Palm Beach Post columnist Charlotte (Charley) Webb
frequently gets fan mail, and occasionally hate mail, usually just
from an offended subscriber with an urge to vent. But most of the
hate mail does not get up close and personal, at least not to the
point of threatening Charley’s children. Of course, any of
her astute readers knows she has children because she writes about
all sorts of life’s experiences, including her kids’
antics, in her column. And now one of those astute readers has
Single mother of two, sister to three, disowned daughter of a
self-proclaimed bitter old man and recently reclaimed child of a
runaway mom, Charley has a host of family issues to deal with. Real
whoppers. But her children -– Franny, her serious
eight-year-old daughter, and James, her younger, more artistic son
--- mean everything to her. Maybe because of her dysfunctional
background or because she just loves them with her whole heart;
whatever the reason, any hint of danger surrounding the two sends
Charley into a panic.
While her life is pretty full lately, Charley has been going
through a dry spell when it comes to men. That’s okay,
though, because she’s not sure she’s all that
successful in the relationship arena. In fact, she’s not sure
she’s successful at a lot of things: being a good friend (she
has none), or neighbor (she annoys hers), or co-worker (she
doesn’t talk to them). She’s convinced, though, that
she excels in her parenting skills.
Everything seems to be going along fine (considering) until Charley
gets a letter from convicted child killer Jill Rohmer. The letter
proposes that Charley write a book revealing the true story behind
the murders. What writer could resist such an offer? Certainly not
Charley. Visions of fame and fortune cloud her judgment, and she
takes a trip out to the prison to interview Jill. Meeting the
killer face to face is unsettling, but Charley becomes intrigued.
She makes another trip, and then another; their meetings become a
weekly ritual. As the story unfolds slowly, Jill begins to hint at
an accomplice in the killings.
Alex Prescott, Jill’s attorney, accompanies Charley on
several visits, despite his apparent lack of enthusiasm for the
book project. Charley tries to stay objective, but it’s been
a while since she’s had a beau. Alex looks pretty good,
especially to a pretty, thirtysomething woman in want of at least
companionship, if not more.
Soon, Charley is in the midst of high drama, a budding relationship
and guilt at the growing fracture in her family. Listening to a
heartless murderer of three innocent children makes Charley
hypersensitive to her own kids, and memories of her own childhood
make her want more for Franny and James. But the threats keep
coming and Charley doesn’t know who to trust. She turns to a
friend for help because she fears Jill’s accomplice may have
his own agenda. And he does. Indeed, he does.
Part romance, part mystery and thoroughly entertaining,
CHARLEY’S WEB by New York Times and award-winning
author Joy Fielding will make you want to take a keener look at
your family and gather them close around you, in spite of your
differences. Maybe because of them.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 26, 2010