Trafford, May 2012
Review by Staff Writer, Kristin Brann
The Silent Partner is Terrence King’s debut novel, though his background with screenplays comes through in the latter part of the book. Terry King has previously written “a couple scripts”, and the amount of action might translate well into a movie. King has created characters that combine “everyman” characteristics with bizarre, excessively conflict-ridden families and relationships. This is not your typical novel.
The narrator is Homer, an angel with an attitude and a list of grievances against God. Homer has been given an assignment, which is supposed to be her chance at redemption. Her attitude has gotten her sent into solitary confinement previously for hundreds of years, and Homer gets frustrated with the corrective measures God keeps using with her. Her attitude hasn’t improved, as the reader can recognize early on in her interactions with God and which provides some of the most humorous parts of the book. Homer has been given an assignment to ensure that a novel with a bad ending gets published within a week, and she can not interfere with free will. Tom Summers, the author, is a writer at a travel magazine with an unenviable life which takes some very unexpected turns in the course of this week.
The Silent Partner begins in an encouragingly fresh manner. The strength of this novel is its how unorthodox it is. The early part of the book, especially where Homer is concerned, is pretty humorous. Despite her disdain for humans, Homer certainly is just about as human an angel as one could imagine. For example, she swears and curses God. The same can’t be said of King’s villains. The protagonists are quirky, but the villains are vile. While one might be uncomfortable meeting the villains in a dark alley at night, the protagonists are seldom that fortunate. Very little of the violence in The Silent Partner is entirely random, though much of it is also not all that personal. Homer’s assignment easily conveys the same question to the reader that Homer asks: why is God making such a big deal about the book Tom is writing?
The book does get off to a bit of a slow start, but King makes up for it by throwing in action and twists enough to be almost dizzying by the end. Midway through the book, new characters are introduced who change the context of previous characters. Somehow, Terrence King manages to combine both tragedy and justice in his conclusion. This exemplifies the complexity of the characters and the book in general. There is humor, action, romance, betrayal, and irony at nearly every turn. Unfortunately, this is part of the problem: The Silent Partner changes pace and tone very quickly and quite dramatically. Sometimes the reader isn’t sure who to like or dislike, which is part of why the term “protagonist” is more appropriate than identifying a “hero”. Combined with an ending which seems to tie up every loose end too neatly, the reader may find themselves with a few more questions about “why” than they had in the beginning.
The plot is the weak point of this book, unfortunately. It begins slowly and ultimately builds to a frenetic pace before reaching an unexpected conclusion. However, the reader does get an opportunity to get to know the characters during the slow start. Homer’s history and approaches to her plight and assignment are usually pretty hilarious, and Tom’s life at both home and works includes what can only be called a cast of characters. One caution to the reader, though: if you can’t read it all in one sitting, don’t try to read a chapter at a time. There is a lot going on in each chapter, but each chapter contains several transitions which can serve as breaking points. Getting frustrated and giving up would mean missing out on a book that is really unique and creative. Consider looking past The Silent Partner’s challenges if you are interested in reading a story which hasn’t been told before.
Terrence King builds a world which is usually believable with complex characters and conflicts. His vision of heaven and angels walks a line between unconventionality and irreverence. The Silent Partner may actually have too much conflict. To say that there are some very unlucky people in this book would be unjust: this hearkens back to why King has made free will such a central theme in the book. Therapy would definitely be necessary for any person or couple encountering this much violence, betrayal, and trauma in one week! Despite the humor, The Silent Partner has some very dark moments and heavy themes. Ironically, besides learning that Tom’s ending is horrible, readers actually learn very little about his book and why it is so important. The story of the book and its author is unmistakably what Homer’s assignment – and this book – are about.
As a debut novel, The Silent Partner shows definite promise. I do look forward to following Terrence King’s writing career, as he has great raw materials to work with. Unlike some authors who seem to revisit the same story or characters from different angles, King threw a lot of different angles into just this one book. This is part of what made it so creative and the main characters realistic. Some of the minor characters might be extraneous and part of why the book is so conflict-ridden, but others brought in some fun surprises. The Silent Partner does draw the reader in despite its plot holes. It is a worthwhile read and quite a ride!
If you would like to order The Silent Partner, you can do so at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, or Mysterious Galaxy. If you, too, would like to follow Terrence King’s writing career (and get some writing or publishing tips), you can do so through his blog, his Twitter account, or the Facebook fan page for The Silent Partner.