Published in August 2014
West Virginia prosecuting attorney Bell Elkins’s sister has been out of jail for three months, and in that time Bell has given her a place to stay, bought her everything she needed, even put up with her constant smoking habit. Still, tensions are high and it’s not quite the homecoming reunion Bell had envisioned. When Bell gets a call in the middle of the night to pick Shirley up from a bar fight, she’s livid. But on arriving at the bar, Shirley is the least of Bell’s problems: inside, a man has been killed.
Meanwhile, nineteen-year-old Lindy Odell’s father’s health is steadily declining, and her job at the gas station is boring at best, but Lindy’s been managing just fine, thank-you. Now, though, the recent rash of violent crimes in Acker’s Gap has Lindy worried, as someone seems to be paying her a little too much attention.
With Summer of the Dead, Pulitzer-prize winner Julia Keller returns to Acker’s Gap, West Virginia in a provocative exploration of a struggling mountain town and its hardscrabble inhabitants.
This is the third Bell Elkins novel and it was sent to me to be reviewed by Bookbridgr/Ben Willis at Headline. I had not heard of this author before, so I got hold of the ‘A Killing in the Hills’ and ‘Bitter River’. And I fell in love with Bell and the wonderful writing style of Julia Keller.
On this occasion, we meet coal miner’s daughter, nineteen year old Lindy. Lindy is now a carer for her father, who is failing both mentally and physically. Her father seems to have some kind of dementia and is living in the past, reliving his mining days in the squalor of the cellar.
We have previously only heard of Bell’s sister, Shirley. Now she is out of prison and coming to terms with freedom and the past. The complicated relationship between Bell and Shirley continues and they tread a fine line between resentment, love and hate.
The fairly quiet town heats up with both the humid Virginia climate and murder. Is there a serial killer on the loose?
This is a wonderful series and Keller just astounds me with her characterization, beautiful descriptions and absorbing plots. As well as seeing the character development with Bell and Shirley, we get to meet and empathize with Lindy and her father. This is such a sad story, as the pair have no one but each other and Lindy is scared to ask for help. I love the update on what had happened to Clay, after the events of the previous book. I thought the last part of the story was pure genius, an unexpected twist. I was not expecting any of the revelations. I love it when an author totally surprises me.
I really rate this series and hope that we get many more stories from Julia Keller in the future. Highly recommended.