Review: Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin

July 5, 2012 Ballantine Books, Review, Thriller 3

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Original edition (May 29, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0345527011
  • Source: Publisher

Tommie McCloud returns to her small hometown in Texas when her father passes away. Ponder was like many small towns, everyone knew one another’s business, no secrets could be withheld from the prying eyes of neighbors. So Tommie thought, that is.  Just days after her father’s passing, she receives a letter from a woman, indicating the family and the past Tommie thought believed was her own was in fact a horrible lie. Tommie’s true name was allegedly Adriana Marchetti, abducted from her parents over twenty years ago. As if this news wasn’t shocking enough, Tommie learns that her biological parents were a former stripper and mob boss, her father currently in jail for murdering an entire family in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Tommie scrambles to hold on to the only family she’s ever known. She and her sister Sadie are dealing with their mother, now suffering from dementia and living in assisted living. Just when she needs her most, needs her honesty and explanation, Tommie is unable to get any information from her.   Certain that the letter she received is a hoax, she begins to investigate this alleged kidnapping. As she digs deeper into her family’s past and reveals a great deal of secrets that were long-ago buried, her life, and the lives of those she loves, is at risk.

Without sounding too cliche, Playing Dead is a whirlwind of a story. Tommie, still recovering from the death of her father is dealt a horribly painful blow. Her family has always seemed a little off to her; her mother was frequently depressed frequently fought with their father. Tommie assumed a great deal of the pain her family suffered was due to the loss of her brother on his eighteenth birthday, but the more she digs into her family’s secret past the more questions are raised. The man she thought was her father is not, instead her actual flesh and blood is spending the rest of his life in jail. No one currently living is able to answer the dozens of questions she raises, so she begins to investigate the lives and stories of those now dead and how their demise is tied to her family’s secretive past.

Tommie is an incredibly endearing character. Incredibly strong-willed and minded, she’s always felt as though she was living a life not meant for her. She fled her hometown of Ponder for a reason and is now forced to return and become enveloped in a life, a history, her parents kept from her for decades.  Her strong-will does allow a sense of vulnerability to shine through, however. As an adult, she now works with children from difficult and/or abusive homes.  It isn’t a stretch to see that she’s hoping to make up for the childhood she experienced.

Playing Dead is a truly monumental debut. Heaberlin sends her readers on a roller-coaster ride of deception and deceit, ending in a truly mind-blowing conclusion. Her novel is one that will force itself into your life, not relenting until you’ve finished it. A truly addictive thriller, one I recommend wholeheartedly.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Be sure to check out the official tour page for other stops along this tour.

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