by Dorothy M. Place
Sarah, a student at Northwestern University Law School, returns to her apartment after a trying day to find two telephone messages. The first informs her that she has not been chosen for a coveted summer internship, a position for which her father had arranged an interview. The second is from her mother, with the news that Sarah’s best friend in high school, JoBeth Ruland has murdered her own son and daughter. To mislead her father about her failure to be chosen as a recipient of the internship, Sarah decides to secure a position on JoBeth’s defense team. Against her father’s vehement protest, she leaves Evanston, Illinois at the end of the term and returns to Eight Mile Junction, South Carolina, a small town in the Appalachian foothills, determined to convince him that the experience will contribute to her future.
To make the best of the situation, Sarah sets out to become a vital member of the defense team and to regain favor with her father. But she is not well-prepared for the shock of leaving her sheltered academic life and working in a community rife with chauvinism, malice, and betrayal. Her struggle is met with the benevolent amusement of the senior law partner, John-Two who, despite her objection, insists on calling her “Little Lady.” The criminal trial expert on the team, Al, a tense, disciplined young attorney, resents the intrusion of what he believes to be a know-nothing law student, and treats Sarah as if she is incompetent. The folks of Eight Mile Junction close ranks in the face of Sarah’s inquiries, hiding the town’s complicity in JoBeth’s degradation from the eyes of “outsiders” by finding her guilty before the trial begins. And finally, her father, on whose judgment Sarah has relied her entire life, rejects her efforts to placate his ill-humored response to her decision that summer.
In the end, Sarah discovers the underlying issues that precipitated her friend’s murderous act. Through interviews with JoBeth, her mother, her former lover, and her work associates, her ex-husband’s mistress as well as the testimony given during the trial, the horrifying events that shaped JoBeth’s life are revealed, helping Sarah understand how a person can be driven to extremes that defy ordinary reasoning. Sarah and her friend, it is the betrayal by those they love and believe in that changes their lives forever. Ultimately, it means disgrace and imprisonment for JoBeth. But for Sarah, who decides against returning to law school, it is the beginning of a life in which she, not her father, manages her future.
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Dorothy M. Place now lives and writes in Davis, California. A principle investigator of a research group at Sacramento State College, she began creative writing, first as a hobby then as a second career, ten years ago. Since 2005, ten of her short stories have been published in literary journals and magazines, two of which were selected for prizes. At present, she is putting together her first collection of short stories, Living on the Edge, and working on her second novel, The Search for Yetta
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From the Author
THE HEART TO KILL is a novel about love, murder, and small-town politics. Sarah, a second-year law student, returns home to serve on the team defending her high school girlfriend who has murdered her two children. The story is an immersive dive into the human psyche, peeling back layers of deceit and shame until the unvarnished and terrifying truth is revealed. Titan Book Awards gave this novel a gold, the San Francisco Book Review gave it five stars, and Train of Thoughts book reviews named Sarah one of the five best heroines of 2016. To read about the book, learn how it came to be written, and to take a virtual tour of Eight Mile Junction, the town in which the story takes place, please visit the author’s website www.dorothymplace.com. To order the book from Texas A&M Press and take advantage of the 30% discount they are offering, click on this link: www.tamupress.com/Basket/ShoppingCart.aspx. The discount code is 3B.