Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Killing in the Hills

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller
St. Martin's Press, 8/21/2012
Kindle edition, 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250003485

In this powerful, intricate debut from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Keller, a mother and a daughter try to do right by a town and each other before it's too late.
What's happening in Acker's Gap, West Virginia? Three elderly men are gunned down over their coffee at a local diner, and seemingly half the town is there to witness the act. Still, it happened so fast, and no one seems to have gotten a good look at the shooter.  Was it random? Was it connected to the spate of drug violence plaguing poor areas of the country just like Acker's Gap? Or were Dean Streeter, Shorty McClurg, and Lee Rader targeted somehow?
One of the witnesses to the brutal incident was Carla Elkins, teenaged daughter of Bell Elkins, the prosecuting attorney for Raythune County, WV. Carla was shocked and horrified by what she saw, but after a few days, she begins to recover enough to believe that she might be uniquely placed to help her mother do her job.
After all, what better way to repair their fragile, damaged relationship? But could Carla also end up doing more harm than good—in fact, putting her own life in danger?

My Thoughts:

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller is a debut novel due to be released this month. This fast paced mystery is set in the fictional  Acker's Gap, West Virginia. The novel opens when Carla, the teenage daughter of county prosecutor Belfa (Bell) Elkins, witnesses three old men gunned down at a local fast food joint. While Bell is following the case along with Nick, the local sheriff, she is also concerned about how Carla's reaction to witnessing the murders is going to influence her ongoing rebelliousness. Bell already has her hands full investigating another case. Additionally, t
he overwhelming poverty of the area has resulted in an increase in crime and there is the growing menace of an illegal drug ring.
This is a wonderful, complex first novel. As it follows the investigations and everyone movements, the novel slowly reveals Bell's past and how this has impacted her personality.  A Killing in the Hills asks how far will you go to protect those you love as it explores how drugs have crippled poverty stricken areas in the Appalachians. Keller did a great job of establishing the setting and her character development was achingly real.
I'm going to be looking forward to more novels by Julia Keller featuring Bell Elkins. Even while this was certainly a self-contained novel, it felt like there were many more stories that could be told and a few story lines that could be pursued in future novels. A Killing in the Hills is an excellent introduction to a new mystery series.
Highly Recommended
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for review purposes.

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