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Sticks and Stones (An Alvin, Alabama Novel)…
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Sticks and Stones (An Alvin, Alabama Novel)

by Michael Hiebert

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I was looking forward to reading this book BUT once I started reading I realized it did not appeal to me. I could not relate to Leah or her relationship with Dan. I did not get the dynamics at the police department in Alvin, Alabama and wonder if it would really be as portrayed even in small town 1999. I liked Carry and Johnathan together but feel they got a rough deal. Abe, at 13, was an interesting character. I have to admit that I skimmed the middle to reach the end and believe it will probably appeal some but it did not appeal to me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the eARC in exchange for my honest review. ( )
  CathyGeha | Jun 27, 2016 |
Joe Fowler's career as a detective was shaped by the hunt for The Stickman, a serial killer who terrorized Alabama in 1973/74. Fowler identified Harry Stork, and in a classic showdown, shot and killed him. 15 years later, a murder scene reminiscent of the stickman's leads Fowler's daughter, Detective Leah Teal, to look into her father's old case. Is she dealing with a copycat murder? Or did her father kill the wrong man and the stickman has returned?
This had the hallmarks of a character-driven mystery where you get a comprehensive insight into the relationships, thoughts, and activities of Leah and of Leah's thirteen-year-old son, Abe, and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Carry. The story is mostly told from third-person-perspective but switches to the first person for Abe's perspective. His was the most enjoyable because it was amusing in parts. He didn't seem consistent, though. On the one hand, he looked up words he didn't understand in a dictionary and on the other hand, his first person perspective contained words that didn't fit with his thirteen-year-old teenage boy persona. It's little things like this that made the character not very authentic.
Sticks and Stones is the fourth book in the Detective Leah Tale series, but the first one I have read. That is perhaps why I was struggling to connect with these characters.
Leah mostly annoyed me. She came across as weak and incompetent: a not-so-friendly inmate needs interviewing and Leah... 'better let my detective boyfriend do that while I observe how it's done'. There was an instance where she nearly fainted. Good job she had three strong males by her side....eye roll. Her monologs became repetitive: 'What if my father shot the wrong man?' 'My boyfriend is an alcoholic, and I really should be dealing with it'. But she didn't.
With some taut editing, this could have been an interesting mystery, but it was just overly long and dragged. For example, Abe reads a book on forensics and so we are given a complete basic introduction into forensic procedures. Then we get the entire timeline of the cases. Too detailed for me and it didn't help the plot. I was getting really impatient with this, and when I started counting the instances when "near on" and "on account of" was used (roughly 50 and 70 times), I knew maybe I should give up.
I love Southern mysteries, which is why I really wanted to read this, but it wasn't as gripping as I had hoped. Sorry. 2.75 stars if I could, but rounding up to 3 because once Leah finally works out the identity of the killer, there were a couple of engaging chapters and a daring development I hadn't seen coming.
Thanks to Kensington who provided me with an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Pet12 | Jun 21, 2016 |
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, and John Hart true Southern Grit/Gothic. Of course, we know Hiebert is not from the South, as these mentions.

JDCMustReadBooks ( )
  JudithDCollins | Jun 15, 2016 |
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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 taskforce 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.… (more)

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