Book Reviews

Book Review: Dead Quiet by M.K. Coker

In this fourth book in the series following Eda County Sheriff Karen Mehaffey and her family, a lot of the background given about her in previous novels in the series comes full circle. Not only do we learn more about her mother, but the theme of adoption and the child she secretly surrendered also features prominently.

A group of German Anabaptists living just outside of Reunion, South Dakota has experienced a murder. Sheriff Karen Mehaffey is called in. Immediately, her guard is up. Her mother, Hannah, was once part of that community until she left to marry Karen’s father, Arne.

She brings in her Uncle, Marek Okerlund, to help with the murder investigation. Marek is her father’s half-brother from a second marriage and is closer in age to Karen than her father. However, he also has the most experience with homicides, having been a detective in New Mexico until his pregnant wife was killed by a drunk driver. He returned to South Dakota to get away from those memories and works for the police when Karen needs him and does odd jobs for people.

Marek has a more open mind in investigating the homicide. Yes, they are professional, and at times it’s Marek coaching Karen on how to investigate, but he’s the one that can be objective when it comes to The Brethren while Karen has a hard time containing her feelings. Slowly the book reveals the history of The Brethren in the area, and some of that revolved around the fact that they have adopted into their families from the outside.

Karen is restless, knowing that the one young woman who was adopted by them is the same age as the child she gave up without telling anyone. She also begins to piece together why her mother left this community to marry Arne. It’s a story that seems to be leading the reader in one direction, but there’s more to it than anyone knows.

M.K. Coker has written a great mystery here. I was guessing until near the end when things began to come together. The detail with which she describes the community of Anabaptists is really interesting, especially some of their practices. It’s horrifying at times, but it would also be the perfect place for someone to hide who didn’t want their identity known. At the same time, she’s brought in so many feelings around adoption that I can relate to. As an adoptee myself, I know about wanting to know where you came from and the difficulty everyone has with the relationships that form because of it. What is the right thing to say? How do I treat this person? There’s an awkwardness in how Karen acts towards the girl she thinks could be the child she gave away that’s realistically portrayed.

The characters from previous novels advance nicely. Karen’s relationship with her father is complicated, and once he finds out that she gave away a child for adoption – his only chance at a grandchild – without telling him, it changes their relationship. Marek is settling into life in the town again and finding a niche that he’s comfortable in, but there’s also a restlessness he can’t really explain. Eda has been good for his daughter, though, who has come out of her shell and discovered her own creativity here, with the help of a new art instructor at school.

Dead Quiet is about the secrets that exist in a small town and how communities collectively help keep them. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. And sometimes secrets result in murder. Five stars.

Previous book in the series (link): Dead Wrong by M.K. Coker

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