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Never Speak

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Never Speak is about a writer who shouldn't write about a mysterious cult directed by an even more mysterious teacher. Thrilling!

Never Speak is the first book by John Manchester, and it’s a mystery thriller set in America. The protagonist, Ray, had been a musician and then for a few years, during the 1970s, he was part of a cult directed by Karl, a mysterious teacher who made his disciples work hard all day and follow strict rules. One of the rules, and possibly the most important, was that they couldn’t speak about what they were doing. Hence, after leaving the cult, Ray couldn’t reveal details about it to anyone.


One day, Ray finds out his ex-wife Susan, who had also been part of the cult, had died in a very suspect circumstance. This made him curious and also sparked memories of the time spent in Karl’s cult. He decided to start writing about it. At this point Never Speak becomes a meta thriller, because the reader will not only follow the story of Ray at present times, trying to find out what really happened to Susan, but will also read a “book inside the book,” describing what had happened during the cult years. I thought this was a very interesting way of dealing with narrating flashbacks.


Ray, even though he has doubts, coming from his brainwashed self, that he should not speak/write, is enamoured with the past, and in fact this sentence refers to him: “His one true love. The past.” For Ray, losing a person, the end of a relationship, a friendship or leaving the cult, are situations that lead him to obsess over the memories forever, asking himself questions about what happened and why it happened in that way.


The book gets more and more intense as Ray finds out what really happened in the cult, and specifically what really happened to his ex-wife Susan after he left the cult. The author did a really good job at keeping the tension up and the events interesting until the very end. The character of Ray was funny and sarcastic, and with him being the protagonist it was very easy to become hooked with the story, even though reading about cults is not usually my cup of tea. Never Speak is not only a good mystery book, but also a charming book about writing and the writing process. 

Reviewed by

I am a neuroscience PhD student but I have always been a passionate reader and I have read many different book genres. I also write and have done for a very long time. I would definitely say reading and writing are two of my favourite activities, and I don't think this will change anytime soon.

About the author

John Manchester has written about the arts, life and growing up with his late father, the historian William Manchester, for Salon.com and Cognoscenti. Before writing, John made a living writing positive happy music. Now he writes dark psychological mystery/thrillers. view profile

Published on January 29, 2019

Published by TCK Publishing

100000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Reviewed by