperate for the truth to stay buried begins threatening Hope. Readers will probably change their minds several times as new clues point to new suspects, but they will share Hope's determination to save Jeremy and will come to love Jeremy and Hope.
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