A Killing in the Hills – Julia Keller (Bell Elkins #1)


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?

My thoughts

This book introduces prosecuting attorney, Bell Elkins who lives in Acker’s Gap. Bell has a complicated back story, that we slowly get to understand throughout the course of the book. Bell is in her 30s, divorced with a teenage daughter called Carla. Carla witnesses a multiple shooting in a diner, of three elderly men. Suddenly Bell’s crusade against the growing drugs menace in her locality comes closer to home. Bell also has another case featuring a man with learning difficulties. Albie has been accused of the murder of a six year old child.

This reminded me very much of Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series. We have small town America becoming corrupted by drugs and violence. Acker’s Gap has a real drugs problem, with young people at the local high school being the main target. The local prosecuting attorney and sheriff lead the fight against this.

I loved the claustrophobic feel of the small community, where everyone knows everyone. And your neighbour actually knows your name and brings round a casserole, when you are having a crisis. I enjoyed the quirkiness of Bell employing someone for their gossiping skills. I do love murder in a small community. The author got the feel of it just right.

What stood out for me was the character of Bell. I found her rather fascinating, balancing being a tolerant parent, with toughness and courageous in her fight against drugs. I grew to like her. She is a strong woman, with a good heart. A little flawed and very human.

This is a great start to a series. I want to know more about Bell and her world.




About Northern Crime

Reviewer with a mind of her own. This is a collection of book reviews, which started in 2014. Mostly crime and odd other genres thrown in. Some I loved. Some I loathed. You get the picture.
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