Close To the Broken Hearted
Review: Leah Teal, a detective in the rural community of Alvin, Alabama, has her hands full when a preacher, who was imprisoned for killing a 3-year-old boy, is released on parole and returns to his hometown, in Close To the Broken Hearted, a literary novel of suspense by Michael Hiebert.
Seventeen years ago Sylvie Carson, now a single mother with a 3-month-old daughter, was just a child herself when she witnessed Eli Brown kill her brother while her family was having dinner. She lost her mother a few years later, when she died after consuming rat poison, and her father when Sylvie was in her early teens, after he committed suicide by hanging himself. After being released from foster care, she latched on to the first boy that was nice to her and became pregnant. He left her before the baby was born. And now strange things have been happening around her home: a cellar door left open, shadows in the windows, and shotgun casings left in a row on her kitchen counter. Sylvie thinks Preacher Eli is tormenting her, but Leah isn't so sure he is responsible.
It is difficult to pin Close To the Broken Hearted to a specific crime novel category, as it is far more literary fiction than genre fiction. (About half the chapters are written in first person from the point of view of Leah's tween son Abe, who is at best only tangentially involved with his mother's investigation, spending most of his time hanging out with his best friend Dewey and wondering why his mom won't talk about his father, who died in an accident when he was a toddler.) There are elements of a whodunit-style mystery (though there is no murder), police procedural (of sorts), and Southern Gothic (or Southern noir), but none of these really capture what the book is about. From a mystery perspective, the storyline is rather thin, and takes a very long time to develop. And then it wraps itself up within a few pages towards the end. Any foundation for the resolution of this subplot, if indeed it even exists, is lost within the drama of Detective Leah Teal's family and, separately, her investigation of Sylvie Carson's increasingly hysterical response to events that occur around her home that she cannot explain. This is not a fast-paced novel nor a particularly suspenseful one, but it does tend to draw the reader in. The large number of unresolved issues, unanswered questions and untied plot threads at the end are a little frustrating, but on balance, this is an interesting, if not exactly a completely satisfactory, book.
Acknowledgment: Kensington provided an ARC of Close To the Broken Hearted for this review.
Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Close To the Broken Hearted: Alabama
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Close To the Broken Hearted by Michael Hiebert
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: June 2014
List Price: $15.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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