Heather Gudenkauf has done it again. Her sixth novel, “Not a Sound” is a gripping thriller with just the right amount of love story and research, making this a perfect read for a sunny day at the beach or a rainy day curled up at home.
Set in the fictional bluff town of Mathias, Iowa, the novel opens with nurse Amelia Winn sustaining a horrific accident that takes away her ability to hear any sound at all, a condition known as profound deafness. “Two years later,” Amelia explains in her deadpan voice, “I’m almost divorced, unemployed, profoundly deaf, probably an alcoholic and still a little pissed. Okay, an alcoholic. No probably.”
While out paddle boarding with her affable service dog Stitch, Amelia comes across the body of a former colleague who was brutally murdered — and maybe tortured. As Amelia learns more about the case from her childhood friend, police detective Jake Schroeder, she begins to realize this isn’t a random killing, and community members, her ex-husband, and possibly her employer might be involved.
“Not a Sound” is a fast-moving novel with plenty of twists and turns. But what takes Gudenkauf’s work to another level is her careful research into police procedure, service animals, and what it’s like to navigate the world — and a murder investigation — with profound hearing loss.
While research could easily take over the novel, Gudenkauf holds back, using these details to support the main narrative, not take away from it, such as when Amelia struggles to connect emotionally with her stepdaughter through her captioned phone: “All I have are the printed words of the conversation — I can’t hear the emotion in her voice. I have no context.”
Insights such as these keep the pages turning because in addition to wanting to find out who’s behind the murder, we also simply want to learn more about Amelia’s world.