Down to the Needle

Fiction - Suspense
670 Pages
Reviewed on 11/13/2017
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Mary Deal is an award-winning author of suspense/thrillers, a short story collection, writers’ references, and self-help. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, Artist and Photographer, and former newspaper columnist and magazine editor. She is currently writing the third story in her Sara Mason series, as well as a long romance novel, which is a new genre for her.

She has traveled a great deal and has a lifetime of diverse experiences, all of which remain in memory as fodder for her fiction. A native of California’s Sacramento River Delta, where some of her stories are set, she has also lived in England, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is also an oil painter and photographer. Her art is used to create gorgeous personal and household products from her online galleries.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Arya Fomonyuy for Readers' Favorite

Cleverly plotted and masterfully accomplished, Down to the Needle by Mary Deal is a great entry in the genres of suspense, mystery, and thriller, a story that follows one woman’s gritty investigation to solve an abduction that happened twenty-three years ago. It takes a lot of cleverness and skill to weave a yarn that combines strong elements from different genres into a satisfying read, and Deal has that skill. Abi Fisher has been searching for her daughter — abducted when she was just five years old — for two decades, a search that has brought her into contact with grave danger and dangerous people.

Now she learns about the Death Row inmate, Megan Winnaker, who should be the same age as her daughter, and feels an irresistible urge to determine if Megan and her daughter are the same person. Should her last appeal fail, Megan would be headed for a lethal injection in a few months for a crime she never committed. Abi is racing against time to uncover the truth, but there are powerful forces poised to prevent the truth from coming out.

This is the book for you if you love well-imagined and rock-solid characters, stories that are character-driven with sophisticated plot lines. I enjoyed the gritty investigation and the complexities in the plot. The reader is immediately excited to find out what could happen next, thanks to the well-crafted hook, the enticing prose, and the lively dialogues. Down to the Needle is a story that has huge potential to blow the reader’s mind, and the reader will feel as though they are part of the compelling cast of characters.

Darryl Greer

Mary Deal’s Down To The Needle gets off to a cracking start with the blaze of a warehouse fire, a warm welcome to the two main characters, Abigail Fisher and Joe Arno. Abi is tagging along with her boyfriend, Joe, who is a photojournalist covering a series of fires in the area, far too many to be accidental. As the flames settle, we find out that Abi’s five-year-old daughter, Becky, was abducted by her ex-husband, Preston, twenty-three years ago. They immediately disappeared and Abi hasn’t stopped searching for her daughter since. When Abi learns that an inmate on Death Row, Megan Winnaker, is the same age as Becky, it gets her thinking. Could this be her daughter? She would not put it past Preston to have had Becky’s features surgically altered so she would not be easily recognised. Megan, now on Death Row for nine years, has always maintained her innocence. There is one final appeal and if she loses, she dies. Abi, obsessed with learning the truth, sets out with Joe’s help and the assistance of Britto, a sympathetic detective and friend of Joe’s, on her own investigation. But the clock is ticking. If Megan is in fact Becky and she loses her appeal, Abi’s twenty-three-year search will have been in vain.

Down To The Needle is a great concept: a desperate mother searching for her daughter, then after more than two decades, finding she might be on Death Row awaiting execution for a crime she says she didn’t commit. And the date for her death by lethal injection is imminent. There’s nothing like a ticking clock to get the adrenaline flowing. I did wonder whether the book’s title, as tantalising as it is, might be a giveaway for how the story ends, but nonetheless there is no let up in the pace as one is gripped by Abi’s urgency. There is also a sense of mystery throughout as Mary Deal never allows her reader to know whether or not Megan really is Abi’s daughter. No matter what tidbit of information is revealed, there’s always an element of doubt. Although it does assist with characterisation, I did find the backstory of Joe’s old girlfriend, Margaret, and her sudden reappearance a distraction. That aside, Down To The Needle is a page turner that will have you riveted right to the end. And, speaking of the end, the author’s vivid description of life on Death Row reveals either extraordinary insight or painstaking research.

Viga Boland

When author Mary Deal tells an interviewer at Cold Coffee Cafe that she is “drawn to people, situations and their emotions”, she’s not kidding. Even in her favorite genre, mystery/thriller, and as is obvious in her book, Down to the Needle, it’s the people, their emotions, and the situations in which they find themselves that drive Mary Deal and the plot. As a result, Down to the Needle is more than just another engaging mystery: it’s an exploration of what makes people tick, and how our life experiences can, and do, alter any original plans we might have had.

Take the protagonist, Abi Fisher: when she married Preston and gave birth to an artistically talented child, Becky, little did she dream that five years later Becky would vanish from her life and she would spend the next fifteen years or more searching for her, even when police and others had long given up. As one reads, courtesy of Mary Deal’s character revealing skills, one is caught up as much in this mother’s heartache and longing for her long-lost child as in the mystery gradually evolving and involving another young woman, Megan, currently sentenced to death by lethal injection, but who just happens to be, like Becky was, a very talented artist. Is there even the remotest chance that Megan is Becky? That is the mystery readers try to solve along with Abi and her man, Joe, who, by the way, is also trying to solve his own mystery i.e. is there any chance that the bedraggled, worn-looking woman he spotted on the street is a former lover, Margaret?

Several mysteries intersect in Down to the Needle, each of them intriguing. The twists and turns are plentiful and there is no way this reviewer will spoil your enjoyment of trying to put all the pieces together. But as you do, if you’re at all romantic and care about people as Mary Deal obviously does, you’ll be as interested in not just what happens with Abi, Joe, Margaret, Megan and Becky but why. The why is the propelling force behind the plot for, after all, it’s people who determine what happens next since one can ever really know what makes people do what they do? Enjoy!

Ankita Shukla

Down to the Needle by Mary Deal revolves around Abigail Fischer's search for her long-lost daughter, Becky Ann. Abi's husband, Preston, abducted Becky when she was merely five years old, leaving Abi all alone to suffer the pain of losing someone so precious to her. Abi, however, never lost hope that one day she would be reunited with Becky. She remained actively involved in searching for her daughter. She followed each news item related to missing people and made it her life's mission to find Becky. Although she went through a few unsuccessful relationships at the time, she finally met Joe Arno, who not only supported her search but also showed a lot of optimism in her quest. During this time, Seaport, the place where Joe and Abi were living, had been experiencing a number of fires. Megan Winnaker was convicted for one of such fires. Megan maintained her innocence and repeatedly insisted that she came to Seaport looking for her family and nothing else. Nevertheless, all the pieces of evidence that could have supported her claims were discarded for one reason or another and she was close to getting a sentence of lethal injection. When Abi got wind of this case, she found many attributes of Megan closely similar to that of Becky, which led her to the conclusion that Megan might be her daughter. With the clock ticking, Abi must move fast or risk losing her daughter even before meeting her.

The author knows how to write a good suspense novel. The moment I started to read the book, I was hooked on it. Abi's tireless attitude towards finding her daughter is really beautifully expressed. Her desperation, anxiety, fear, and frustration were very evident. The manner in which Mary Deal has expressed Abi's pain communicated to me and I could not put down the book before knowing whether she would find her daughter or not. The suspense is maintained so efficiently that I, as a reader, could not help accepting and rejecting Megan's claims to be Becky.

This is not a one-dimensional story that only follows Abi as she searches for Becky; it remains the central plot, no doubt, but there are many other things happening around her story. For instance, the introduction of Margaret, an ex of Joe, added some relationship drama to the serious plot. Margaret brought out a tinge of jealousy in Abi, which added to the authenticity of the overall plot. Mary Deal has paid attention to even the smallest details and written the characters' behavior and actions according to the requirement of the plot. This keen observational skill helped me connect with all the characters. I could understand their fears and strengths among other things. There are many characters and each one of them has a significant role in the plot.

Although there are many things for which I would sing the praises of the author, I am extremely fascinated by Mary Deal's knowledge in many aspects of lethal injection, art, and law. She has done her research in this book. The story develops splendidly and keeps the reader filled with several emotions. The author has included many elements and they all work together to keep the plot intriguing. Needless to say, I loved this book and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. Reading this book really made my day (actually 3 days). Kudos to the talented author!

Divine Zape

Suspenseful and gripping, Down to the Needle by Mary Deal follows Abigail Fisher’s search for a daughter abducted twenty-three years ago when she was just five years old. She has continued looking for her lost daughter and now she has learned of a young woman sitting in Death Row. Megan Winnaker could be counting her last days and she could die for a crime she never committed. Is it coincidental that she is the same age as Becky Ann? Abi must find evidence that Megan never committed the crime for which she is facing the death sentence, and determine if Megan is really the person she claims to be or her daughter. But how can Abi do this when time is against her and when powerful men are determined to stop her, to prevent the truth from coming out? A lot of unusual things are happening, with the house of the key witness burned to the ground, with witnesses disappearing and others found dead. The ending will surprise readers.

Mary Deal is an entertainer who will find an eager ear in a variety of audiences. First off, her writing is unique and highly compelling, with a narrative voice that is hypnotic. The emotion comes out strongly and readers can’t help but sympathize with her characters. A woman who has lost a daughter for two decades will certainly attract the attention of any reader, but when it is possible that a person abducted two decades ago is alive and could be facing death for a crime they never committed, it becomes more than an interesting plot element — it becomes an irresistible hook. Down to the Needle has a labyrinthine plot, a conflict that is monumental, and characters that readers will relate to easily. It’s a very suspenseful read, to say the least.