Title: Playing Dead
Author: Julia Heaberlin
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: 4 out of 5
When Tommie McCloud’s father dies, she is bereft. But the letter she receives just a few days after her father’s death shakes her to the core. In it, a woman claims that Tommie is her baby, and that she was kidnapped over thirty years ago. Tommie wants to dismiss the woman as crazy, but as she digs into her past, she begins to find that things aren’t supporting her version of events. Desperate to understand the truth, Tommie must figure out what happened to her as a child and what secrets her parents hid from her.
Playing Dead is a story about a woman whose world is turned completely upside down. Tommie thought she knew everything there was to know about her life. She had parents who loved her and a simple life growing up in Texas. But if this woman is right, she’s linked to the Chicago Mob, to an infinitely more complicated existence, and what’s more, her life is in danger. It’s interesting to watch Tommie navigate this novel, not sure of what to think or what to believe. She’s brave, asking difficult questions that she doesn’t necessarily want the answers to, and she’s not afraid to take her destiny in her own hands.
Much of Playing Dead is set in Texas, and the book is seething with atmosphere. It’s clear that Heaberlin spent some significant time in the small towns of Texas, as she captured them perfectly. This book will transport readers from their homes to Tommie’s small town of Ponder, Texas. The attention paid to the setting and the intricate details used to build it up are wonderful. If you’re in the mood for a book that has an exciting plot and will take you to another place, this is it.
The mystery in Playing Dead is a good one. Readers will be hooked by the premise, and the intensity doesn’t let up from beginning to end. It’s a book full of secrets, and Heaberlin paces it well, revealing information at opportune times in order to increase the suspense. As the novel progresses, admittedly some of the twists and turns verge on being silly, but Heaberlin keeps the reader completely engaged nonetheless. You may have to suspend your sense of disbelief for this book, but if you can, you’ll be completely entertained.
If you’re looking for a family mystery full of secrets and lies, Playing Dead is a good choice. Book clubs might also be interested in this book, as it’s full of players with different motives that readers will want to dissect. It’s a fun read from beginning to end, and won’t have trouble keeping readers interested.