Atria, Mar 2008, $26.95
Charley Webb has a column in the Palm Beach Post; she has two beautiful children sired by men she never intended on marrying. Her mother abandoned the family when she was eight years old leaving her to be raised by an angry acrimonious and emotionally abusive father. Since her mother came back into her life, her father refuses to speak to her ; her two sisters barely acknowledge her and her brother Brian is destroying himself with alcohol and drugs.
When she gets a letter from Jill Rohmer, who is on death row for kidnapping, torturing and killing three children, Charley arranges for her lawyer to arrange a meeting. He tries to discourage Charley, but she wants to meet the killer. After meeting Jill, Charley wants to write the woman’s biography; over the next month she spends time with Jill at the prison and on the phone. The only information that Jill refuses to reveal to Charley is the name of her accomplice whom she calls “Jack”. While she works with Jill, she receives a series of emails threatening her and her children. She turns to Alex whom she has become romantically involved with for help, but someone is watching her family waiting for the right moment to strike.
Charley has few friends because she has closed herself off emotionally to avoid hurt; she uses people as fodder for her column and knows there are may people angry at her, which leaves readers to wonder who threatens her kids to get at her. Joy Fielding is fabulous at writing psychological suspense with her latest being a strong affirmation of her skills. Although the threat to her children adds tension, the key to this powerful character driven thriller is Charley whose relational web is made up of people who loathe her before the Rohmer book; her writing the biography of a children’s’ killer adds more people who believe she is a despicable a-hole.