cover image Hell in the Heartland: Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls

Hell in the Heartland: Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls

Jax Miller. Berkley, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-9848-0630-7

Crime novelist Miller (Freedom’s Child) debuts with a captivating ride through the frustrating twists, turns, and dead ends of a horrifying murder case. On Dec. 30, 1999, a suspicious fire destroyed Danny and Kathy Freeman’s trailer home outside rural Welch, Okla. The Freemans’ burned bodies showed that they had been shot to death, and their 16-year-old daughter, Ashley, and Ashley’s best friend, Lauria Bible, who had also been in the trailer at the time, went missing. For years, the Freeman and Bible families struggled against inept investigators, drug dealers who might have had reason to kill Danny and Kathy, and a flood of false leads in their search for Ashley and Lauria. In 2015, Miller moved to Welch, where she spent four years investigating the case. She brings a heartbreaking and compassionate voice to her take on those affected by the generational poverty, environmental mining pollution, and widespread methamphetamine addiction now endemic in the region’s once ore-rich mining towns. The two girls remain missing to this day, though the arrest in 2019 of a suspect, whose case is ongoing, offers some hope of resolution. This is as much an exploration of the underlying social issues that feed into a system of fear and violence as it is about the crime itself. A vivid storyteller, Miller proves herself as adept at nonfiction as fiction. [em]Agent: Zoe Sandler, ICM Partners. (July) [/em]