Film star Amanda Delany has the world at her feet. Never one for the quiet life, she has had a string of affairs with the hottest actors around. Then, coming home late from a night shoot, Amanda puts the key in her front door for the very last time. The next morning, Amanda’s body is found, stabbed many times, only her beautiful face left unharmed.
DI Anna Travis is ordered to the team assigned to the Delany murder, headed by Anna’s former lover, the demanding DCI James Langton. Anna is shocked by the truth behind Amanda’s public image: her addictions to drugs and starvation diets; her cold, unemotional parents; her elusive film agent; and the former lovers so quick to distance themselves. But Anna has challenges of her own to overcome too. Promotion to Chief Inspector is within her grasp, but when the time comes for her to stand before the board, she faces a shocking accusation of personal misconduct.
With insider authenticity derived from La Plante’s years in the film world and a heroine worthy of her predecessor, Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison, Silent Scream is La Plante’s best yet.
About the Author
Lynda La Plante's many novels, including the Prime Suspect series, have all been international bestsellers. She is an honorary fellow of the British Film Institute and a member of the UK Crime Writers Awards Hall of Fame. She was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2008. She runs her own television production company and lives in London and Easthampton, New York. Visit her website at LaplanteBooks.com.
Read an Excerpt
Silent ScreamAn Anna Travis Mystery
By Lynda La Plante
TouchstoneCopyright © 2010 Lynda La Plante
All right reserved.
The driver was not her usual one, but as the night filming had been completed ahead of schedule, she had been released from the set in West London earlier than expected. Amanda Delany didn’t mind, though; all the unit drivers had become friends of the entire film company. The Mercedes drew up outside her mews house in Belgravia, and she jumped out quickly. The driver made sure she was safely inside the house before he drove off. She liked that because the overhanging ivy around her front door made it possible for someone to hide there, and she was cautious, although none of her fans knew her new address.
Amanda loved the little house. She had really been in residence only eight weeks, but she had purchased it eighteen months ago. The renovations and the decoration had been completed before she had moved in, and it still had the lingering smells of new carpets and paint.
She was tired, it was almost midnight, and she decided to go straight to bed, relieved that she wasn’t still filming until four in the morning—which was when the night shoot usually ended. Tomorrow she would be collected midafternoon. They were shooting in summer, and it didn’t get dark until almost nine.
Amanda took a quick shower and got into her bed, new, like everything else in the mews house. This was the first place that she had owned, the first time she had lived on her own, without flatmates or boyfriends. She had changed partners almost as frequently as she had filming commitments, which made perfect fodder for the tabloids. Her lovers had invariably been her costars, and although she was still only twenty-four years old, Amanda had broken up two marriages. Her last affair, with a famous movie star, had been very public. Amanda was one of a clutch of young, very beautiful actresses about to break into the big time, and her agent had warned her to curb her sexual exploits or risk damaging her blossoming career.
She fell deeply asleep straightaway but woke up an hour later. For a few moments she was disoriented and reached for the clock on her bedside table, wondering if she had inadvertently set the alarm. Night filming was always difficult to adjust to, and often she found it hard working through the night and catching up on sleep during the day. Had there been a change of schedule? Had it been the telephone that had woken her? Amanda threw back the duvet and went to the window to look into the mews courtyard, but it was empty.
Back in bed, she snuggled down, must have dropped off again, and then woke with a start. The scream was hideous, of such agony and terror that her heart lurched with fear. She sat up listening, waiting for it to continue, waiting for something to happen. But nothing did. Terrified, she got up again to look from the window into the courtyard. She turned on the lights and went from the bedroom down the narrow hall. All was silent, and from her kitchen annex, she looked into the back garden, a small paved square with high walls. She wondered if it was perhaps a wounded animal she’d heard.
Returning to her bedroom, leaving all the lights on, she couldn’t stop hearing that terrible single scream echoing in her head. The more she thought about it, the more certain she was that it was a woman screaming. She recalled being cast as the victim of a serial killer in a movie that required her to scream, and when she couldn’t get the right pitch, they had brought in another actress who specialized in bloodcurdling screams. She remembered when she watched the finished film how chilling the moment had been.
Eventually she went back to sleep, aided by two sleeping tablets. She didn’t wake until midmorning, and brewing up fresh coffee, she wondered if it had simply been a nightmare that had woken her.
She spent the rest of the day learning her lines in preparation for the night’s filming. Her usual driver collected her midafternoon to take her to the set for makeup and hair. He apologized for not being available the previous evening.
“This weird thing happened last night,” she said.
“Who drove you?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing to do with that. I was in bed, and this terrible scream woke me up.” She frowned and leaned forward. “I don’t know if it was the screaming that woke me—you know, if it had gone on before—but it was just one long terrible scream, and it really scared me.”
“Maybe it was a cat—or one o’ these urban foxes they go on about?”
“No, no, it didn’t sound like either of those. At first I thought it was maybe an animal, but… I think it was a woman.”
“Did you call the police?”
“No, I didn’t, because it all went quiet, and I couldn’t see anyone outside or in the back garden. I just went back to bed.”
In the makeup trailer, Amanda repeated the incident to her hairdresser. She told it over again to her makeup artist, and it brought forth a slew of stories from the girls about nightmares and how hard it was, working nights, to get to sleep. She told the director how frightened she had been. His response was to joke that it would probably help her performance. They were about to shoot a scene where she was to be confronted by the archvillain, who attempted to strangle her because he knew that she could identify him.
The film was yet another version of Gaslight, a Victorian thriller in which a young wife was terrorized by her husband, intent on frightening her to death in order to claim her inheritance. The script had been adapted by a young writer who hoped, with the use of state-of-the-art special effects, to turn it into a successful killer chiller, its dark, foreboding style in homage to Nosferatu and early silent horror films. The director, Julian Pike, was only twenty-seven and had just one successful art-house movie to his credit, so a lot depended on this much bigger-budget extravaganza.
The filming went well, with only a few delays. They were shooting the exterior shots in a man-made cobbled street lit by gas lamps that backed onto a massive hangar where the main set, with its remarkable reconstruction of a Victorian house, was standing. Tonight they were filming the scene where Amanda, cast as the young wife, returned from the opera with her husband and alights from the carriage to enter their house, a mocked-up exterior with pillars and three steps leading to the front door. The door could be opened but led onto a small platform inside, five feet off the ground. With only enough room for two people on the platform, it was decided that the maid would open the door and step back quickly. An assistant would help her down, leaving enough room for the two leading actors to sweep inside. It was such a simple shot, but they had to do take after take to get it right, and Pike was losing patience.
In the next scene, Amanda was running from the house in terror. She crossed the road in an attempt to escape, tried to hail a horse-drawn Hansom cab, and, failing to do so, was almost run over by a carriage. There were rain machines, and flash lighting to depict lightning; the sound of thunder would be laid on afterward. As the fog, generated by smoke machines, became thicker, Amanda had to collide with the very man she was afraid of. Then she had to scream. Nothing went smoothly: the horses got skittish with the flash lighting; one take was ruined as the smoke machine made Amanda start coughing. There were altercations between Amanda and the uptight director. By now she was freezing cold.
The costume department was having a hard time keeping the mud off Amanda’s dress, with its heavy hooped velvet skirt and boned corset, and the ringlets were dropping out of her wig. Amanda and the director then had yet another stand-up argument, shouting at each other in front of the entire crew.
When the time came for the close-up of Amanda screaming, she was in such a bad temper that the scream sounded more like one of anger than of terror. The director yelled at her to try and do the scream she’d heard the night before. Finally he called it quits for the night, even though he hadn’t gotten the sound he wanted. He told Amanda to have a good night’s sleep; she would be wanted on-set for the first shot of the day, and he needed her in a better mood.
Amanda, with her usual driver, did not get home until four-thirty in the morning. By that time, she was exhausted. The tight corset and heavy hooped skirt had given her a backache, and she had a headache from trying to scream. She was also feeling chilled, as it had been so cold on-set, and the rain effects had soaked her through to the skin. She’d sat hunched in the back of the Mercedes on the drive home, saying little. Her driver had helped her from the car and walked her to the front door, making sure she was inside before he drove away. As he reversed, his headlights caught her opening her front door; she turned and waved to him. He was struck by her beauty. Tired as she was, with her makeup wiped off and her face pale, she had almost a translucent quality. She gave him the sweetest of smiles.
The same unit driver returned later to collect her for the end of the night shoot. They would then, thankfully, have the weekend off before returning to the usual daily schedule. It had been a long, hard shoot, and a few more days remained before they wrapped. The driver rang the doorbell and returned to sit in the car. He waited ten minutes. Often she would keep him outside even longer; he was used to giving her about twenty minutes. After half an hour, he called her landline and got the answering machine. When he called her mobile phone and she didn’t pick up, he rang the unit to say he was outside Amanda’s mews house but could not get any response.
The makeup and hair departments were getting impatient. It took at least two hours to do makeup and fit the wig. Then the costume designer appeared, asking for Amanda. She was to wear a very elaborate gown that not only required a corset; they would need to handstitch her into it. The first assistant joined them, hoping that Amanda might have driven herself, as they still had not made contact with her at home.
Julian Pike flew into a rage. He had a heavy schedule, but at least he would be able to start filming the only scene that did not require Amanda. Her driver was instructed to keep knocking on her door, and as the actors prepared to film the first scene, the production assistant called Amanda’s agent. Concerned, the latter said she would drive herself to the mews, as she had a spare key.
Two hours later, Amanda’s stunt double was dressed in her costume; the director had made the decision to shoot around any close-ups so the filming could continue. He was heard to say that they would probably be better off without the “bitch.”
The bitch was lying naked on her new bed. Her hands were tied and her legs spread out, and the blood from multiple stab wounds had stained the sheets in hideous thick pools. Her shocked agent stood frozen as she saw the awful tableau. It was obvious that Amanda Delany had been brutally murdered. Her beautiful face was unmarked, her eyes wide open.
© 2009 Lynda La Plante
Excerpted from Silent Scream by Lynda La Plante Copyright © 2010 by Lynda La Plante. Excerpted by permission.
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Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Silent Scream includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Lynda La Plante. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Reading Group Guide
Beautiful young film star Amanda Delany is the next big thing in Britain, until she is found murdered in her posh London home. Up for promotion, Detective Anna Travis intends to prove her worth by solving the case of the beloved ingénue. But the deeply troubled Amanda, known for promiscuity with her co-stars, drug use, and anorexia, has left behind a messy trail of suspects, including famous ex-boyfriends, jealous roommates, a fraudulent agent, and ice-cold parents—all of whom stand to lose everything from the actress’ upcoming tell-all memoir. As she immerses herself in the star’s sordid affairs, Anna must overcome her past misconduct—and gain the approval of her critical boss and ex-lover James Langton—to solve the high-profile case that could make or break her career.
1. Langton says that Anna Travis needs more experience before she can get promoted. Which of Anna’s traits make her a successful DI, and in what ways does she need to improve?
2. What are some of the reasons Langton decides to take over the investigation of Amanda Delany’s murder from DCI Matthews? How was the case possibly mishandled at the beginning? How could it have been solved sooner?
3. The author says that Langton was never one to play by the rules. Which rules does he consistently break and why?
4. Langton warns Anna about withholding information from the team and making conjectures. Does she have a right to do so, and how did this help or hurt the case? How do they both overstep their bounds?
5. Compare Langton’s investigation style to that of DI Travis. How can they each learn from the other?
6. Despite Amanda Delany’s many problems, she had a power over those who knew her. What about Amanda was so alluring, and how did this contribute to both her success and her downfall?
7. Besides Amanda Delany, who are the other victims in the case and why? Discuss the theme of manipulation throughout the book.
8. Throughout the first half of the book, who do you think had the strongest motive for killing Amanda Delany?
9. What was the significance of the Meredith Kinmont poem, “I am the Green Grass,” that Jeannie Bale read at Amanda Delany’s funeral? What does it reveal about Amanda’s nature?
10. Compare and contrast the personalities of Anna Travis and Amanda Delany. How are the two women alike, and which of Amanda’s character traits may Anna have recognized in herself?
11. What does La Plante reveal about the nature of obsession? What characters fell prey to obsession?
12. What were Langton’s possible motives for referring Anna to Gordon the chiropractor? Could he have known about Gordon’s true feelings?
13. Discuss the ways in which the characters use both money and sex for power throughout the book.
14. Anna’s father was a big influence on her. How does his death affect Anna’s approach to her career, as well as her romantic relationships?
15. What is the biggest hurdle in the investigation, and how do Anna and the team overcome it? What clues possibly led them astray?
16. How should Anna have handled the interview for her promotion? What would you have done differently in the same situation?
17. It is never confirmed who impregnated Amanda Delany. Who do you believe it to be?
18. If Amanda Delany had not been murdered, where do you see her future going? Would she have changed her ways, or eventually self-destructed?
19. Who besides the actual killer had the strongest motive to murder Amanda Delany? Who do you think would have been hurt the most by the publication of her memoir?
20. What was at the root of Amanda Delany’s “silent scream”? What demons followed her throughout her life?
Enhance your Book Group
1. Watch the 1944 movie Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman, the Victorian thriller that Amanda Delany was filming at the time of her murder. Discuss how the film sets the stage for Silent Scream.
2. Look through recent celebrity magazines and websites and discuss which young actresses in Hollywood today most closely resemble Amanda Delany.
3. At the point in the book where Anna Travis uses the index card technique her father taught her to organize her suspects (page 246), meet with your group to recreate this game. Make an index card for each suspect, discuss each person’s possible motives, and place your cards in order of suspicion. Discuss the possibility of any additional suspects and motives.
4. Discuss what you would include in your own tell-all memoir and how friends and family might react.
A Conversation with Lynda La Plante
1. How is the nature of police work different for men and women, and how does this come into play for Anna Travis? What are your views on the role of women, specifically a young detective like Anna, in such a male-dominated field?
Although the Metropolitan police force remains a male-dominated environment, there have been major steps forwards in removing discrimination between male and female officers. Equality is preached, but there remain antagonistic attitudes, usually from the older detectives. The new breed realizes that female officers must be treated as equals, and although there are obviously a number of women leaving for maternal reasons, it does not affect the workplace. Female officers know that if time is taken out to either give birth or remain at home to look after their children until they feel they can return to work, they will basically have to restart their careers. Laws change, police procedures change, and taking any time out requires an updated knowledge.
Anna Travis will have to prove herself a capable detective before any promotion. There is no easy solution; any failing she has will not be due to her being female.
2. Were there any high-profile cases that inspired the Amanda Delany storyline?
There are many cases that I have used as a semi background for the building of the character Amanda Delany. We have very famous young models who appear hell-bent on a destructive life of binge drinking and drugs. This is also very relevant with many young Hollywood starlets, girls who appear to have everything—wealth, success, and beauty—but are constantly being arrested for drug abuse and alcohol-fueled incidents. The number of famous young actresses spending time in rehab, suffering from various addictions along with eating disorders, is a daily news item. We live in an age when sadly few famous stars have not had plastic surgery, breast implants, teeth implants, hair extensions, nail extensions, and attempt to maintain a skeleton frame. Amanda Delany is one of them.
3. In reference to an affair with a witness (Damien Nolan) in a previous case, Langton says to Anna, “You’ve got a bright future and you almost blew it.” Why does Anna continuously let personal relationships affect her work?
Why does Anna Travis continuously let personal relationships affect her work? She is very young, very inexperienced, and her private time is constantly swamped by whatever investigation she is working on. She has few friends outside her workplace; she has no hobbies or sport-related pastimes. She is very career minded, almost to being obsessive, and when she makes a foolish error of judgment it is highlighted because of her relationship with her boss, her mentor, her ex-lover James Langton. That is in reality one of her first errors but, likewise, can be said of him having a sexual relationship with such a young detective. Early on she is very aware that she is making a mistake, but in many ways not only is he a very sexually attractive man, he is also a father figure. It is Anna, however, who breaks off the relationship, and when she makes the error of being attracted to a man so similar to Langton, i.e. Damien Nolan, it is down to the fact he makes her feel less like a young girl and more like a woman. Again it is her inexperience that doesn’t give her a self-warning. Langton is absolutely correct warning her of her stupidity in having a sexual relationship with Damien Nolen. If Nolan had been called as a defense witness, and it was leaked that an officer involved in the investigation was having a relationship with the husband of a woman on trial, all hell could break loose.
Anna has to live and learn by her mistakes. The flaws in her character are what make her sympathetic and in many ways understandable, because she is also a very attractive woman. Sometimes she is really unaware of her own sexuality, and the men who prove to be detrimental to her career are more or less filling a void left by Langton.
4. Anna’s father appears to have influenced her greatly. Who in your life has influenced your life and work?
Jack Travis was a big man, with a big personality, and with a reputation as a true cop. He never rose above the rank of detective sergeant, because unlike his daughter he had never had the education to move him up the ranks. He was a hard drinker and a man everyone admired; he took no prisoners and his honesty and toughness made him a detective who was always a mainstay of any murder enquiry team. He has many similarities to his beloved daughter, a workaholic who is obsessive and determined never to allow a case to go unsolved. Jack nevertheless somehow found time to be a constant support for Anna. He was always in slight awe of her beauty, and even more so her intelligence. His death, leaving Anna alone, was a very painful period in her young life.
I can think of no one in my own life with whom I had a relationship like Anna and her father. I have not had that many people who I can honestly say influenced me or my work. I have, however, been fortunate to work alongside so many talented people that contact has enabled me to learn from them. To have spent so much of my career first as an actress taught me all about failure and at the same time gave me a very literate background. I have learned from mistakes, and I think possibly the main influence would be a producer called Verity Lambert. She was a very tough operator and a woman that also took risks, i.e. Verity took the risk of commissioning me to write my first television series, Widows. She took the chance knowing I had never written anything before but made me understand that if it was not up to her standard she would hire another writer. By the time the first draft of episode one was on her desk, I had already begun a diligent research helped by the Met police. Her notes were never destructive, constantly making me see the faults for myself, e.g. she asked if I intended that the leading character did not come into focus until midway of the script! She also gave me another note that like everything she ever said I have used throughout my career. “If it is not on the written page it will not appear in the script.” I remained a constant friend of Verity until she died; she was in many ways my mentor. The other person who will always be remembered by me was my first American editor, Jeanne F. Bernkoff. One note from Jeannie was that I should never be afraid of a “perfect written line”; she called them diamond lines that I often spoiled by surrounding them with cheap glitter!
5. In several instances, you chose to reveal details about the characters to the reader that Anna Travis was not aware of. Why did you choose this technique, and how do you think it enhanced the story?
I often choose to give a reader details about characters that the police are not privy to. I choose this technique because I think it is interesting to see how the information is gradually gathered by the investigation. It makes the reader on occasions one step ahead, but then it is equally interesting to see if the information is valuable or not.
6. Were there any intentional parallels between Anna Travis and Amanda Delany?
The only parallel between Anna Travis and Amanda Delany is youth. Amanda is successful, famous, and wealthy in her chosen career. Travis is neither wealthy nor famous but I consider her to be very successful in her chosen career. They are very different females, one with a wretched destructive streak with no self-esteem.
Anna on the other hand has had a loving background with doting parents, and they have given her security and values. Amanda Delany has no moral values; her deep-seated insecurity is in total contrast to Anna, and yet her compassion and shock when she uncovers the seedy, pitiful existence of a girl that was to many young fans an icon saddens her greatly.
7. What is at the root of the tension between Langton and Anna? What is the biggest change in their relationship in this latest book?
The growing tension between Langton and Travis is due to the fact that they had a sexual relationship. Langton finds it difficult to let go of his control. At the same time neither can help the fact they are bound together by a mutual attraction. Langton also came into her life after the death of her father, so is bound up in their relationship is the “father figure” as well as the mentor. As Anna gains confidence in herself the ties begin to loosen, so the relationship slowly changes as she is more capable of standing up against him. In Silent Scream Anna is beginning to gain more experience and attempting to remove his domination.
8. How did the current economic crisis influence your inclusion of various financial conflicts in the book?
The current economic crisis in the UK creates the financial situation with her agent. The world of publishing creates more and more celebrity deals for autobiographies from young stars who have their fifteen minutes of fame. It isn’t in any way hard to believe that Amanda Delany could ask for a huge advance from a publisher for her memoirs. The UK is awash with soap stars writing novels and autobiographies to the extent that some booksellers have refused to stock a third autobiography from a star who is still only thirty-one years old!
9. What does the future possibly hold for Anna Travis? What are you working on now?
The future for Anna Travis is watching her moving up the ranks. In my next novel she will head up a murder team and have a personal tragedy that will shape the rest of her life. I see Anna Travis eventually slipping into the shoes of my Prime Suspect detective Jane Tennison—to be able to see a character age and shaped by her life is a wonderful experience for me.
10. You have a very successful career as a novelist. What advice would you give to those who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
My advice to any writer beginning her career is to make sure you understand your subject matter. It is a truly wonderful profession that is made by dedication and also having the confidence to self-believe. I always advise any young writer working for me to keep going. Often the first attempts are never productive because of lack of confidence. Many writers in my opinion make the mistake of constantly reworking their first chapters until the initial energy is lost. Keep going. Don’t ask family members for their advice; they will always have “their story.” Retain the energy that first kick-started you into wanting to write. A finished manuscript can be reworked and edited but in many cases the lack of confidence means the manuscript is never finished but ends up in a drawer somewhere. When the novel is completed, another learning curve is to be able to make a treatment of your story. Never send an uncommissioned manuscript to a publisher. Find out who the commissioning editors are of the publisher you choose. I have printed in front of my desk a large notice rejection does not mean no. Many famous writers have been through rejections; it’s the same advice again: keep going and upper most, if possible, find an agent who will read your novel and believe in it as much as you do.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Anna Travis is investigating the murder of up and coming young actress, Amanda Delaney. There is little evidence to go on and the squad seems to stumble along with no real progress. Of course, it is Anna who provides the leads that help solve the case. SILENT SCREAM is Lynda La Plante’s Book 5 of her Anna Travis Mysteries series. SILENT SCREAM is a crime thriller, a suspenseful mystery and a ‘police procedural’. Travis is a very flawed character - a brilliant detective, extremely hard-working - but obsessed with her job. With no family, friends or even close co-workers, her stress levels are off the charts. She can be quite stubborn and impetuous and is haunted by and hounded by ex-lover (and Boss) James Langton. The book is quite detailed, well-organized and suspenseful. I like this series. I just wish I liked the main characters a bit more.
Twenty something movie star Amanda Delany is a favorite of the paparazzi and tabloids as she always makes infamous news with drugs and sex. When a publisher offers a ton of money for a tell-all titivating autobiography, Amanda accepts the offer. However, before she can write her exposé, someone murders her in her Belgravia mews house that she had occupied for only eight weeks. Detective Inspector Anna Travis leads the police investigation knowing the unscrupulous media will do anything including interfering and intruding on her inquiry to gain a scoop. However, the crime scene provides no useful information. Worse motives are galore as Anna trafficked in drug and man usage as she was a serial marriage destroyer and then there is the memoir. With the media clamoring for instant results, Anna's former lover and a previous direct reports supervisor Detective Chief Superintendent James Langton demands she resolve the case yesterday even as a financial scam surfaces that adds a potential monetary motive to the complex case. In her fifth case, Travis is terrific as she shows little growth as an investigator from her previous cases like Deadly Intent; yet is up for a promotion as the Peter Principle apparently is winning out. Her somewhat early ineptitude enhances a fun whodunit though the culprit will be easily identified by readers much earlier than the cops do. Silent Scream is an entertaining British police procedural starring a cop who may have risen above her skill level yet remains confident in her abilities to stride for a promotion. Harriet Klausner