“If you see something, say something” is a dangerous phrase. On the one hand, we need to watch out for each other. There are plenty of stories that serve as evidence that a sharp eye and willingness to speak up have saved lives. On the other, sometimes we speak up when we’re not sure we’ve actually seen something. This dilemma lies at the heart of Such a Quiet Place, by Megan Miranda. This book takes place in a small community that, a year before the book opens, was the scene of the surprising death of two long-time residents. There was enough evidence to convict one of their own of the deaths. Now, a year later, the conviction has been overturned and everyone is very uncomfortable that the person they all firmly believe is a murderer has returned.
Harper, one of the residents of Hollow’s Edge and one of several who testified at Ruby’s trial, spends the entirety of this novel twisted in anxious knots. She’s always wondered if she was right to speak up at Ruby’s trial, even if she didn’t say anything particularly damning. Her anxiety isn’t helped when Ruby sneaks up on Harper in her own home. (Ruby was her former roommate, until her arrest and conviction.) We quickly learn that Ruby is a mercurial person. I’m not sure if her personality rubbed people the wrong way before the deaths of the Truetts. Ruby certainly does now that she’s come back, especially since she’s determined to prove that she’s innocent and wreak some kind of revenge on the people who sent her to prison.
Throughout the novel, Harper and the other residents confer about what they will and won’t say. Everyone—except doubtful Harper—wants to stick to the story they all agreed on. With Ruby back and doing her own investigating, Harper decides to start asking questions, too. She also thinks back on the night the Truetts died and starts to wonder if she really saw what everyone thinks they saw. What about the fact that the cop who lives in their neighborhood is now facing scrutiny at work for railroading Ruby? What about all the others in Hollow’s Edge who clam up when Harper tries to ask deeper questions? And what about Ruby herself? Did she through up enough red flags with her behavior and criticism of others that she might really be a murderer? And if it wasn’t Ruby, who killed the Truetts?
In addition to asking questions about the balance between being too suspicious and watching out for each other, Such a Quiet Place also makes us take a good look at the lengths some people are willing to go to in order to preserve appearances. Before the Truetts and Ruby and the trial, Hollow’s Edge was an exclusive community. The residents created their own unofficial homeowner’s association to make sure that everything stayed respectable—or at least protected each other’s secrets enough to avoid scandals. I could easily imagine the residents of Hollow’s Edge, four hundred years earlier, taking justice into their own hands. Ruby is just the kind of person who would’ve been accused of witchcraft, too.) Although we don’t light torches and swing pitchforks anymore, Such a Quiet Place makes us wonder if we’re really all that different from our ancestors.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.