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‘Command of Silence’ by Paulette Callen

‘Command of Silence’ by Paulette Callen

Author: Victoria Brownworth

June 3, 2010

Lambda Award Finalist

Command of Silence by Paulette Callen comes from the Katherine Forrest Selection line of Spinster’s Ink. Which means one of the doyennes of lesbian mystery chose to put her imprimatur on it. That alone is reason to pick it up.

Reading it, however, is another issue.

Command of Silence is not like any other lesbian mystery you’ll read this season, or likely any other. It has a fairly standard mystery plot–two children go missing, one after another on Manhattan’s tony Upper West Side. The nanny—one of the children is hers—is the natural suspect.

But where this plot shifts almost tectonically from the formula is in the detective—rather, detectives—investigating the case. Yes, the police are on it. But there’s always another detective in the wings in a good mystery who works with and knows more than the police, and here it is Shiloh & Co.

Shiloh is a detective. The “company” is made up of her alternate but not integrated personalities. Shiloh has a psyche shattered into different personae by the kind of childhood trauma that makes textbooks—and causes people to wretch as they read.

It’s an intriguing premise and, in some respects, more fascinating than the mystery itself. Shiloh has been helped back to functional mental health by Dr. Ray Martinez, a lesbian therapist with a keen sense of what it takes to piece human beings back together after the inhumane among us have had at them. Even the intimations of what has happened to Shiloh are shocking.

Shiloh has a difficult time with the case of the two missing children and some readers may find Shiloh’s Dissociative Identity Disorder—and the shifting personae within her—difficult to comprehend or accept. But the idea certainly makes for a compelling, if often quite dark, story. Callen tells it with heart and verve.
By Paulette Callen
Spinster’s Ink
ISBN: 9781602820753
Paperback, $14.95, 288 p.

Victoria Brownworth photo

About: Victoria Brownworth

Victoria A. Brownworth is an award-winning journalist, editor and writer and the author and editor of nearly 30 books. She has won the NLGJA and the Society of Professional Journalists awards, the Lambda Literary Award and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She won the 2013 SPJ Award for Enterprise Reporting in May 2014. She is a regular contributor to The Advocate and SheWired, a blogger for Huffington Post and A Room of Her Own, a columnist and contributing editor for Curve magazine and Lambda Literary Review and a columnist for San Francisco Bay Area Reporter. Her reporting and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Nation, Ms Magazine and Slate. Her book, 'From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth' won the 2012 Moonbeam Award for cultural & historical fiction. Her new novel, 'Ordinary Mayhem,' won the IPPY Award for fiction on May 1, 2015. Her book 'Erasure: Silencing Lesbians' and her next novel, 'Sleep So Deep,' will both be published in 2016. @VABVOX

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