Bitter River – Julia Keller (Bell Elkins 2)


Bell Elkins returns in the devastating follow-up to Pulitzer prize winner Julia Keller’s highly acclaimed A KILLING IN THE HILLS.

Acker’s Gap, West Virginia: a high-school student – sixteen, full of promise, and pregnant – is found murdered in a car at the bottom of the Bitter River. Her death devastates the community, but one among them must be responsible. Bell Elkins, Raythune County’s prosecuting attorney, is determined to bring the killer to justice.

But someone else has their own agenda. Amid the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains, another act of violence is about to strike. As Bell and Sheriff Nick Fogelsong work to uncover the truth, one thing is certain: no one can truly understand Acker’s Gap until they are in the thick of it.

Bell returned to her hometown to make a difference. But just how much is she willing to risk?

My thoughts

Once again Julia Keller takes us back to the small community of Acker’s Gap and Bell Elkins. This is the follow up to ‘A Killing in the Hills’. Bell has to deal with the death of a pregnant teenager, in suspicious circumstances and some unusual violent acts taking place over the town.

I’ve grown to love the characters of Bell Elkins and the sheriff, Nick Fogelsong. There is a complexity to these characters and a real depth to them. Bell really is quite fascinating. We now know the horrific back story of Bell and her sister and how this has shaped Bell. The other characters all have a very authentic feel to them, from the ageing hippy mother to the women who work in the local diner. Julia Keller creates brilliant characters.

It has a social commentary, as we learn about the poverty and terrible hardship in this community. The only way to get out of this cycle is to escape to university and only rare cases like Bell make it back as successful adults. We learn about the menace of prescription drugs and how they have become a real issue.

The writing is so well done and quite beautiful. Keller’s style of writing is poetic and dramatic. It is incredibly unusual. She seamlessly weaves the story-lines together.

I can’t wait to start ‘Summer of the Dead’ to see where Keller’s imagination takes us next.


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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