Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin

Book Description:

Published: May 29, 2012

“Dear Tommie: Have you ever wondered about who you are?”

The letter that turns Tommie McCloud’s world upside down arrives from a stranger only days after her father’s death. The woman who wrote it claims that Tommie is her daughter—and that she was kidnapped as a baby thirty-one years ago.

Tommie wants to believe it’s all a hoax, but suddenly a girl who grew up on a Texas ranch finds herself linked to a horrific past: the slaughter of a family in Chicago, the murder of an Oklahoma beauty queen, and the kidnapping of a little girl named Adriana. Tommie races along a twisting, nightmarish path while an unseen stalker is determined to keep old secrets locked inside the dementia-battered brain of the woman who Tommie always thought was her real mother. With everything she has ever believed in question, and no one she can trust, Tommie must discover the truth about the girl who vanished—and the very real threats that still remain.

“[Julia Heaberlin’s] voice is pitch perfect, and her story of one woman’s fierce struggle to reconcile her past with her present is gripping and powerful. An outstanding debut.”—Carla Buckley, author of Invisible.

Review –

This debut novel is set mainly in the wilds of Texas and the narrator is Tommie, in her early 30’s and an equine psychologist by profession – she rehabilitates children whose lives have been shattered in some way by encouraging them to ride and train horses. Tommie was set to be either a great pianist or a rodeo star, but her hopes for both potential professions were dashed in one fell swoop when, as a young girl, someone ensured she rode a “banned” steer, so she fell and broke her hand when it trampled her.

Tommie is one of those well-educated  protagonists, who is paranoid about her safety yet is always getting herself into avoidable, dangerous situations. She has a few useful men to protect her – an Afghanistan vet boyfriend, her parents’ ranch hand, an old Southern lawyer, a crack journalist and a taxi driver. Tommie is scared because she has received a shocking letter just after her “Daddy” has died. The letter says that Tommie’s mother is in fact a woman married to an infamous, jailed mobster. The woman who Tommie has always thought of as her mother is in a care-hospital suffering from Alzheimer’s, so cannot communicate with her daughter. Tommie’s sister Sadie and her cute niece Maddie provide useful support and a sounding board for her concerns.

At the bottom of this novel is a good mystery story, actually quite simple but the author  complicates things and prolongs the solution of the mystery much longer than need be. A clue is given near the end that could have been given around page ten and could have tied up all the loose ends. Because of this I created the book four and a half stars.

Also, the outcome was predictable, or at  least is was to me but  I was happy with the ending.

I enjoyed it very much and the narrator, Madeleine Lambert, did a fantastic job on the voices and Texas  twangs of all the characters and made it a very pleasant listen.

I highly recommend this book if you like mysteries.

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