A considerable number of her dedicated readers were saddened by the news of Catherine Cookson's death--not just for the loss of a much-loved woman, but also for the stilling of one of the most distinctive and reliable voices in fiction. Therefore the news that there were nine posthumous novels with her publisher was received with much pleasure. And rather than being evidence of the author winding down, they have shown that Cookson was ever refining her characterisation and the consummate plotting for which she was so noted. The Silent Lady has all of her characteristic touches, most notably a heroine at odds with herself and those around her.
At a distinguished firm of London solicitors, a female vagrant who appears to have been sleeping on the streets, presents herself. With her filthy clothes and inability to speak, it's no surprise that she is initially shown the door, until the firm's senior partner, Alexander Armstrong, learns the name of his visitor. Irene Baindor is a woman with a remarkable past and her reappearance is the signal for the ending of a mystery several decades old. Irene (the eponymous "Silent Lady") has encountered benefactors who have helped her to rebuild her life. And now she is able to come to terms with a brutal, disturbed past and attain happiness with both old and new friends.
As with all later Cookson books, it is difficult to predict the course that her constantly surprising narrative will take--clearly, the author had decided to retire some well-worn formats and strike out in entirely new directions. Although the customary romantic elements are well in evidence here, this is essentially a mystery in which the reader is swept through an intriguing narrative that moves from darkness into light. Irene represents something new in Cookson heroines, and her presence renders this one of the author's most thoughtful and affecting narratives. --Barry Forshaw