|Margaret L. Riley: Charlie's Way|
On Screen (CD-ROM), ISBN 1-929077-60-2
What a way to begin a book and start the reader's pulse to leaping -- in the prologue yet! The action continues as the plot unravels and re-knits itself in new and unusual configurations, each more enthralling than the one before.
Charlotte (Charlie) Gyles, the wife betrayed, quits her job at the agency…. What agency? One of those governmental agencies so secret they don't even have initials. She buys a rundown farm in West Virginia, raises horses and works as a waitress on the side. Charlie begins to believe the ranch hosts a ghost, a very romantic ghost that carves wooden roses and washes the dishes.
Andrew (Drew) Baily, the ghost, doles out his sordid past in bits and pieces. A convicted murderer out on parole, who neglects to check in with his parole officer, Drew rates highly in Charlie's estimation. Why? You'll need to read the book to figure that out. But, Charlie refuses to allow him to go back to prison, calling on her many resources to solve the 12-year-old mystery that threatens to destroy them both.
A book worthy of all manners of superlatives, Charlie's Way deserves a lavish helping of praise, especially as it pertains to character, setting, and plot -- all excellently drawn. Riley, using her magic word processor and a few writerly elves, deftly blends the lives of two disparate people, neither likable at first glance. Both flawed, wounded by life, cantankerous, Charlie and Drew emerge as so completely human that after I finished the book I found myself wondering what they were doing and missing them like the dear friends they had become.
The characters' extended families, and the values they espouse, also deserve their share of kudos. Charlie's Way belongs on the keeper shelves of readers who love books -- on the shelf containing books that defy conventional categorizing and treat the reader to a memorable read laced with grace and wit.
Patricia White is the Sapphire Award-winning author of A Wizard Scorned. Her current book, the contemporary PS, I've Taken a Lover, is available from Lionhearted Books.
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