Title: Charley’s Web
Author: Joy Fielding
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: January, 2008
Hardcover: 437 pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
Description: New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Joy Fielding tells the story of an ambitious journalist whose foray into the mind of a killer puts her own family in jeopardy.
Charley Webb is a beautiful single mother who writes a successful and controversial column for the Palm Beach Post. She's spent years building an emotional wall against scathing critics, snooty neighbors, and her disapproving family. But when she receives a letter from Jill Rohmer, a young woman serving time on death row for the murders of three small children, her boundaries slowly begin to fade. Jill wants Charley to write her biography so that she can share the many hidden truths about the case that failed to surface during her trial. Seeing this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Charley begins her journey into the mind of this deeply troubled woman.
Her path takes a twisted turn, however, when the anonymous letters she's recently received from an angry reader evolve into threats, targeting her son and daughter. As Charley races against time to save her family, she begins to understand the value of her seemingly intrusive neighbors, friends, and relatives. As she discovers, this network of flawed but loving people might just be her only hope of getting out alive.
Filled with complex characters and a plot rich with intrigue, Charley's Web is Joy Fielding at her heart-skipping, mesmerizing best.
My Thoughts: Not my favorite Joy Fielding story, but was definitely time well spent. Initially, I had a difficult time liking Charley. She comes across as very unapproachable and harsh. But after spending time with her, I was able to see beneath the hard exterior that surrounds her. At first glance, you see a woman who is career driven, raising two children by two different men on her own, is estranged from her family, disliked by her neighbors and disrespected by her boss and coworkers. What ultimately emerges is a woman who is struggling to raise her children with little assistance from their respective fathers, trying to make a success of her career even though she receives substantial hate mail daily and has begun receiving personal threats to her life and the lives of her children, reconnecting with the mother who left the family when Charley was eight, trying to build better relationships with her sisters and brother, and reaching out to her father who views her contact with her mother as a betrayal and wants nothing to do with her.
In the midst of all this chaos, Charley receives a letter from death row inmate, Jill Rohmer, begging to meet her and offering her the opportunity to write a tell all novel that will reveal never before known facts about the brutal murders she was convicted of. Jill swears her boyfriend “Jack” participated and if Charley agrees to write her biography, she will reveal Jack’s true identity.
It doesn’t take long for Jill’s true nature to reveal itself and I found her to be quite a despicable character and thought it disturbing to watch Charley being reeled in like a fish on a hook. There are plenty of characters that top the list of who Jack is. Jill’s brother, Ethan, who molested Jill when she was a child and seems to fit the bill perfectly. Then there’s Charley’s own brother, Bram, who struggles with an alcohol and drug addiction and who, it turns out, knows Jill and has dated her sister, Pammy. Then there’s Alex Prescott, Jill’s lawyer, a man who Charley is attracted to and who, as Jill’s lawyer, knows Jill better than anyone.
Everything comes to an explosive head when Charley discovers the truth about Jack’s identity and is in a race against the clock to stop the cold blooded killer from butchering two more children…Charley’s children.
I discovered Joy Fielding’s books when someone recommended THE FIRST TIME. I absolutely loved that book and realized what a treasure this author is. Her books speak to me on a personal level packed with characters you can care about and really relate to. Most of her books are much darker than THE FIRST TIME, but I was hooked and have acquired and read most of her backlist. With CHARLEY’S WEB, Ms. Fielding delivers the intriguing and interesting characters I have come to expect with her stories and a plot that keeps me guessing.
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