My thanks to Julia Keller for sending me Fast Falls the Night. I am eternally grateful!
Based on a real-life event, Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Keller’s latest Bell Elkins novel Fast Falls the Night takes place in a single 24-hour period, unfurling against the backdrop of a shattering personal revelation that will change Bell’s life forever.
The first drug overdose comes just after midnight, when a young woman dies on the dirty floor of a gas station bathroom. To the people of the small town of Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, it is just another tragedy. It is sad―but these days, depressingly familiar.
But then there is another overdose. And another. And another.
Prosecutor Bell Elkins soon realizes that her Appalachian hometown is facing its starkest challenge yet: a day of constant heroin overdoses from a batch tainted with a lethal tranquilizer. While the clock ticks and the bodies fall, Bell and her colleagues desperately track the source of the deadly drug―and engage in fierce debates over the wisdom of expending precious resources to save the lives of self-destructive addicts.
Previously in the series
Fast Falls the Night is easily one of my favourite crime books of 2017. Ever since I was first introduced to Bell Elkins and her Virginian home of Acker’s Gap, I’ve been entranced by the setting and the dark plots. I’ve loved how this series has developed. Bell is such a strong and memorable character. Julia Keller gets the balance right between telling a story and educating about life in small town America. It is very much legal crime, with a gorgeous social conscience. Clever and insightful. Strong and beautifully told.
Life in Acker’s Gap is not the American dream. This is the cold reality of life in a town, where drugs are rife, unemployment and hopelessness reign. It is a town, that most are desperate to escape from. Once it had the coal industry to sustain it. Now there is nothing. Bell Elkins has returned, with a strong sense of purpose to help her community. Bell is the local prosecutor. Even Bell has reached the point, where she is considering moving on.
Bell, Sheriff Pam Harrison and their colleagues find themselves faced with a very challenging day. Fast Falls the Night takes place over the course of twenty four hours. It is a dark day for Acker’s Gap. We see a young woman die of a drug’s overdose, in the bathroom of a gas station. This sparks the start of a drug death epidemic, that sweeps Acker’s Gap and the surrounding area. Contaminated drugs have entered the market. All drug users are playing russian roulette with their lives. We see the impact on this community, as the emergency services struggle to keep up with the growing number of drug overdose cases. Told from multiple points of view, from the sympathetic to the disinterested, the morally disapproving and the grieving relatives, we get a real sense of a community in crisis.
The drugs problem is central to the story. It feels very familiar. It is tragic. It is based on reality. We have all seen stories in the newspapers, of contaminated drugs sparking multiple deaths in cities or creating ‘zombie like’ behaviour in the recent case of spice in the UK. Within the Acker’s Gap community, we see that drugs are cheap and very accessible. Addicts come from all social classes. Stigmatization is massive. Overdoses kill. Communities struggle to cope.
Once again, Bell has to deal with a couple of shocks in her private life. At least her daughter is now happy settled, as a university student. These revelations have massive implications for the future. Bell is tough and resilient. She will need to be now.
Fast Falls the Night is perfection in a crime novel. I will be continuing to recommend this series to everyone who will listen. I love everything about it. The bleakness. The escalating drama. The wonderful perception in the writing of a terrible social problem and its wider implications. Bell and her perspective on the world. Julia Keller’s writing.
Fantastic! Highly recommended.