PLAYING DEAD

Written by Julia Heaberlin

Review written by Pippa McAllister


PLAYING DEAD
Faber & Faber
RRP: £6.99
Released: 5th July 2012
Pbk

When her father William dies, Tommie McCloud returns home to Ponder, Texas. William McCloud was a federal marshal, descended from a long line of lawmen. He was also a rancher and had brought Tommie up to be tough and to look after herself, while from her mother she inherited a love of music. A rodeo accident put paid to any thoughts she had of studying music or of any further rodeo appearances. Tommie's family had been close but her brother Tuck had been killed in a car crash and her mother is in a specialist nursing facility with dementia; her sister Sadie is the only one left and Sadie has her own worries with her young daughter Maddie, who has a brain tumour.

While Tommie is in her father's office his secretary Melva gives her a handwritten letter from the wife of a convicted mobster and from the moment she reads it Tommie's world is shattered. Tommie knows she has to find answers to the question raised by the letter but she only slowly becomes aware of the real danger facing her and those she loves. As she begins to piece information together, she realises how much more she needs to know. Tommie desperately needs help and trustworthy support so she enlists the help of former boyfriend Hudson, ex-rodeo competitor and military contractor. As Tommie searches for the truth she rushes from Texas to Chicago to Idabel, Oklahoma, and places in between. After a series of unpleasant messages and phone calls, she is never sure if she is being followed or if someone is watching Maddie. Who is the mysterious Jack Smith, apart from not being the reporter that he says he is?

It would do this intricately plotted book a disservice to give away too much detail. Julia Heaberlin has created a range of believable characters, from the jobsworth bank clerk to Wade, her father's dependable right hand man. Tommie herself is loyal, passionate, fiercely protective of those close to her and stubborn.

This is a fast paced debut novel with as many twists as a corkscrew to keep the reader on their toes until the end.

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