On June 3, 2005, in Corvallis, Oregon, three-year-old Karly Sheehan died after being abused and tortured.

In A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder, the author, an investigative journalist, details the events leading up to this death, including the numerous failures of the system along the way.

Karly’s parents, David and Sarah Sheehan, were divorced, and although David, an Irish immigrant, was the primary caretaker, the two alternated care. Sarah’s relationship with Shawn Wesley Field was the turning point in Karly’s life, but the ability of Sarah to deflect, to charm her way out of uncomfortable situations, and her apparent narcissism, were factors that did not end up in criminal charges against her in the end. Shawn Field was held on numerous counts and found guilty. He is serving a lengthy sentence.

Because the author had known and even cared for Sarah for a period of time during her teens, she felt a vested interest in the events and spent a great deal of time compiling facts of the case when writing this memoir.

Because of her relationship with Sarah, she knew the young woman’s flaws and did not buy into the “victim” stance afforded Sarah during the trial.

It was only after the trial that the author even learned of Karly’s death, as she had not been living in Corvallis at the time. The fact that Sarah did not reach out to her, or the very strange manner in which she reported the death to the author when she happened to run into her one day, set off red flags. Why had Sarah not protected her daughter? How did she so readily turn a blind eye to what was happening to her daughter?

Other questions certainly arose during her investigation and had arisen during the trial: why had the system failed to take certain steps to ensure the child’s safety? And how had Karly’s case fallen through the cracks?

April is Child Abuse Protection month, and it behooves us all to be more aware of the most vulnerable members of society.

In this quote, the author provides some statistics:

“Every five hours, a child in the U. S. dies from abuse or neglect, according to a 2011 investigation by the BBC journalist Natalia Antelava. The U.S. has the highest child abuse record in the industrialized world. America’s child abuse death rate is triple Canada’s and eleven times that of Italy…”

As a retired social worker and child protective services professional, I have encountered many alarming cases over the years. One would think I might become desensitized to the abuse, but, in fact, the opposite is true. Throughout Zacharias’s story, I found myself tearing up over and over at the alarming facts of the case. In telling Karly’s story, the author flashed between the past and present to weave in details of David’s story, as well as Sarah’s, showing the reader the very real characters and how their lives and choices impacted the victimized child. I found the reference to the protectiveness of mockingbirds an example of how far we, as humans, have yet to go to reach that level of safekeeping. Five stars.


I was provided a review copy by the publisher, which, in no way, has impacted my review of this book.


Circling back and forth between the 1970s and the present, Atkinson’s novel Started Early, Took My Dog: A Novel spotlights themes of murder, missing children, and the secrets that police officers, social workers, and others cling to for many years.

Jackson Brodie is a recurring character in Atkinson’s series, and in this story, he is fervently seeking answers to one young woman’s true identity. What he doesn’t expect is that many others will be searching for many of the same individuals, but for different reasons.

What events connect Tracy Waterhouse, Linda Pallister, Len Lomax, and other assorted individuals? How do a series of murders from the 1970s add to the mysteries in current day Leeds?

Throughout this very layered and complex story, and even as a series of red herrings threw me off course at times, I was quite glued to the pages, wondering what would happen next and how everything would tie together.

At times I felt confused, as the numerous characters, some minor, but more significant in the end, often left me scratching my head. But I loved this story, and would recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed any of the books in this series: therefore, four stars.


Entering the dream world of our protagonist, Trace/Ianthe, is like slipping between reality and fantasy.

An abused child whose poor grip on reality is balanced, at times, by her superior intelligence, Trace Pennington reinvents herself as Ianthe Covington, and enters college. There she manages some kind of normalcy, but lives in an abandoned farmhouse with her dog Weeds, barely existing except in the academic life she seemingly relishes.

When she meets and falls in love with a professor, Jacob Matthias, she drops out (in her senior year) and is seemingly absorbed into his life. But his dark secrets collide with her own and send her spiraling downward until, in flashes of memory or fantasy, we’re not sure which, she recalls the tragic finale to her childhood life and family.

Disturbing, intellectually challenging and gripping, Iodine: A Novel portrays the interior world of a psychotic woman, even as it gradually reveals the brutal, bizarre childhood that defined her.

This story sometimes had me spinning on the edge of reality, confused at times by Trace/Ianthe’s voice; in the end, I concluded that her perspective is her reality. The slippage of time, events, and the blurring between the past, the present, and some fantasy world…all combine to depict this young woman’s psyche and what defined her. Yet throughout, the reader can never know what is real, what is imagined, and what is simply the product of a disturbed mind.

Kimmel writes with brilliant prose and imagery, but I found this story confusing. However, I recommend it to those who revel in family dysfunction, and mental illness, and award it four stars.


Web of Tyranny

To find this book, click  HERE:

In my fourth novel, I went out on a limb, creating a character engulfed in the tyranny of child abuse – an entangling web that informs her life for decades.

We first meet Margaret Elaine Graham – later called Meg – at the age of ten, as she struggles to make sense of the dynamics of her controlling family life.  Despite the constraints that often overwhelm her, she finds escape – with her school studies, in her books, and even in some of her friendships – despite the restrictions that often interfere with her goals.  For example, she has to hide books under her mattress, because her tyrannical father’s fundamentalist beliefs do not allow for most of her book choices.

Throughout her childhood experiences and the abuse, some of which she will not remember for many years, Meg keeps her eye on the prize – freedom and an escape to a different kind of life.

Unfortunately, some of her choices along the way thwart her goals, including her marriage to Bob Williams – a professional businessman she meets while in college.  He is not who he appears to be, and stifled by the control freak that outwardly seemed nothing like her father, Meg hangs in there until after she achieves her college degree.  By then, she has a young child, but taking a leap of faith, Meg reinvents herself – as Lainey Graham – and carves out a life that includes friends, involvement in the radical causes of the day, and a career that will hold meaning for her.  Most of all, her choices must provide the freedom from all tyranny.

Meg/Lainey greets her quest with trepidation at times, and along the way, she battles alcohol addiction.  Therapy sessions provide some of the answers she seeks and opens a door Web of Tyrannyonto the secret betrayals of early childhood.


An exploration of the characters in my novel “Embrace the Whirlwind.”whirlwindcoversm  Find this book HERE:

To say that the character, Amber Cushing, is tempestuous, impulsive and out-of-control would be an understatement. But after meeting her mother, and after learning more about her childhood experiences, it is much easier to understand, and perhaps even empathize, with the apparently wrong choices of her life. In fact, you may find yourself cheering her on in her quest for love and acceptance.

As she hurtles down one path or another, you will also meet others along the way:  characters like Denise Richardson, a retired social worker, who will also intrigue you as you realize that, underneath the apparently caring and professional demeanor, lie secrets and demons that challenge her on a daily basis. These “flaws” lend an authenticity to her personality, even as they grip us and challenge us to look deeper below the surface in all the characters.

Including the apparently uptight Hilary, Amber’s mother, who reveals a tempestuous side to her own past that brings a jolt of “a-ha” to our assessment of her.

Perhaps Martha is the character least understood and enjoyed. She seems too perfect, too orderly and tidy. But then we watch as she employs every machination in the book to get what she wants.

In the end, each character is more than a supporting cast for Amber. They each have a voice and they each play a role in the final outcome.