By: Michael Hiebert
Detective Leah Teal Series #4
Publication Date: 6/28/2016
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
"There's something mesmerizing about Hiebert's storytelling voice." --The New York Times Book Review
A case from the past sparks a nightmare for Detective Leah Teal in Michael Hiebert's masterful new novel of suspense.
Fifteen years ago, a serial killer tagged by the media as the Stickman spread terror throughout Alabama and became Alvin detective Joe Fowler's obsession. After fifteen months and nine victims, Harry Stork was identified as the Stickman and Fowler shot him dead. The killings stopped. For a while.
Now, more bodies are turning up, each staked through the chest with a stick-figure drawing in the killer's signature style. Detective Leah Teal—Joe Fowler's daughter and Alvin's sole detective—receives a letter before each victim is found, just like her late father did. The only people who knew about the letters were the cops on the task force back then—and the killer himself. Did Joe shoot the wrong man, or was one of the detectives he handpicked involved all along? As a single mother, Leah tries to balance an increasingly disturbing case and a new relationship with caring for her children—bright, perceptive Abe, and teenaged Caroline, who's in the first flush of young love. But with each menacing communication, each gruesome discovery, Leah realizes just how personal, and how devastating, the truth may be.
Weaving lyrical prose and emotional richness into a taut, gripping mystery, Michael Hiebert creates a fascinating novel of life, love, and death in a small Southern town.
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A special thank you to Kensington and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Nice cover.
A fan of the Michael Hiebert’s southern series (have read them all), he returns following (2015) A Thorn Among the Lilies (Detective Leah Teal series #3) with #4 in the series STICKS AND STONES –From beauty to brutality; A Southern Gothic psychological crime suspense. A serial killer. A new case, similar to a fifteen-year-old case of Leah’s then, Detective father.
Raising all sorts of questions: Was the wrong man shot, a copycat, or someone on the inside gone bad? Why has the killer been sitting dormant all these years?
(2015) A Thorn Among the Lilies (#3)
(2014) Close To the Broken Hearted (#2)
(2013) Dream with Little Angels (#1)
Picking up from earlier books, set in the small rural town of Alvin, Alabama, (pop. 6,000) police officer Leah Teal, daughter of Joe Fowler, a former detective back in 1974. Joe was involved in an intense case tagged by the media as "Stickman."
The brutal case involved wooden staves hammered through chest, and pieces of paper affixed to the stave, a drawing of a stickman made in black permanent market.
Victims ranged from mid- twenties to early forties, both men and women. Every killing brought in more cops and a task force. The case was long and arduous with nine in total. Harry Stork, The Stickman. Joe Fowler gave his life. Leah’s dad killed him. It lasted from Feb, 1973-July 22, 1974.
He made sure, his daughter Leah would follow in his footsteps. She needed to be able to take care of her family.
Now fifteen years later, it is 1989 --Leah is a single mom. Her husband Billy was killed years ago in an automobile accident. She is now dating Dan Truitt, a Detective from nearby Birmingham.
Detective Leah Teal is the only detective in the town of Alvin and raising two children, we met from earlier books. Abe (love him), age thirteen, and daughter, Caroline, age sixteen. They always become involved in the cases. Also, we get to catch up with Abe’s partner in crime and best friend, Dewey. The adventure always unfolds with this duo: Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
Now, she receives the news Stickman Strikes again. Her pa shot him through the heart. How could this be? The killings stopped, so now why start again fifteen years later? He is dead.
Unless there is a copycat, or someone related. OR worst still, did her dad kill the wrong man? Why would a copycat start fifteen years later? The dead do not come back. Now everyone is panicked. The murders have started and now she is the one receiving the letters, like her dad received. Prior to finding the victims. Warning: A storm is approaching
What is the truth? She recalled the details when her dad was involved. It has to be someone who knew his MO and his signature. They knew to send the letter ahead of time. Leah cannot accept her father made a mistake. His legacy. The Stickman had to be someone else. Maybe it took fifteen years to find a new partner.
A serial killer is on the loose. Through cop procedures and forensics, we meet a colorful cast of characters and suspects. From a twin brother Tommy and a pa named Noah. There was also an honorable discharge due to psychological trauma and his own medical waste management company. Following clues, schizophrenia, psych wards, a suicide, Jonathan, plus more crazy names: Stickman, Stranger, Duck, Buzzman, plus more.
In between trying to keep everyone safe from the killer, trying to solve the crime mystery, Teah is also juggling two teens, which is no easy task and a boyfriend who drinks too much. What about Dan’s dark monsters. Why does he drink so much?
From tragedy and the road to healing. Life's torrential storms. Protection for those things, and people we hold so precious to our hearts. I really enjoyed the first two books in the series; however, the latest two additions, are not quite as engaging or lyrical, as the series started. The first two seemed to be more emotional and gripping, and always enjoy the humor from the kids, mixed with the forensics.
A few notations: Hopefully if there is another installment, we can get some of original groove back. I enjoyed more of the, coming-of-age tales with Abe and Dewey’s character taking the lead, which adds a nice balance. Also, Leah seemed to be a bit disconnected. Some of the Southern flair was missing which was apparent in the earlier books in the series. Recommend reading the first, and working your way through the series.
Hiebert is a talented and gifted writer, however, want to see more of his earlier, bold, literary storytelling style-Complex, psychological, heart-wrenching effects on the human psyche (less cop procedures) as: Wiley Cash, David Joy, Charles Martin, and John Hart, true Southern Grit/Gothic. Of course, we know Hiebert is not from the South, as these mentions.
June Top Reads
About the Author
I’m Michael Hiebert, which you probably already know if you are at this website and have spent anytime perusing it at all. But it just sounded like a good way to say hi. So: “Hi!”
I live up in Canada (not in the really cold parts–but it can definitely get cold enough. My dog froze one day. We just kept him outside until he thawed in the spring. If you believe that, you really need to read some of my stories (Or get out more :)).
I am a very prolific author because I have to be. You know the 80/20 rule? Well, eighty percent of everything I write is crap, so I have to write a lot to make the twenty percent pile of brilliant stuff satisfy my publisher into thinking I know what I’m doing.
For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed writing, but it was only twelve years ago (holy cow! Has it really been TWELVE years?) that I quit my day job and became “unemployed,” which is another word for writer.
It really is hard to distinguish the two at first, when you’re not selling anything (which is most of the time) and spend the next ten years typing on the computer hanging around in your boxer shorts. Then, one day, you accidentally stumble into a woman on the streets of New York who just happens to turn out to be a literary agent, but before you even know that part the two of you have decided to go out for drinks when she gets off work. Read More