Simon & Schuster, Feb 2002, 352 pp.
In 1955 London, a woman in tattered clothing arrives at the law firm of Alexander Armstrong & Son. The receptionist starts to toss the vagrant out, but hesitates when the woman mentions Mr. Armstrong by name and says she is Mrs. Baindor. The receptionist still has doubts, but informs a higher up who informs Alexander. Upon hearing the name, a stunned Alexander races out of his office to see the disheveled woman. He arranges for Mrs. Baindor to enter his sister's nursing home.
Over twenty-six years ago, Irene Baindor vanished after a particularly nasty argument with her abusive spouse. Alexander has been looking for her ever since with no success until she arrived at his office wearing the same garb she wore over a quarter of a century ago. She holds a package in a death grip refusing to let it go, but his willing to cooperate on everything else as long as Alexander gets her son to visit her. Still, he wonders, as he has since she vanished, where she has been all this time?
THE SILENT LADY is an exciting mystery that works quite well when readers glimpse the enigmatic Irene's abstruse past. However, the action bogs down when others pontificate with endless soliloquies. Irene is the key character whose past makes the story line hum when it centers on her, but when someone else like Alexander takes the stage, the plot loses momentum. Though she died in 1998, Catherine Cookson is still cooking those engaging early to mid twentieth century British relationship dramas that have made her a household name.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner