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Book Author: Hallie Ephron

YOU’LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR by Hallie Ephron: Book Review

I’d never thought of dolls as creepy, but then I read You’ll Never Know, Dear and I do now.

Lis Strenger is the daughter of Sorrel Woodham, a nationally-known dollmaker.  Miss Sorrel, as even Lis calls her, no longer creates dolls or collects them, but their home is filled with them–on the kitchen shelves, in the dining room’s glass cabinets, in the workroom at the back at the house.  Although Miss Sorrel is now retired she still has her projects–repairing dolls with thinning hair, broken limbs, or cloudy eyes for clients who love their childhood companions.

Lis, who came back to Bonsecours, South Carolina with her daughter Vanessa years ago after a particularly painful divorce, is in the kitchen making lunch for herself and her mother as the novel opens.  A woman drives up to the house and walks up to Miss Sorrel’s front porch with a bag in her hand.  Then the three women go inside and gather around the kitchen table, and Miss Sorrel opens the bag and brings out a baby doll.  And the next moment, the visitor, whom Miss Sorrel earlier referred to as Miss Richards, grabs the doll and rushes out of the house with Miss Sorrel following her as quickly as she can.

Miss Sorrel’s claim to fame is that many of her creations were portrait dolls, designed to look like the girls who owned them.  When she sees the face of the one that Miss Richards brought, she is traumatized.  It’s the one she made nearly forty years ago for Janie, her young daughter who later was kidnapped and has been presumed dead for decades.  And her portrait doll, which presumably was with Janie when she was abducted, hasn’t been seen since.

Miss Sorrel tries to stop the visitor, who is still holding the doll, begging her to say where she got it.  In a frenzy, the woman throws the doll against the house’s brick front steps, runs to her car, and drives away.  Getting a closer look, Lis thinks it’s possible that the doll was the one her mother made for Janie, but Miss Sorrel is convinced it is.  She brings the damaged doll into the kitchen, cleans its face, and holds it close to her.  “I always knew one day she’d come home,” she whispers.

Can she be right after all these years?  Her best friend and neighbor, Evelyn Dumont, doesn’t believe it, and Frank Ames, the town’s deputy police chief, is skeptical as well.  Then things take a distinctly ominous turn as a fire in Miss Sorrel’s kiln virtually destroys her workroom and sends her and her injured daughter to the hospital.

You’ll Never Know, Dear will keep you on the edge of your seat.  The many subplots in the novel make for fascinating reading, and the characters and their backstories are perfectly drawn.

You can read more about Hallie Ephron at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.



NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT by Hallie Ephron: Book Review

Life in Hollywood must be great, right?  Your friends, or the friends of your parents, are famous actors and actresses, known around the world.  You’re invited into their homes, swim in their pools, are friends with their families.  What could be better?

Actually, a lot of things.  When Deirdre Unger reluctantly drives to her father’s Hollywood home to help him put it on the market, her mind is filled with memories of her parents and of her own childhood.  Arthur and Gloria Unger had been successful screenwriters, maybe not at the top of the list but not too far from it.

But for some years now Arthur’s career has been stalled, he and his wife are divorced, and it’s time for him to sell the house and downsize, that hated word.  However, before his daughter arrives, Arthur will take his regular nighttime swim in the pool.  He was always a good swimmer, and he wants to indulge himself before he has to sell the house.  One final indulgence, and it proves to be his last.

Deirdre arrives at the home that her father and brother share, but at first no one answers the door.  When her brother finally lets her in, they start to look for their father.  And then they find him, down at the bottom of the deep end of the pool.  Who could have made certain Arthur never surfaced?  And why?

When Deirdre was a teenager, her best friend was Joelen Nichol, daughter of the beautiful actress Elenor “Bunny” Nichol.  The two girls spent days together and often had sleepovers at each other’s houses.  They were together the night that changed the lives of both of them forever.

Bunny had thrown one of her famous parties, and after it was over she and her live-in boyfriend, Tito Acevedo, got into a fight.  Deirdre and Joelen heard angry words, glass being broken.  Joelen went to the kitchen, picked up a knife, and climbed the stairs to her mother’s bedroom.  Then she plunged the weapon into Tito’s chest.

Deirdre was driven home after the police and ambulance arrived.  On the way, the car went off the road; Deirdre was severely injured and is unable to walk without crutches.  While Deirdre was in the hospital, Joelen was put on trial for Tito’s death.  The verdict was justifiable homicide.  First Joelen was sent to a juvenile facility and then went to live with her aunt out of state.  By the time Deirdre was released from the hospital after her first operation, she wasn’t able to find her friend.

But apparently Arthur knew, or had known, where Joelen was.  Because Joelen is the real estate agent Arthur was using to sell his house, and  now she and Deirdre have their first face-to-face meeting in more than twenty years.

Night Night, Sleep Tight is loosely based on the true story of Hollywood star Lana Turner, her daughter Cheryl Crane, and Turner’s lover Johnny Stompanato, a reputed mobster.  Hallie Ephron has brought to life the Hollywood of the 1980s, its famous and its flawed.  It’s an exciting read, with fascinating characters, written by a woman who herself was the daughter of movie scriptwriters as well as a neighbor of Turner’s.  Fiction based on real life doesn’t get more compelling than this.

You can read more about Hallie Ephron at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.