Life hasn’t been kind to Wyatt Branson in the last decade but there’s always Trumanell, his older sister, homecoming queen and once the prettiest girl in the small Texas town where they live who is always there for him. So when Wyatt brings home an abandoned young girl he found lying out in the hot sun alongside a road and brings her home, Trumanell understands his need to keep her safe.
But there’s a problem here and it’s not the young girl who Wyatt calls Angel as she refuses to talk, not even to give her name. The big trouble is that Trumanell disappeared ten years ago on the same evening their abusive father also vanished. That was also the night Wyatt’s girlfriend Odette was in a car accident and lost her leg.
So begins Julia Heaberlin’s newest mystery thriller “We Are All the Same in the Dark” (Ballantine 2020) Heaberlin, who worked for two decades as a journalist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Detroit News started reading thrillers when very young. Her favorite authors included Stephen King, Tana French, Thomas Harris, Daphne du Maurier, Edgar Allan Poe and Patricia Highsmith. Writing a novel was always her dream but it never seemed to happen.
“My husband encouraged me to take a chance,” says Heaberlin.
And so she did.
“I was very lucky,” she says, noting that she had struggled with how to write fiction, often getting stuck when outlining. “Then I read Stephen King’s book on writing. He says go with the character and so I did to the point that sometimes I don’t know what’s going to happen next when I’m writing.”
Her novels include “Black-Eyed Susans” and “Playing Dead,” each, as she describes them, an ode to Texas, her beloved home state.
Heaberlin likes writing about strong, resilient female characters, women like Odette, who hasn’t let the loss of a limb slow her down and is now the youngest police detective in town. Hearing that there’s a young girl at Wyatt’s house, she stops by to see what’s happening. Resistant at first, Odette starts the bonding process after noticing Angel is missing an eye and immediately shows she’s missing a leg. That starts their friendship, one where Odette, like Wyatt, wants to protect Angel and is afraid a state agency might send her back to her abusive father.
Because she is strong, Odette has found the courage to go on with her life despite losing her leg. But Wyatt has not. Suspicion has always surrounded him because of his missing family and it only increases when a pseudo-documentary mixes facts and fiction to make it look like he’s murdered them.
For Odette, saving Angel again involves her in the mystery of what happened the night Trumanell disappeared. Unfortunately, as she begins digging deeper into the past, someone is working equally hard to keep her from learning the truth.
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