Tabula Rasa

Published By: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Book Category: Fiction, Mystery & Detective

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Reviewed by Andrea Sisco

Arson investigator Billy Nightingale, on a ride-a-long with his brother-in-law Sebastian Bly, a state trooper, is called to the "ugly" house in Sojourn. Two young children are dead as a result of a house fire.

It is soon apparent that another child had been in the house, but the two men are unable to locate that child. The dead children's mother, Edith Tuttle, while upset over her children's death, fails to mention the missing child. But the reader knows that Edith didn't even bother naming the one-year-old missing girl following her birth. She is known only as "Baby Tuttle" and is an unusual child—one who never smiles or cries; only stares with her dark, penetrating eyes.

Nightingale is not only concerned about the missing child; he believes the fire is suspicious. He begins searching for answers and soon discovers a quiet but terrified child under the ugly house where she crawled to save herself. What Nightingale and Bly discover means Baby Tuttle will need a permanent home as her mother will have her own semi-permanent home for many years to come.

Billy's sister, Annie and husband Sebastian adopt the child (Merry) and the years pass without incident. When Merry, at age eleven, becomes interested in her history, Billy and the Bly's concoct a fantasy history to protect Merry from her horrific past. But a letter Merry mails inadvertently sets into motion a series of events that will threaten her and her family years later when Merry is a fledgling ballerina.

Armchair Interviews says: Tabula Rasa, by Shelly Reuben is simply terrific! The characters are well drawn, complex and unique. The plot is both horrifying and scrumptious with fascinating information about arson, adoption, dancing and the consequences of an obsessive quest and the lies told to protect a loved one. It is scintillating and an absolute must read!

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