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Reviews of Julia Heaberlin's novels: Lie Still & Playing Dead

Review of Lie Still

Lie Still appealed to me because it is set in North Texas, where I live, and Heaberlin does a great job of emphasizing the regional characteristics of this area, its locale, expressions, food, and the overall idiosyncrasies that distinguish Texas from anywhere else. Although Heaberlin may be considered a regional writer, the themes of her novels are certainly universal, transcending geographical limitations. 

Heaberlin has woven together a twisty-turny mystery thriller that will keep you guessing right up until the end. The story centers on Emily and her husband Mike who have moved down from New York because Mike has taken the job as the new police chief. Because of Mike’s importance in the fictional town of Clairmont, Emily is invited into an elite circle of wealthy women led by the socially powerful but bizarre Caroline. I believe Heaberlin when she states at the end of the book:

“ None of the crazy, diabolical Southern women in this book are based on a real person. Most of the Texas women I know are quite nice, thank you, and don’t go around eating Little Debbie cakes with a rifle riding in the trunk of their cars.” 

My book club had a lively discussion over whether the quirky female characters prevalent throughout the book, especially former beauty queen, Lettie, who constantly diets, flaunts her supposed lineage to General Lee, and wields a gun as casually as most people handle blow dryers are realistic. I see them as caricatures, embodying some of the stereotypes associated with southern women. The thought of these women actually existing leaves me quaking in my boots.

Through Emily’s character, Heaberlin delves into the devastation of date rape and its long lasting psychological effects. Emily has never fully dealt with an event from college that forever changed her life. Now in Clairmont, when Caroline goes missing, Emily finds her past catching up to her. Clarimont is full of secrets and denial won’t always work to keep the evil at bay. 

Heaberlin balances the dark moments of the book with some laugh out humorous scenes that give readers a brief reprieve from the otherwise serious and deadly underlying tone that permeates the book. 

All in all a very good read!

 

 Review of Playing Dead

Playing Dead is my favorite between both of Heaberlin’s novels, and one of the reasons is because Ponder, Texas really does exist, and it's in my neck of the woods.

Tommie Mcloud is the protagonist of the book, daughter of a prominent ranch owner whose entire world gets turned upside down after she receives a letter from an infamous Chicago mobster’s wife who makes Tommie begin to question her own identity and what secrets her family may be hiding.

Since her father has recently died and her mother suffers from dementia, Tommie begins to search for answers on her own, but she quickly discovers that uncovering the truth could cost her and the rest of her family their very lives.  No longer knowing whom to trust, Tommie turns to her old flame, Hudson Byrd, whose military experience and connections help her move forward in her personal investigation. Reluctant to get romantically attached to Hudson again, Tommie tries to keep her distance from Hudson, while still relying on his help. Yet by doing so, she puts herself in some dangerous situations that could have been avoided if she’d just listened to Hudson. While the rekindling of their romance adds a layer of depth to the story, it is secondary to the overall plot of who Tommie is and how her family is linked to the mafia and the decades old murders that are somehow connected. Besides some hot kisses, the romance is clean, and intimate scenes are implied rather than overtly described.

The mystery shrouding Tommie’s identity isn’t fully resolved until the last 10% of the book when all of the pieces of the puzzle finally begin to fit together leading up to one big surprise that I never anticipated.  Playing Dead was definitely an engaging and suspenseful read!

 

 Link to Reviews

http://sunmountainreviews.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/reviews-of-lie-s...

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