A Killing In The Hills by Julia Keller
Publication date: August 21, 2012
Publisher: Minotaur Books
In A Killing in the Hills, a powerful, intricate debut from 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?
Acker’s Gap, West Virginia could literally be any small town within the United States. The problems found there are found elsewhere. And the growing problem faced in many small towns is a problem with drugs (meth as well as prescription drug abuse). Prosecuting attorney Bell Elkins is working hard to see that Acker’s Gap doesn’t become tainted by the ever-increasing drug problems.
A native West Virginia, Bell has seen plenty of trouble in her life and was able to succeed despite the rough start. She had even left West Virginia after completing school and worked in Washington, D.C. Bell became restless with the fast-paced life in DC and yearned to return home to West Virginia and make a difference. She had hoped her husband would feel the same, but he never wanted to return to his West Virginia roots. Bell returns to West Virginia, as a divorcee and single, working mother. Her daughter, Carla, does not like the small-town feel of Acker’s Gap. She misses her friends from DC and the social life. After getting into trouble again, she is seriously thinking of asking her father if she can move in with him and return to DC. One single moment changes everything for both Carla and Bell . . . a shooting that ends in the murder of three older men, a shooting that is linked to the drug problem in Acker’s Gap, a shooting that Carla was misfortunate enough to witness.
Bell, due to her job, must investigate the murders but she is also concerned about the impact this event may have on Carla. Carla, somewhat traumatized by the murders, decides she wants to help her mom with this investigation. As both Carla and Bell seek to find answers to why this event happened, they put their lives in jeopardy. Will Bell be able to protect her daughter from possible retribution? Is it really possible these murders are tied to the illegal drug trade in Acker’s Gap?
Ms. Keller presents a story that is all too familiar; the effects of the illegal drug trade on small towns. Bell’s back story provides just as much intrigue as the investigation into the murders and drug trafficking problems. She struggles with overcoming her past, while doing everything possible to ignore most of it. Carla is a typical teenage girl and yearns for excitement, difficult to find in a small town (or so she thinks). A Killing In The Hills is a dramatic and suspenseful story that drew me in from the first page. I found the characters and the action realistic and plausible. This story doesn’t denigrate the small town life; it just shines a spotlight on the problems found there. I finished A Killing In The Hills in one sitting and look forward to more from Ms. Keller.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ebook free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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