“Close to the broken hearted” by Michael Hiebert – Book Review

I did what I rarely ever do.   I read the second book in a series without reading the first one….   In this case, I was pleasurably surprised as “Close to the broken hearted” reads well as a stand-alone novel.   Now, of course, I have to backtrack and read “Dream with little angels” the first novel to feature Alabama small-town detective Leah Teal and her son, Abe.

The novel begins fifteen years in the past when – enraged over a land dispute, Preacher Eli entered the Carson family home with a shotgun.  Sylvie Carson witnesses the shooting death of her baby brother at the supper table, when his fear led him to crawl up into his father’s lap at a crucial moment.    The resulting tragedy has marred her entire life and those of her (now deceased) parents.

Skip to the present and traumatized Sylvie is a single Mom of a three-month old baby living in a remote, rural house.  With no emotional or financial support she is valiantly trying to hold her life together when a series of odd occurrences begin to plague her.   She calls the police station so often that she thinks that one day they will ignore her as much as the little boy who called wolf.  Though one of the police officers dismisses her anxiety, Alvin, Alabama’s only female detective, Leah Teal treats Sylvie with respect and concern.  When Leah finds out that Preacher Eli has been released from prison, she becomes more concerned and involved in Sylvie’s life.  Tension mounts as Sylvie and her baby are threatened by obscure menace.

Leah, a widow, lives with her teenage daughter Caroline (Carry) and her young son, Abe (who narrates some chapters of the novel).  Abe’s outlook on his mother’s job, his sister and even Preacher Eli adds a unique and fresh perspective on the story.   Wise beyond his years, his narration paints a vivid portrait of the small southern town and those who live there.  His longing to know the Daddy he never knew permeates his life.

Leah didn’t choose to become a police officer.   Her own father was in the police and when she was widowed he suggested/arranged for her to join the force as a means of supporting herself and her young family.   Her thoughts and reflections are written with empathy and skill, making her character likeable and understandable.

Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, part southern gothic, “Close to the broken hearted” was an easy, enjoyable read.   I will keep Michael Hiebert on my favorite authors list.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this novel.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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