C.E. Lawrence: Silent Screams (2009) Lee Campbell Series 1

Silent Screams

C.E. Lawrence is the byline of the New York-based writer, performer, composer, poet and playwright Carole Buggé. The first time I came across her name was when I was reading a Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine (#7 2012). The magazine contained one of Carole’s short stories The Way it Is and an interview with C.E.Lawrence titled The darker half of Carole Buggé. I enjoyed the story and found the interview extremely fascinating. Thanks to the interview I learned that while Carole Buggé has written cozy mysteries and Sherlock Holmes novels, C.E.Lawrence explores the darker side of crime, sending her main protagonist, profiler Lee Campbell, after nasty serial killers. When I discovered that the multi-talent Carole Buggé gave an online course in mystery writing, I signed up. It was instructive and great fun. During the course we “spoke” about setting and when Carole mentioned that New York was as much a character in her novels as Lee Campbell, I picked up Silent Screams, the first in the series.

I’ve read a fair amount of non-fiction on serial killers, watched a few movies and TV shows, but I’ve never read a novel in which a profiler was the main character. I was curious to see how she’d pull it off. It’s a favourite theme in TV series; adding something new, seemed quite difficult.

She’s pulled it off admirably well because she added two new things. The first is her character, psychologist Lee Campbell. He’s a troubled soul, who, after a breakdown, has spent time in a psychiatric hospital because of depression. When the book starts, he functions but is still not exactly stable. His friend and colleague doubts he’s ready to take on a big case, but Lee feels he must as the dead girl they find shows the signs of ritualistic murder. As I said before, C.E. Lawrence added two new things and the second is tied to the first. Her novels are set in New York and the way she describes it is detailed and fascinating. It shows an insider’s perspective that hasn’t a lot to do with the cliché New York we’ve come to know through movies. Additionally she’s set the book at a special moment in time: a few months after 9/11. And that’s when we understand Lee’s breakdown. He may have been depressed before – some elements of family history we read about may explain it – but 9/11 triggers the breakdown. I don’t think that I’ve ever read a book, which managed to make me experience some of the horror 9/11 must have been for those who lived in New York. At times I forgot this is a crime novel because I was so captivated by the descriptions.

While Lee battles his demons and moves through a traumatized city, the “Slasher”, as they have come to call him, kills another girl. And another one. Early on, Lee himself is targeted as well. It’s that story line in particular that I found gripping. Why would a serial killer target a profiler from the very beginning? Did he have something to do with the disappearance of Lee’s sister a few years ago?

Readers of this blog know that I don’t like frantic pacing. I was very glad that this novel only picked up speed after the first third and even then, it was anything but frantic.

Overall this was an enjoyable read. It had a few flaws – occasionally too much explaining – but they didn’t bother me. What I found really intriguing – other than the amazing way she explored the time and setting – was that this thriller, despite its darkness, had many elements of a cozy mystery: great atmosphere, careful descriptions, likable characters and a laid-back pace. Due to the end, which I won’t spoil here, of course, I’m very curious to see what case Lee will have to solve next and am going to read book two Silent Victim soon.

If you’d like to read some of Carole’s shorter fiction – one of her stories can be found in the anthology Vengeance: Mystery Writers of America Presents, edited by Lee Child.

Her books have been translated into Germand and French.

22 thoughts on “C.E. Lawrence: Silent Screams (2009) Lee Campbell Series 1

  1. The setting and time that this occurs sounds like it is an effective innovation. Setting a book that covers such horrific things at a time when other, mega horrific things were happening seems like it would exponentially increase the horror.

  2. I love crime novels, but I tend to avoid books with serial killers or slasher type stories–depending on whether they are too graphic or not. Strangely, too, (or maybe not so strange) is that I tend to not choose crime novels that are set in the US (I guess I want something new and different?), but I do like the idea of NYC from an insider’s view. This does sound as though she has taken a much trodden theme and put a fresher spin on things–maybe I will see if I can find her short story–always a nice way into a new author’s work for me. Did she talk about her writing process for a book like this in your class?

    • Carole has just answered most of your questions, Danielle. I actually wanted to include the aspect of the books not being gruesome at all. I was more than thankful for that. I guess that’s what I meant when I wrote they had elements of cozies. This is a book readers of both genres can read, which isn’t the case with a lot of serial killer fiction.
      Carole’s done a lot of research on the psychology of serial killers which goes into the book. The focus is psychlogy, more than the acting out.

  3. Hi everyone –
    Thanks so much for your comments, and to Caroline for doing this blog! Actually, Danielle, I don’t like graphic depictions of violence either, so all my killing is off screen, so to speak. You never see people getting killed.

    My website has links to most of my work, including the Lee Child and Brad Meltzer anthologies I’m in that MWA published.
    http://celawrence.com/

    Thanks, everyone!

  4. Thanks, Caroline – yeah, I don’t like gruesomeness for several reasons, one of them purely aesthetic. I think it’s icky. ) : But I’m also more interested in suspense than in horror – it’s the build up that interests me.

  5. Wonderful review, Caroline! This book looks quite interesting. Psychologist profiler tries to solve a serial murder, the city is also a character in the story – what is not to like 🙂 It is also wonderful to know that Carole offers courses on mystery writing. It must have been a wonderful experience participating in it. I hope you enjoy the second book in the series too. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Happy reading!

    • Thanks, Vishy. It’ve seen some people on amazon criticize the lack of pace but that was something I liked. She takes time, carefully describes everything and adds a lot.
      I’m looking forward to the next installemnt. 🙂

      • That lack of pace seems to indicate that it is not a regular page turner but a literary crime novel. Sounds more and more fascinating 🙂 I should add this to my wishlist! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the second book. Happy reading!

        • You’re right. Unfortunately the cover is misleading and – to be honest – there were quite a few typos. Both of which depend on the editor, not the author.

  6. You’ve piqued my interest. 🙂 I only like mysteries that have a complicated protagonist and this sounds as though it does. Too many mysteries focus on violence and that’s off-putting to me, also. I shall have to check this one out.

    • It’s not flawless but it’s different. It’s not often I see R.D.Laing’s theories mentioned in a thriller. In her interview Carole writes about battling depression, which went into the creation of the profiler.
      And I realy appreciated the way she described New York.

  7. How intriguing. If you’re interested, the psychoanalyst, Christopher Bollas has a chapter on what makes a serial killer in his book Cracking Up: the work of unconscious experience. It is very good! Essentially, when a child had experienced such a dreadful childhood – extreme parental rage or abuse – that he feels dead inside, he kills repeatedly in order to identify with his victims at the point of death and afterwards. Its why serial killers so often keep bodies long after they are dead and why they they want their victims to understand what is about to happen to them. I have been in two minds as to whether to post about that chapter for a long time – and keep putting it off! But I found it most interesting… I’d love to hear more about your writing course, too!

    • I hope you’ll write about it. I wonder if Carole knows it, I guess she does. She took courses in profiling. You can see how much she’s researched for the book. The information slows it down at times but I found it made it much more interesting. Serial killers are gruesome but it’s still fascinating.
      The course was great. carole is a great teacher. Kind and encouraging but still let’s you know what doesn’t work. And she’s a funny one as well. I liked it quite a bit.
      I’ll look up Bolla’s book and hope you’ll write about it.

    • Thank you so much to Vishy, Violet, Pearlsandprose for your comments – I really appreciate your taking the time! Litlove, that sounds right up my alley. Thank you for the recommendation – I’ve read so much about these people, but never heard it expressed in exactly that way. That’s a terrific theory.

      Though most profilers don’t claim every serial killer is a product of abuse, I have yet to hear of one who isn’t. Most often it’s a reaction to extreme trauma – which is one reason I get inside the head of the killer in my books. I empathize with them, even though their deeds are heinous, and I include flashbacks from their childhoods in most of my books, showing their particular trauma.

      If anyone has questions about the crime writing course, I’m happy to answer, of course. I teach one for NYU and Gotham, and they are similar, though the NYU class is much smaller usually. Gotham classes online can have up to 16 students.

      A BIG thanks to Caroline – you rock, girlfriend!

      • It was my pleasure
        I just looked up Bollas’ book and it looks very interesting. I didn’t really see it as trying to come to terms with trauma but it makes sense.

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