The Price of Silence



“The Price of Silence” – Thrills and romance, caught between a beautiful landscape and an ugly underworld

Ulla Håkanson began writing her first novel, The Price of Silence, during a week-long kayaking trip through the wilds of British Columbia.

The tale began as an adventure, then veered into a dark place, seemingly of its own accord. Which only made sense, given Ulla’s long-time interest in true-crime stories and dark-themed fiction by authors like Stieg Larsson. The unexplored nighttime wilderness, the sounds of wildlife and whispered conversations by firelight all sparked Ulla’s imagination. In no time at all, she went from retired graphic artist to aspiring author—and someone who couldn’t imagine not writing.

“I didn’t know anything about writing novels,” Ulla says now. “I’d heard you should write about something you knew, so I had to talk to many professional experts in order to “know” some of the things I wanted to write about. I trusted my storytelling intuition—and then filled in the knowledge gaps.”

Ulla consulted a police superintendent, a forensic lab staff sergeant, a supreme court judge, a defense attorney and medical and psychological professionals. The Price of Silence took five years to complete.

In her previous life as a graphic designer, Ulla spent four years at Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, creating illustrations for Professor Hannes Alfven, who won the Nobel Prize for Plasma Physics 1972. Ulla continued her drafting career in Toronto, Canada. At age 48, she entered Georg Brown College in Toronto to get a commercial arts degree. Navigating through herds of black-clad twenty-something artists, she earned her certificate and ran her own design company until retiring to the west coast of British Columbia.

Ulla’s writing room looks out on forest and the creeping west coast fog. On most days, birdsong, wind and rain—and perhaps the occasional deer—are her sole companions.

Ulla is now hard at work finishing up her second book, Deep Waters—a self-standing sequel to The Price of Silence.


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The Price of Silence

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Amy Robinson is on the rebound from an abusive fiancé. She’s running a successful salon, and is falling in love with Ben Malik, a police officer she met on a wilderness trip. All that comes crashing down when her ex-fiancé shows up and forces her to empty her bank account at gunpoint. The good news is, he’s using the money to flee the country so she’ll never see him again. The bad news is, the thugs he’s running from soon come after Amy, thinking she can lead them to her ex-fiancé. Kidnapped and interrogated, cut off from everything she knows and facing certain death, Amy must find a way to escape. Or die trying…

Experience First Pages

Excerpt from Chapter 1

A rust-riddled Dodge crept into a lonely gas station. With headlights off, its dark shape blended with the night. The driver stopped by the phone booth, cut the motor and scanned the area. He slipped from the car, then entered the booth. The light flicked on above his unkempt hair, highlighting his blood-covered face as he reached up to smash the bulb with the butt of his pistol. His haunted eyes probed the darkness. No traffic on the road, no movement, no sign of life.

He spat blood on the floor and picked up the receiver. Squinting at the numbers in the weak light from the station, he dialled a number. He cursed as the answering machine kicked in and slammed the phone down. He waited, peering into the night to see if anyone might be creeping up on him. After a moment, he dialled again. No answer. He soon fell into a routine: call, hang up, wait, scan the roadside, repeat – one foot tapping a nervous rhythm on the floor. Out of change, he slammed the receiver down one last time, scanned the area, slipped out of the booth and back into his car.

He drove south through the night, fretting about why his contact hadn’t picked up. He needed to hole up somewhere and needed an address. Going back to his rented room in Vancouver was not an option. They’d be waiting for him there.

Excerpt from Chapter 2

Amy enjoyed the twenty-minute brisk walk to her apartment. The rain had stopped. A few stars were visible in the night sky. It looked like a promising start for her mini vacation.

Weeks earlier, Amy’s cousin Willa had asked her to come along with her and six of her friends on a kayaking trip in Bowron Lake Provincial Park, about eight hundred kilometers northeast of Vancouver. “We’ll be moving across several interconnecting lakes and rivers that go in a circuit inside the park,” she said. “I hear the scenery is stunning, and we’ll see plenty of wildlife.”

“Thanks, Willa, but I don’t think so,” Amy had said. “I have enough drama in my life. Being around rapids, bears and cougars doesn’t sound like my idea of getting away from it all.”

But Willa wouldn’t take no for an answer. She knew about Amy’s break-up with her fiancé and could tell she was going through a hard time. She trotted out scenic pictures and glowing articles. Finally, Amy had agreed.

Amy smiled at the thought of the tip-and-recovery course Willa had insisted they take. “What’s the point?” she’d argued. “Sea kayaks don’t capsize.”

Willa kept insisting. Eventually, Amy relented. The course took place in a sheltered bay. They’d tipped their kayak and learned how to turn it upright again with the help of paddles and floats. That course hooked Amy on kayaking. Now her waterproof dry bags were packed. She couldn’t wait to go.

Excerpt from Chapter 3

The man in the car jerked awake by the sound of a passing truck. What the hell was he doing, sleeping in a stolen car with half of his face hanging down his neck? A cop might come by any time and check him out. He swallowed a couple of amphetamines and got back on the road. He drove south, thinking about how things had changed. Only a week ago it seemed he’d get away with anything…

He’d first met Ken Ross, a member of a Vancouver drug gang, at a nightclub. He’d approached him and asked what it would take to become a member. Ken told him he had a better proposition. They arranged to meet at a waterfront warehouse the following night. There, he learned that Ken was skimming from the Vancouver gang, but now needed help from an outsider. They reached an agreement and started their skimming operation.

Still wanting to be part of a gang, he’d joined a small gang in Squamish, just north of Vancouver. When he told Ken about this, Ken flew into a rage.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” Ken shouted. “You’re jeopardising our business by being a member of a rival gang. How long do you think it’ll take before the people in my gang find out the other gang has a new member, and the name of that member? They like to keep track of everybody. That doesn’t help our business.”


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