"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 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.
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.
Praise for the novels of Michael Hiebert
Dream with Little Angels
"Hiebert's first novel courts comparison to the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, but the book manages to soar as a moving achievement in its own right. In Hiebert's hands, psychological insight and restrained lyricism combine to create a coming-of-age tale as devastating as it is indelible. --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Readers who enjoy literary fiction depicting small-town life in the tradition of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird may want to try Hiebert's debut." --Library Journal
"Michael Hiebert's debut delivers . . . a breathless, will-they-get-there-in-time affair, with a heartbreaking resolution." --Mystery Scene
Close to the Broken Hearted
"Hiebert does a masterful job of building suspense." --Publishers Weekly
"A very good, sometimes emotional, mystery that will stay with you long after it's over." --Suspense Magazine
A Thorn Among the Lilies
"Engaging. . .Readers will keep guessing whodunit to the end." --Publishers Weekly
Set in 1989, Hiebert's bloated fourth thriller featuring Alvin, Ala., police officer Leah Teal (after 2015's A Thorn Among the Lilies) centers on the murder of a woman found shot, hog-tied, and staked to the ground. The MO calls to mind the work of the Stickman, a murderer whom Leah's detective father, Joe Fowler, supposedly shot dead 15 years earlier. Unwilling to accept that her revered father shot the wrong man, Leah, who's Alvin's only law-enforcement official, and her boyfriend, Det. Dan Truitt, who hails from Birmingham, pursue the case with the imminent threat of another killing hanging over their heads. Various narratives from the points of views of Leah; her 13-year-old son, Abe; and her 16-year-old daughter, Carry muddle what is already a rote yet convoluted serial killer story. Meanwhile, Leah ignores the problem of boorish, condescending Dan's constant drinking, and the melodramatic climax stretches credulity farther than many readers will be willing to go.