Category Archives: Sophie Littlefield

Review: The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield

guilty oneTitle: The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the award-winning author of The Missing Place—in which “Littlefield’s writing shines” (The Boston Globe)—another gripping exploration of the damage people can do to each other, and the resilience they find in themselves.

A man stands on the Golden Gate Bridge, poised to jump…if a woman on the other end of the phone tells him to.

Maris’s safe suburban world was shattered the day her daughter was found murdered, presumably at the hands of the young woman’s boyfriend. Her marriage crumbling, her routine shattered, Maris walks away from her pampered life as a Bay Area mom the day she receives a call from Ron, father of her daughter’s killer. Wracked with guilt over his son’s actions (and his own possible contribution to them), he asks Maris a single question: should he jump?

With a man’s life in her hands, Maris must decide, perhaps for the first time, what she truly wants. Retribution? Forgiveness? Or something more? Having lost everything, she’s finally free to recreate herself without the confining labels of “wife,” “mother,” or “mourner.” But will this shocking offer free her, or destroy her?

Review:

The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield is an intriguing character study that focuses primarily on two parents whose lives are forever intertwined by a senseless murder. What makes the premise of the novel so fascinating is one character is Maris Parker, the mother of the murdered teen while the other character is Ron Isherwood, the father of the convicted killer. The story begins about six weeks after the trial has ended and in the aftermath of the conviction, both families are attempting to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

For the past year, Maris has been paralyzed by overwhelming grief and her life has come to a virtual standstill. Now the trial is over, the sentence has been handed down and she must figure out what comes next for her. Her husband, Jeff, has moved out and announced he wants a divorce. While she contemplates her future, she is planning to spend a few weeks with her sister. She is rather ambivalent about the upcoming visit and after her car is broken into, Maris befriends a young woman and impulsively rents an apartment in her building where she begins re-evaluating her life.

Unlike his wife, Deb, Ron has never been completely convinced of his son’s innocence and after his conviction, Ron cannot bring himself to visit him in prison. He has come to the realization that his family’s history of violence might have passed down to his son and he is overcome with guilt for his son’s crime. Like Maris, Ron has essentially checked out life and as the story begins, he is finally ready to end his own life in a misguided effort to atone for his son Karl’s misdeeds. However, Ron makes a fateful decision to phone Maris before jumping which essentially saves his life and winds up being the impetus for both of them to truly move forward with their lives.

Both Ron and Maris are sympathetic characters but it is sometimes difficult to like them. Maris is not honest with her new friends and she takes a little too long to come clean about her past. She is also incredibly angry with Jeff and her anger seems a little over the top considering that she made her share of mistakes during their marriage. It is also very frustrating how Maris continually avoids confrontation instead of facing it head on. Her grief over her daughter’s death is particularly heartbreaking but her new friends and simpler lifestyle provide her with a different perspective that helps Maris decide what she wants in life.

Ron grew up in an abusive household and he has tried very hard to leave his violent past behind him. He kept much of what occurred in his childhood hidden from Deb and he has worked hard to maintain tight control over his own aggressive tendencies. Looking back, Ron now wonders if he was too hard on Karl and one incident in particular continues to haunt him. One of the biggest questions that weighs heavily on Ron is how much responsibility he bears for his son’s actions. In hindight, he cannot but question his decision to have children considering his family’s history.

With underlying themes of forgiveness and redemption, The Guilty One is a compelling novel. Although not a true mystery, Sophie Littlefield builds suspense about Karl’s guilt or innocence and the resolution of this part of the storyline is full of unexpected twists and turns. Overall, it is an engaging story that is poignant, thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying.

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Filed under Contemporary, Gallery Books, Rated B, Review, Sophie Littlefield, Suspense, The Guilty One

Review: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

missing placeTitle: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award–nominated author of Garden of Stones.

The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it’s easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there’s hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances—and maybe something more.

Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her—because she’s on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both…

Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, The Missing Place is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.

The Review:

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield is an utterly heart-wrenching mystery that is so compelling, I found it impossible to put down. The novel is a starkly honest portrayal of two very different women who are united in their search for their adult sons who have inexplicably vanished from a remote North Dakota town. Set against the backdrop of brutal winter, their investigation uncovers disturbing information about the oil company both men work for but yields very few clues about their sons’ whereabouts.

The only thing that Colleen Carroll and Shay Capparelli have in common is their missing sons. Colleen is wealthy, uptight and married and she and her husband have given their son Paul every advantage that money can buy. Shay is a laid back single mom, devoted to her children and while money is scarce, she provided her kids a happy, stable life. Shay is quick to anger and she often acts before she thinks. Colleen is completely out of her depth, but her ability to smooth over difficult situations is particularly useful during their investigation.

Shay’s son, Taylor is outgoing, friendly and well-liked. Despite Taylor’s move to North Dakota, the two remain very close and they talk almost daily. In sharp contrast, Colleen’s son Paul is shy and quiet but he has a bit of a troubling past. His relationship with his parents is volatile and Paul shares very little information with them. Despite these differences, Taylor and Paul are close friends and their disappearance on the same day certainly seems to indicate foul play.

Colleen and Shay reluctantly join forces to search for their sons and they are immediately stonewalled by the local authorities and Hunter-Cole Energy, the oil company that employs Paul and Taylor. Their progress is slow and while they uncover alarming information about unsafe working conditions, workplace accidents and outright corruption, it is impossible for them to link the oil company to the disappearances. Further clouding their investigation is the discovery of Hunter-Cole’s unfair land leases on the nearby reservation, but again, Colleen and Shay are frustrated by the tribe’s unwillingness to discuss their sons’ disappearances.

As a mom with a son the same age as the missing men in The Missing Place, I can completely relate to Shay and Colleen’s frantic need to do whatever it takes to find their children. As someone who has lived in a small isolated town far from most modern conveniences, I think Sophie Littlefield does an excellent job of capturing not just the loneliness but the desperation to escape an area with limited resources. And since I have lived in areas with similar weather, I can safely say Ms. Littlefield’s depiction of the harsh winter conditions is incredibly accurate.  This close attention to detail greatly enriches the overall story, and brings the entire novel vibrantly to life.

The Missing Place is an incredibly complex and intriguing novel with a well-developed and diverse set of characters. The mystery surrounding the boys’ disappearance is captivating and the novel does not end once the truth is finally revealed. Sophie Littlefield provides readers with a glimpse of what happens after the key players return to their regular lives. While the loose ends are mostly wrapped up, everything is not all pretty and perfect but the conclusion to the story is realistic and true to the characters and their various relationships.

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Filed under Contemporary, Gallery Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Sophie Littlefield, The Missing Place