Book Review – Without a Word by Kate McQuaile

Pages: 356
Published: 19 October 2017
Started reading: May 30
Finished reading: June 3


Orla Breslin watches on in horror through her computer screen as her best friend Lillian, who she is talking to on Skype, disappears after hearing a knock on the door. Her house is then destroyed by fire, killing an innocent man in the process.

This leads to a police investigation overseen by Inpector Ned Moynihan, who puts his job before his family life. After several weeks an no progress, the investigation is scaled down and remains unsolved.

Ten years later, Ned begins to receive threatening letters through the post, claiming that he did not handle the case properly. He believes that Orla is responsible for the messages, but she knows nothing about them.

Is somebody trying to tell them the truth about what really happened to Lillian that night?


This book is built around an excellent premise. The plot summary is very intriguing and is what drew me to the book, and the ideas are definitely there. However, I felt the execution of those ideas and the way the story unravelled left something to be desired.

The novel begins at a very fast pace, and acts as a very good set up for what is to come. It presents you with a genuine mystery, and the whole idea of Orla witnessing Lillian’s disappearance on Skype (The opening is set in 2006; how many people used Skype back then?!) is a very fascinating and original one that brings a lot of possibilities.

It succeeds in maintaining the mystery for a long time, with the clues few and far between and no obvious motive for any of the characters to be responsible for Lillian’s disappearance. There is also the question of whether she is alive or dead.

But then came the twists, and sadly they were disappointing. Not only were they tiresomely cliched, one or two were just plain illogical, as the actions of some of the characters just did not make much sense. As a result, what should have been the most dramatic moments of the book just left me with a feeling of indifference.

That is a great shame, because there was a lot to like about Without A Word, in particular the writing style. Kate McQuaile writes in a calm and conversational style, almost as if she is interacting with the reader, and she makes the art of putting coherent prose together look so easy.

Although Orla is the narrator, I felt that Ned was portrayed as the main protagonist in the book. He is a very likeable character, as he is helpful and good-natured, and cares about about his job. He is also given a large amount of depth including a very big backstory, which though interesting, only adds a minor degree of significance to the plot.

Overall, I would say that this book is very readable, but fails to deliver a truly satisfying conclusion to what was a wonderful concept and original setup. I loved McQuaile’s writing style and that may persuade me to read more of her work, but taken as a whole, Without A Word didn’t quite do it for me!

The Author

Kate McQuaile is originally from Drogheda in the Republic of Ireland, but currently lives in London. Without A Word is her second novel, after What She Never Told Me, which was published in March 2016.

On her Twitter bio, she describes herself as a journalist, writer, singer, and swimmer. So slightly more varied than my own Twitter bio, which also includes a list of four things 🙂


An interesting and often enjoyable read with a charismatic writing style and some interesting, deep characters. Sadly, the outcome of the book and the twists that lead towards the resolution are not as sophisticated or dramatic as I would have hoped.

If you like a mystery, then you may like this one, but I cannot give Without A Word too high a rating. Therefore, I award it 2.5 stars.

Happy reading 🙂

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