It’s Halloween night, and the K-Bar in Bolton, Montana, is well into its annual costume party. The bar is full of Elvis impersonators competing for top dress-up honors. Drinking with her friends among other costumed partygoers and over-imbibers is local college student Grace Adams, dressed up as a prom queen. She gets spooked enough by someone she has tagged as a stalker that she leaves the party to escape the real or imagined threat.
At the same time as hips are swiveling in the K-Bar, the nearby home of well-known local residents Peter and Hannah Granger is burning to the ground, leaving the remains of two unidentified bodies in the rubble as well as a heap of smoldering questions.
Enter Detective Macy Greeley, who arrives from neighboring Helena to investigate the fire and determine whether it was accident or arson. That it was an intentional act soon becomes clear, and Macy sets out to dissect the lives and relationships of the Grangers—Hannah, an artist and teacher at the local college, and Peter, a nationally popular author who teaches a popular writing workshop.
Macy must determine the identity of one of the bodies and unearth a motive behind the murder of Peter Granger, the second victim. As more becomes known about the coterie of female students who seemed to be Granger groupies, readers may begin to share Macy’s suspicions that a lot more than manuscript critique was going on in Peter Granger’s creative writing workshop. It turns out Grace was once very close to the Grangers—taking painting classes from Hannah and a spot in Peter's coveted workshop—until they had a mysterious falling out.
The detective casts a wide net to include the volatile, often troubled young women who formed the members of the writing workshop; Jessica, a despondent art department associate with mixed motives: the Grangers’ personal assistant, Cornelia; a disaffected boyfriend or two; and the malignant stalker, Jordan.
Karin Salvalaggio’s Silent Rain builds on themes in her earlier Bone Dust White (2014). Those who haven’t read the first book may find that Silent Rain involves some heavy sledding. Both Grace and Macy were front and center there, and that past influences the present in the new entry. Unfortunately it’s often referred to with roundabout, sometimes muddy allusions. The goal may be to preserve the suspense in Silent Rain, but the result for the reader is often confusion. This book is all arms and legs—presenting too many questions that dangle without resolution. This can obscure the author’s very real talent for intriguing police procedurals, a solid core that will hopefully emerge more strongly in future novels.