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Book Review: Silencing Sam by Julie Kramer

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Riley Spartz has done it again. That is, gotten herself into a good deal of trouble. Readers of Julie Kramer’s first two mysteries, Stalking Susan and Missing Mark, will relish this adventure with their favorite intrepid reporter.

Silencing Sam finds Riley Spartz incensed when a gossip columnist makes disparaging remarks about her actions as a wife and widow. So incensed, she makes a rather public display of it. This doesn’t sit well when that columnist turns up dead. And fingers keep pointing to Riley…

To top it all off, there’s the usual newsroom pressure, made more intense by new addition, Texan Clay Burrel, who seems determined to steal Riley’s spotlight. Riley must come up with a good story, but gets stuck chasing windmills in southern Minnesota while this new guy chases the goods on a headless body found in a park. He seems to have inside information, and Riley thinks she knows why. But turns out she doesn’t know the whole story on the Texas cowboy.

As things heat up, Silencing Sam takes one twist and turn after another, keeping the reader turning pages late into the night, and guessing about who did what, who knows what, and ultimately, who killed whom.

Julie Kramer has created in Riley a fantastic character who is just flawed enough that we can love her. And in this third go-round, we love her even more. She is smart, resourceful, and not above using her feminine wiles when necessary. Her past pain and current stress levels make us feel like we know her, because she shares something with all of us – whether it’s loss, insecurity or just plain frustration. Have a bad day at work? Riley is in the hot seat. Had a spat with your sweetie? Riley is running hers through the suspect chart. No excitement in your life? Riley is too freaked out to take out the garbage.

Kramer plays with language with obvious delight. Her characters ring true because she makes them individuals. Her Texan sounds Texan, her farmers sound like farmers. Riley’s voice is unmistakable. When she and Garrett talk movie quotes, you know how she gets them – she ties each one to a major news event. Kramer can pull off this thought process because she was there. Her experience as a news reporter and producer give Riley’s world authenticity without going overboard. Realities like market size and ratings are part of her world, and we get to know a little bit about them. Curious about Riley’s voice? You can hear it for yourself on the new book trailer.

And Kramer does all this with a frequent nod to her Minnesota roots, imbuing the story with a sense of place and authentic flavor that cannot be faked or researched. Who knew rhubarb bread tasted so good? Check out this Q&A to find out a little about her research, her advice to writers and whether or not she's a good shot.

Julie will be appearing at numerous libraries and events throughout the country for the foreseeable future. Check her website for the latest and to find out if she’s coming to your neck of the woods. You just might get to pet her Minnesota Book Award!

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  • Fred McCoy

    We really enjoyed seeing Julie. Her comments were very interesting and I could have sat there and listened to more. We will do that again!