Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: Bitter River (Bell Elkins #2) by Julia Keller

  • File Size: 577 KB
  • Print Length: 397 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1250003490
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (September 3, 2013)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C74OXEQ

Book Description

In the next stunning novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning Julia Keller, following the popular A Killing in the Hills, a pregnant teenager is found murdered at the bottom of a river.

Phone calls before dawn are never good news. And when you’re the county’s prosecuting attorney, calls from the sheriff are rarely good news, either. So when Bell Elkins picks up the phone she already knows she won’t like what she’s about to hear, but she’s still not prepared for this: 16-year-old Lucinda Trimble’s body has been found at the bottom of Bitter River. And Lucinda didn't drown—she was dead before her body ever hit the water.

With a case like that, Bell knows the coming weeks are going to be tough. But that’s not all Bell is coping with these days. Her daughter is now living with Bell’s ex-husband, hours away. Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, one of Bell’s closest friends, is behaving oddly. Furthermore, a face from her past has resurfaced for reasons Bell can’t quite figure. Searching for the truth, both behind Lucinda’s murder and behind her own complicated relationships, will lead Bell down a path that might put her very life at risk.

In Bitter River, Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Keller once again weaves a compelling, haunting mystery against the stark beauty and extreme poverty of a small West Virginia mountain town.

From Publishers Weekly

The murder of 16-year-old Lucinda Trimble, whose strangled body is found in a car in the Bitter River, propels Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Keller's worthy sequel to her well-received adult fiction debut, A Killing in the Hills (2012). As West Virginia prosecutor Bell Elkins and the rest of closely knit Acker's Gap struggle to fathom who could have wanted to kill the popular high school honor student, a sniper fires at the county courthouse, almost killing Bell's assistant. Days later, a devastating explosion levels Ike's diner, moments after the divorced attorney finished breakfast with her much younger lover, Clay Meckling. Suddenly, remote Acker's Gap seems under siege, with Bell, stalwart sheriff Nick Fogelsong, and their team scrambling to find answers before the next attack. Ultimately, some of them prove less interesting than the questions Keller, a native West Virginian, poses about the nature of friendship and family—as well as the engaging, unsentimentalized Appalachian community she has created. Agent: Lisa Gallagher, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Sept.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The world intrudes cruelly on Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, the hometown to which D.C. lawyer Bell Elkins has returned to try to make a difference. As county prosecutor, Bell is working with childhood friend, Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, on the murder of 16-year-old Lucinda Trimble when a potentially fatal shot is fired into the courthouse and soon followed by a tragedy at the local diner. The town mourns Lucinda—bright, beautiful, bursting with potential, but pregnant and planning to marry her high-school boyfriend—while both Bell and Nick display blind spots in the course of pursuing their investigation. The town is in shock after the diner incident, and Bell’s theory about what may be behind it comes just a little too late to prevent further bloodshed. With her 17-year-old daughter, Carla, now living with Bell’s ex in D.C. after the dangerous events in Keller’s highly-praised A Killing in the Hills (2012), Bell occasionally longs for the excitement of the city, but a single compelling personal reason keeps her in Acker’s Gap, however isolated it is. Once again, Keller combines masterful storytelling, a vivid sense of place—the beauty and poverty of Appalachia—a complex cast of characters, and a suspenseful, superbly executed plot that displays a depth rarely seen in mystery fiction. --Michele Leber

About the Author


I was born in Huntington, West Virginia, and that’s where I grew up, “so successfully disguised to myself as a child,” in James Agee’s marvelous phrase.

My first real job was as a news-paper reporter — first in Ashland, Kentucky, then Columbus, Ohio, and finally Chicago. That’s what you did, I believed, when you wanted to be a writer: You went to work for a newspaper, and you learned about the world.

Along the way, I earned a doctoral degree in English Literature at Ohio State University. I won
a Pulitzer Prize. I published a book about the inventor of the Gatling gun.

My first novel is called A Killing in the Hills, and it won the Barry Award in 2013 for Best First

Mystery. It’s about a woman who returns to her West Virginia hometown to fight corruption — and perhaps to find herself as well. The second mystery in the series, Bitter River, was published in September 2013, and the third, Summer of the Dead, comes out in August 2014.

My Review

Fabulous book...loved it as much as the first novel in the series, A Killing in the Hills. Julia Keller can write and she can tell a mean story.  Bitter River can stand alone but I absolutely recommend reading the first novel as well as it is so good.

Bell Elkins, a lawyer who is the prosecutor in the small town in West Virginia where she grew up, is faced with the murder of a 16 year old girl who was found murdered in the Bitter River. Bell had a traumatic and violent childhood but has risen above everything to become a strong woman and mother. She has tried city life in Washington, DC but she belongs in Acker's Gap. Before the mystery of the young girl's murder is solved an explosion rips through a local restaurant tearing Bell's world apart anew. 

Excellent writing accompanied by an amazing story make this a book to remember. There were so many twists at the end that it was definitely hard to identify the murderer. I was kept in suspense until the end. I cannot wait for the next book in the series!

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