Justine Jameson is approaching her eighteenth birthday. She had a brief relationship with Keith that ended after only four months. Pregnant and alone, she returned home to live with her father, Brett, the owner of a boot manufacturing company, and her stepmother, Pamela. Now, following the birth of her beautiful daughter, Abigail, Justine is suffering from post-partum psychosis which causes panic attacks, extreme anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. At the age of fourteen, Justine was hospitalized for a year as a result of cocaine abuse. Her current condition causes her to believe that because her parents have tried to help her by having her see a physician who prescribed medication to treat her symptoms, they want to have her permanently committed and steal Abigail from her.
Both Brett and Pamela are harboring secrets about their lives that, if revealed, could cause their family to implode. Pamela’s relationship with Justine is tenuous on a good day. Justine knows that Pamela resents the fact that it was Pamela’s daughter, Allison, who died suddenly a few years ago. Pamela also bears full responsibility for caring for her elderly mother. Brett had no idea that he had fathered a child until Justine was eight years old and her mother died. He of course took Justine into his life and raised her, but their relationship is rocky, as well. In addition, Brett is dealing with the stress of a failing business — his company is on the verge of insolvency and dissolution.
Still, the Jamesons somehow manage to purchase a beautiful, secluded home in the country at the edge of the woods where they believe they will be happier and more at peace away from the noise and pace of Manhattan. They swing the deal because they get a good price for their condominium and the house is a bargain since it is a foreclosure property.
What they don’t know is that the former owner, Rory Madden, is about to be released from jail due to a legal technicality: The police searched his home and seized his property prior to obtaining a valid search warrant. Thus, rather than face at least twenty years in prison for, among other crimes, drug trafficking, Madden is about to be a free and extremely angry man. After all, his former attorney stole the hundreds of thousands of dollars Madden had stashed in a secret hiding place in the garage, and then lied to Madden, telling him that the police found the money and confiscated it. Because of his attorney’s malfeasance, Madden was unable to make his mortgage payments, and the home and property he lovingly built was auctioned off by the bank. Madden emigrated to the United States from Northern Ireland, where he was a soldier and killer. In fact, he sees killing as no more remarkable than putting on a clean pair of socks.
And he wants his house back.
No family is Norman Rockwell-worthy perfection, and the Jamesons are no exception. Brett loves his wife, but their marriage has been in deep trouble for quite some time, even though he knew about Pamela’s sordid past when he married her. He also loves his daughter, although he is rather inept at parenting, no doubt because he did not even know of Justine’s existence until she was eight years old.
Pamela, aka Stephanie, is absorbed in her own set of problems. She is mourning the sudden and senselessly tragic death of her own daughter, Allison, while bearing the full burden — financial and emotional — of her dying elderly mother’s care, coupled with the strain of Brett’s self-made business failing. She loves her husband, but carries on a secret identity and life for reasons that are not explored deeply.
With such distracted and fragmented parents, not to mention her ongoing resentment for her prior hospitalization, Justine is determined to handle her problems in her own way. She is frightened by her own thoughts — panic attacks send her scurrying back to safety and her continuing insomnia only makes her condition increasingly fragile. She hallucinates regularly, imagining that people are popping out of the walls to warn her that her parents are going to commit her to a mental hospital and take custody of Abigail. Although medication briefly improves her symptoms, she does not tell her parents when the prescription needs to be refilled, and they are plainly too busy to notice. Spending days at a time alone in the house, secluded from the local small town and isolated from her friends back in Manhattan, Justine’s condition deteriorates.
Meanwhile, Rory Madden is getting revenge, one victim at a time, for the wrongs he believes have been visited upon him. An encounter by the mail box one day leaves Justine wondering about the handsome, fit Irishman with the piercing blue eyes. Is he a friend or foe? She feels herself drawn to him because he is, like so many sociopaths, charming and charismatic, but she is also wary. Gradually, he ingratiates himself into her life and her heart, preying upon her youth, naivete, and fragile mental state. Justine is unaware, of course, that as he is wooing her, he is terrorizing her parents.
No One to Hear You Scream is an impressive second novel from author Julia Madeleine that will have readers checking to make sure their doors and windows are locked, taking a second glance at the stranger who strolls by their house, and reading with the lights on. As Rory gradually worms his way into Justine’s life, his character is revealed at perfectly timed intervals to be a fascinating conundrum of sorrow, regret, longing, and unrepentant, unforgiving, revenge-seeking evil. His lilting Irish brogue and tender-hearted inquiries about Abigail, the “wee small angel,” are infectious and deceiving, even though Madeleine described just a few paragraphs earlier how he concealed a loaded weapon under his jacket and murdered an old friend in cold blood with no regret or remorse. In short, he is a perfectly crafted villain who inspires readers to hope there is a chance for his redemption when, of course, it is clear that, because of his heinous and callous crimes, there cannot be.
Justine is more enigmatic, a frustrating mixture of innocence, purity, and a desire for a stable family life who allows herself to be charmed by Rory. Is her reaction to him caused solely by her post-natal mental instability or is there something more deeply rooted in her psyche that causes her to be sucked into Rory’s scheme to regain ownership of his house. She describes feeling as though a curtain opens and closes, and her thought processes are cloudy, consistent with a mental disability. Will the curtain rise in time for Justine and her family to be saved from Rory’s vengeance?
No One to Hear You Scream is part pulse rate-elevating adventure and part cautionary tale about the ready availability of information about our lives that can be utilized by an unscrupulous crook to take advantage of us or our loved ones. It is also a frightening reminder that we are all vulnerable, in varying degrees, and need to be mindful of our whereabouts and the persons we invite into our lives. Most of all, No One to Hear You Scream is entertaining in the good, old-fashioned Saturday matinee in a darkened theater style. I look forward to reading more of Madeleine’s work.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of No One to Hear You Scream free of charge from the author in conjunction with the Pump Up Your Book review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Enter to Win a Copy of No One to Hear You Scream
Author Julia Madeleine has generously provided one copy of No One to Hear You Scream to be given to a lucky reader, selected at random.
To enter, simply post a comment in which you answer these two questions:
1. What is the title of the scariest book you have ever read?
~ and ~
2. What was it about that particular book that makes you consider it the all-time scariest you have ever read?
Be sure to include your email address (for notification and delivery purposes). The book can only be shipped to a United States or Canadian address (no P.O. box).
The comment posted by C. E. Hart was selected at random and a copy of No One to Hear You Scream was sent to her!