The Quiet Child

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John Burley’s “The Quiet Child” (William Morrow, 288 pages) is a gripping, psychological thriller that will hold the reader’s attention in this novel about suspicion within a family and among people living in a small town.

Michael and Kate McCray live in a quiet hamlet in Northern California in the 1950’s. The couple have two sons — Sean and Danny.

The older son, Sean, is by all appearances a normal child who is very protective of his younger brother, Danny.

Danny is quiet to a pathological extreme. Doctors have diagnosed him with elective mutism — though he is able to speak, he chooses not to.

But the McCray’s troubles do not end with having a troubled child. Mrs. McCray exhibits signs of the devastating neurological condition known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The McCray household is a ground zero of ill-health and ill-fortune. A relative kills himself. The babysitter of the two boys suffers a miscarriage while tending the boys. Michael McCray develops hand tremors.

The people of the small town of Cottonwood whisper that the McCray family is cursed and the center of evil is the strange child Danny.

One summer evening while the father Michael takes his boys out for ice cream, their car is hijacked with the boys in it. What appears to be a case of car theft turns into a crime that is far more sinister.

Burley’s novel is reminiscent of classic movies using the “good versus evil sibling” plot such as “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” and “The Spiral Staircase” with just a touch of “The Bad Seed” mixed in for good measure.

Fans of the retro thriller may enjoy John Burley’s “The Quiet Child.”