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Mystery & Drama

Book Review of Mama’s Madness – Billy Ray Chitwood

ChitwoodChitwood’s novel tells the story of Tamantha Preen, a fictional character based on a real person who terrorized her family in northern California.  Tamantha had a real or imagined depraved upbringing, and she is hell bent to pass depravity on. She murders two daughters and seems determined to make it three if her daughter Tammie Jo is not able to escape what seems inevitable.  It is a powerful story with this big “if” providing the reason to keep turning pages.

Chitwood brings a confident authorial demeanor to this tale of squalid, frightened family life.  He handles scenes of forced sex, beatings, and closet imprisonment adeptly. He is at home with the thinking and investigative skills of two sets of detectives, who make about a quarter of the book a police procedural.  He renders the rules and tactics of low ball poker, and the atmosphere of seedy game rooms with ease.

Only a problematic point of view, some fairly blatant editing lapses and inconsistencies, and a detective’s “hunch” that strains credulity diminish this compelling book. Chitwood tells the story with confidence and elan.  He seems to thumb his nose at whatever rules still exist for the effective writing of novels.  It works.  It’s a good read.  Sales might benefit from a good cover.

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