Crime and Paradise by Julie Howard

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    Meredith has been uprooted to the middle of nowhere with two kids and an abusive husband. After she fantasizes about ways to kill him, he ends up dead. Despite all the evidence pointing to her, Meredith finds an unlikely supporter and friend in the county sheriff. Together, they uncover some ugly truths about her husband and this small, isolated town. Can Meredith make this place a new home for her family, or will the real secret behind her husband’s death send her away for good?

    Rating: Sweet
    Page Count: 288
    Word Count: 68295
    978-1-5092-1645-1 Paperback
    978-1-5092-1646-8 Digital


    A chill seeped into the car and Meredith glanced back at her sleeping children. Atticus’s head was tilted to one side and his long eyelashes dipped down toward his cheeks, a contented look on his face. Jamie had curled up on the seat, one hand clenched in a fist, the other tucked underneath her. Her mouth was open and moving slightly in a dream. Meredith wished she could set her own worry aside enough so sleep would come. Maybe she’d wake up in her own bed, back in Oakland, with all this just a weird dream brought on by fatigue, caffeine, and taking one of Brian’s sleeping pills.

    How much longer, she wondered, but didn’t have the nerve to ask her husband one more time. They crested a hill and started on a gentle slope down before leveling out onto a high prairie cloaked with snow. A dot of light cut the darkness in the far distance, otherwise the darkness was complete.

    “Who lives out here?” she asked with a short laugh, glancing sideways at Brian. Talk to me. Tell me how much longer. Tell me about the house, the neighborhood, how you found it, when you decided to do this, anything. Talk to me.

    “Huh,” he grunted.

    Just short of the dot of light, Brian turned the truck onto a thin lane and the tires crunched over the hard-packed snow.

    “Brian,” she risked, one fear trumping the other. “Is this right?”

    “Almost there.”

    Alarmed, she peered into the darkness, nothing but blackness at the end of the headlights. Just a single dot of light before them, off in the distance, never coming closer no matter how long they drove toward it. Meredith looked over at Brian, wondering at this strange joke. They were nowhere. Why was he taking his family to the middle of nowhere, in the snow, at night? A shiver of apprehension went through her.

    “You’re going to love it here.” The words raced out of Brian. “No worries about the kids. No traffic or smog. People are real in Idaho. They don’t put on a show, you know? It’s paradise on earth out here. Paradise on earth.”

    Meredith stared at the dot of light, terrified now that the lonely outpost was their home. I won’t do this. She sat up straighter in her seat, ready to confront Brian, no matter the consequences. He can’t make me do this.

    The truck’s tires slid on the icy road and Meredith braced her arms against the dashboard as Brian turned the steering wheel from side to side, gaining control. She bit her lip, readying her words, when Brian slowed the truck and turned them away from the light. In front of them, a gray shape emerged from the darkness and Meredith realized they were in a long driveway. At the end, the truck’s headlights illuminated a boxy one-story house. They bumped and slid into the rutted icy driveway and then Brian cut the engine. Meredith’s words faded from her mind. They sat there, unmoving.

    “We’re home,” he said.


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Crime and Paradise

Crime and Paradise

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