Authors: Grant Jerkins
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense
At the End of the Road
“Unsettling suspense and chilling tone… A disturbing (in a good way) coming-of-age story with one of the creepiest characters to inhabit my imagination in a while—a paralyzed man with ‘a distinctively reptilian appearance’ who might be the devil on Eden Road.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Irresistibly creepy… Reminiscent of classic thrillers… from
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane
Nightmare on Elm Street,
and not since
Lord of the Flies
have we seen children at the mercy of such meanness from their own kind.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Absolutely pitch-perfect… Deserving of a place on shelves alongside the all-time classic coming-of-age stories ever written.”
The Florida Times-Union
A Very Simple Crime
A Very Simple Crime
is the product of A Very Talented Writer. Grant Jerkins’s stylish prose and rich characters set him apart. As a reader, you will enjoy every page. It’s impossible this is a first novel. Don’t miss it.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
In Harm’s Way
“The degree of wickedness in [Jerkins’s] stylish legal thriller still delivers a chill… There’s not a soul you can trust in the story… [A] well-fashioned but extremely nasty study in abnormal psychology, which dares us to solve a mystery in which none of the normal character cues can be taken at face value.”
The New York Times Book Review
“A masterfully Hitchcockian story… Every time you think you know where things are headed and what a character is about, Jerkins throws in another twist that leaves you shaking your head at its diabolical cleverness. This is not, however, a book for the faint of heart… Jerkins’s writing is both brilliant and brutal… Endlessly fascinating.
A Very Simple Crime
is a very impressive debut. Grant Jerkins has serious skills, and you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t jump on board his bandwagon and get a comfy seat
because [it’s] going to be standing room only soon.”
Savannah Morning News
“Gritty, sordid, disturbing, and addictive.”
“So stylishly twisted that I read it in one sitting.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
(Top 10 List)
“No one in this novel is as they appear to be, and the twists and turns never let up until the very last page. This dark, chilling debut… is a real page-turner and should especially appeal to legal thriller fans.”
“You have to admire the purity of Jerkins’s writing: He’s determined to peer into the darkness and tell us exactly what he sees.”
The Washington Post
“Beautifully plotted… Wholly original, funny, scary, haunting… and oddly arresting from the very first sentence.”
—Nicholas Kazan, playwright and Oscar-nominated
Reversal of Fortune
“Jerkins juggles his plot twists like a top circus acrobat in this nasty legal noir.”
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Grant Jerkins
A VERY SIMPLE CRIME
AT THE END OF THE ROAD
THE NINTH STEP
BERKLEY PRIME CRIME, NEW YORK
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2012 by Grant Jerkins.
Cover image Road © Stephen Carroll / Trevillion Images.
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
Interior text design by Laura K. Corless.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Berkley Prime Crime trade paperback edition / September 2012
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The ninth step / Grant Jerkins.—1st ed.
1. Life change events—Fiction. 2. Secrets—Fiction.
3. Self-realization in women—Fiction. 4. Psychological fiction. I. Title.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For William Irish and John O’Brien
I would like to thank Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic and Natalee Rosenstein of Berkley Prime Crime. Also at Berkley, my thanks to Robin Barletta, Megan Gerrity, Andromeda Macri, Kayleigh Clark, and Amy J. Schneider.
I’m grateful to Tricia Parks and Gary Mullet for checking my math. Any errors in that regard are mine alone.
Lots of friends—old and new—also helped out along the way. Readers and supporters include Carmen Tanner Slaughter, Becky Hann Kraegel, Renea Winchester, Robert Leland Taylor, Ed Schneider, Kris Stowers, Jan Thomas, Delphia Early Hudson, and Cathy Blanco. Sandy McGrew offered some insights into alcohol and tranquilizers. And my newest buddies, Ellen Schlossberg and retired Atlanta police sergeant Connie Locke, of Mt. Yonah Book Exchange, in Cleveland, Georgia, were of great assistance to me.
And always, Andria.
Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrong-doing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.
At two thirty in the afternoon, while teaching his last class of the day, ninth-grade geometry teacher Edgar Woolrich was thinking about the online auction that ended that night. The listing was for a vintage Japanese puzzle box—of which he, admittedly, already had many. But this particular box was special. It had five hidden compartments. Quite rare. The final price could easily climb into the thousands. Or, the obverse, a true bargain could be had.
Timing his bid would be critical. It was Friday night, so one could extrapolate that many potential bidders would be out at social functions. There were time zones to consider. Potential bidders on the West Coast could still be stuck in late-day commutes, while Edgar would be snug at home, his mouse pointer
poised over the “confirm bid” button. Of course, ubiquitous handheld devices lessened that edge considerably. And the auction already had eighteen people watching it. Plus you had to factor in folks like Edgar himself who never clicked the “watch this item” button—lest they tip their hand in some unforeseen way.
No, the factoring that came into play while bidding on an online auction was like plotting irrational numbers on an infinite grid.
The lines of intersection were beyond reckoning, the variables endless.
“The triangle,” Edgar said, “is God’s own perfection.”
Nobody heard him. While he had been daydreaming about the puzzle box, his class had taken advantage of his inattentiveness.
Edgar picked up the music triangle that he had borrowed from Mrs. Frazer, the band teacher, and struck it repeatedly with the metal wand. All of the students looked to the front, and the classroom grew quiet. Edgar wrapped his fingers over the vibrating metal instrument to stop the lingering note.