Dream With Little Angels by Michael Hiebert
Read: November 27th, 2013- December 2nd, 2013
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Kensington House Pub Ltd.
Price (Paperback): $15.00
Abe Teal is a precocious eleven year old boy keen to the changing ways of life. His older sister, Carry, just started dating her first boyfriend, leaving no time to play with Abe or his best friend Dewey, a pastime that she used to find enjoyable. Leah, Abe’s single mother, was left widowed feeling more than distraught and anger at her late husband’s passing. The only thing keeping Leah sane is her job as the sole detective in small Alvin, Alabama in 1987. But, her sanity isn’t long lasting.
Life takes a sudden turn when fourteen year old Mary Anne Dailey vanishes after getting off her school bus at the end of the day. With Mary Anne, not that much younger than Carry, Leah becomes shaky as memories of her first missing person’s case begins to resurface in her mind. The town goes on high alert, searching the mountains and swamp areas for any sign of the missing girl. Days later, Tiffany Yates, a black girl around the same age as Mary Anne, disappears leaving Abe and Dewey as the last witnesses to see her alive. With all the nightmares beginning to resurface, Leah decides to allow Abe to shadow her in the investigation, as he is technically a witness in Tiffany’s disappearance.
As time passes with no new leads, Abe begins to realize that racism is still very prevalent in their town despite his mother’s persistence in both missing girls’ cases. His all white church prays only for Mary Anne Dailey, while the local Baptist church prays for both girls’ safe return. Abe finds this odd, as he believes all people are God’s children, and he can’t seem to shake the uneasiness he feels as the cases go on longer with no new leads.
Abe can see the toll that the cases take on his mother, leaving her exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally. He presses her for details about a case that haunts her – one that has stayed in her mind from long before Abe was even born. Twelve years prior, Ruby Mae Vickers went missing, and for months, the entire town searched for her. Her body was finally found posed beneath a willow tree with various means of torture apparent on her cold, lifeless skin. Leah was never able to forgive herself for not finding Ruby in time, and it has plagued her every single day since.
The town goes into high gear as the case takes on a new urgency, and Abe is brought onto the front lines of the case with Leah at the helm. She is more determined than ever to bring a little girl home. Forced into facing the darker side of life that children rarely see, Abe accepts that his childhood is over and that becoming more mature means that he has to sacrifice some of his innocence in order to help his mother catch an age-old killer.
Told from the perspective of eleven year old Abe, the story slips through the time of his childhood innocence to a time when he becomes more mature and understanding. A demeanor that emerges as more of the case becomes evident. He makes use of his ears, listening to his mother argue with her boss over the case. Even during interviews, in order to get the reader the insight that no eleven year old would ever be exposed to in normal circumstance.
Abe was an intelligent boy, making deductions about people, the case, and ultimately life through his experiences. He dangled the killer in front of the reader’s face, but didn’t provide enough information for any guess to be made based off evidence, as there was very little. However, I made a wild guess, saying to myself, “How funny would it be if _____ was the killer?” Clearly, the matter at hand was not humorous at all, but the writer in me thought it would have been an interesting turn of events, and it just so happened to work out that way.
The end explanation of the murders seemed a little rushed to me. It felt as though it was slapped onto the end as a way to explain why the deaths occurred, but at the same time, the explanation wasn’t as creative as it could have been. As I said, it felt rushed, and I didn’t feel like justice was served for the victims and their families. The main characters’ lives returned to normal afterward, with Leah finally being able to bury her demons. Even with that knowledge, I thought the ending fell flat in comparison to the rest of the book.