Famous writer G. G. Gilman receives a letter from home, a place she
left that long-ago day. She took a train out of that small Oklahoma
town at the end of the hot, sultry summer of '44. She has not been
back since. Now an old friend, Barb Tatum, has written her a
letter, dredging up memories of that wonderful yet horrible summer.
Young Gretchen Grace Gilman had gotten her start in journalism that
summer. And Barb's mom, Faye Tatum, had been murdered that summer.
Now, she can't imagine what Barb has to say after so many decades.
She remembers that time with a bittersweet fondness, despite the
horror of the days surrounding the investigation.
All able-bodied men had left for the War. Gretchen lived with her
grandmother while her mom was in Tulsa aiding the war effort. With
a shortage of reporters causing a hardship for the Gazette,
thirteen-year-old Gretchen was sent to apply for work at the local
newspaper office. Crusty editor Mr. Dennis --- reminiscent of Jimmy
Olson's boss at The Daily Planet --- begrudgingly hired her,
despite his feeling that women (not to mention girls) don't belong
in a newspaper office. But somebody had to do the work, so he gave
her a chance. She covered the courthouse, sniffing out which of the
local townsfolk had filed lawsuits or spent the night in the drunk
tank. She checked the wire for news of the battlefront and stories
of soldiers returning home.
One day, as she neared the police station, a patrol car with sirens
pulsing rushed past her. She didn't know it then, but it was the
beginning of one of the biggest investigations her little hometown
had ever seen. The police were responding to a simple domestic
dispute at the Tatums' house that afternoon, but later that
evening, when Faye turned up dead, the search began for Sam Tatum,
home on leave but nowhere to be found.
Stories flew about how Mrs. Tatum had been seen out nights dancing
with any number of men. Tales of a late-night visitor to her house
circulated around the town. Unfortunately Faye was dead, unable to
defend her name, and her husband, with whom she had argued earlier
in the day, looked like the prime suspect. Gretchen unwittingly
became involved in the attempt to find Sam, and heroically
unearthed the truth behind Faye's seemingly odd behavior.
Carolyn Hart has written a charismatic mystery with a cast of
fresh, wholesome characters. Wise beyond her years, Gretchen exudes
a caring air, dealing with adolescent and adult problems in stride.
Her friends begin to ostracize her for a story she has written
about Faye, but Gretchen stays true to her beliefs and refuses to
back down. Her loyalty to the paper transcends idealism. But, above
all, the way she treats people shows her in her best light. She is,
quite simply, good.
A LETTER FROM HOME is a pleasant trip into the past, a journey that
leaves its readers satisfied and content. What better way to enjoy
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 22, 2011