The Heart to Kill

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The Heart to Kill by Dorothy Place is an intriguing and complex novel about love, murder, and small-town politics. I was hesitant at first, my trepidation stemming not from the subject matter, since I love crime stories, but rather from the fact that this was more about the character Sarah and not the crime itself. Nonetheless, I read this novel and found myself immediately pulled into the world of Eight Mile Junction, a simple, “everyday” small town in South Carolina. I also was impressed at how Ms. Place crafted her story to bring to light the devastating crime and the harrowing journey all the players have to endure. Sinking my teeth into this story was a wonderful adventure.

To begin, we have Sarah Wasser, a likable character who is true and relatable. She’s frazzled, looking for approval and coming up short. Her life has been planned out by her well-meaning but overbearing father, and it’s not falling into place as she would expect. She gets turned down from a highly coveted internship, one her father had arranged for her, and her life seems to crumple. That is, however, until she learns of her childhood friend, JoBeth. Lovely JoBeth, the perfect wife and mother, accused of the heinous act of murdering her two beloved children. And the plot continues to thicken from there. This book was fast-paced but easy to follow, and the descriptive language and keen observations really highlight the author’s talent. I was rooting for Sarah, I felt heartbroken for JoBeth, and the emotions this book took me through as both a woman and a mother were very impactful and sobering. I also understood the inner battle of trying to do what you’re expected to versus becoming who you were meant to be all along. The struggles, both internal and physical, of Sarah felt very true to life. The destruction of JoBeth and the anarchic politics of Southern small towns were both handled eloquently by Ms. Place. I did notice a couple of proofreading and copy errors, but it wasn’t enough to distract from the story’s flow. The Heart to Kill was otherwise a very well written story that I couldn’t put down! This book took an immersive dive into the human psyche, peeling back the layers of deceit and shame until the unvarnished and terrifying truth was revealed. I wept, I cheered, and I kept coming back for more. I give this novel high praise and look forward to reading it again (until Ms. Place decides perhaps to write a sequel).

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 223 pages
Publisher SFA Press
Publish Date 2016-Nov-30
ISBN 9780703201703 Buy this Book
Issue June 2017
Category Popular Fiction


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