“A Killing In The Hills is a gripping, beautifully-crafted murder mystery that shows that small-town West Virginia is no longer Mayberry. Great reading.” SCOTT TUROW
“Julia Keller is that rare talent who combines gripping suspense, a fabulous sense of place and nuanced characters you can't wait to come back to. A must read.” KARIN SLAUGHTER
“A Killing in the Hills is a remarkably written and remarkably tense debut. I loved it.” DENNIS LEHANE
“Julia Keller's A Killing in the Hills is a terrific debutatmospheric, suspenseful, assured. I hope there's more to come in the story of Bell Elkins and Acker's Gap.” LAURA LIPPMAN
“Be careful opening this book because once you do you won't be able to close it. Instead, clear the weekend, silence the phone and settle into Acker's Gap, a place as fascinating and fraught with violence and beauty as Daniel Woodrell's Ozarks or William Gay's Tennessee. A killer novel.” TOM FRANKLIN
“A twisty plotand a soulful depiction of a beautiful, besieged "afterthought of a town"propels this debut mystery.” People Magazine
“Keller perfectly captures the ennui of a community paralyzed by poverty and despair, and the pride of people who refuse to succumb to the insidiousness of drugs. . .A powerful debut.” Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Outstanding. . .Keller does a superb job showing both the natural beauty of Appalachia and the hopeless anger of the people trapped there in poverty. . .Unforgettable.” Publishers Weekly (starred review, Pick of the Week)
“A fictional debut for a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, born and raised in West Virginia, whose love for the state, filled with natural beauty and deep poverty, pervades a mystery that has plenty of twists and turns and a shocking conclusion.” Kirkus (starred review)
At the start of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Keller's outstanding first novel, 17-year-old Carla Elkins is waiting for her divorced mother, Bell Elkins, Raythune County's prosecuting attorney, at the Salty Dawg, a chain restaurant in Acker's Gap, W.Va., when three old men are shot dead at a nearby table. Carla catches only a glimpse of the killer at the Salty Dawg's entrance before he flees. Bell, who's been crusading with the local sheriff against the growing illegal traffic in prescription drugs and the violence it spawns, investigates the triple slaying, as does rebellious Carla. Meanwhile, the drug boss orders the assassin to kill the meddling prosecutor. Keller does a superb job showing both the natural beauty of Appalachia and the hopeless anger of the people trapped there in poverty. Some characters turn out to be better than they appear, some much worse, but the ensemble cast is unforgettable. So is this novel. Agent: Lisa Gallagher, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Aug.)
The shocking opening of Keller's debut—the point-blank fatal shooting of three old men at a fast-food joint in rural West Virginia—will jerk unsuspecting readers out of their complacency. Carla, the adolescent daughter of the county's lead prosecutor, Belfa "Bell" Elkins, witnesses the shooting, but with the logic of a teenager, she doesn't tell anyone what she knows. Bell, an intensely driven loner, senses that this killing ties in with the wave of drug crimes threatening to overwhelm her county. She must also wrestle with another troubling case involving a developmentally disabled young man accused of murdering his friend. While Bell tears all over the county questioning people, Carla's lies of omission come to haunt her. VERDICT Keller's vividly described characters and shifting points of view make this debut novel especially realistic. Occasionally, a plot thread peters out (e.g., where did all the reporters go?), but the story is so engrossing that pages just fly by. Keller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, neatly straddles the line between moralizing and storytelling with this superbly detailed and suspense-drenched mystery. Share with Linda Fairstein, Meg Gardiner, and Lisa Gardner fans.
A tough prosecutor who's trying to make a difference in the lives of West Virginians suddenly finds her own life in shambles. Whatever plans Bell Elkins made for herself as a child growing up near the town of Acker's Gap ended when her older sister killed their father. From that point on, Bell was brought up in various foster homes. After intelligence and determination got her through law school, she and her husband, fellow attorney Sam Elkins, found high-paying jobs in Washington until Bell, tired of their shallow lifestyle, returned with their daughter Carla to West Virginia. When Carla, who's changed from a delightful little girl to a sulky teen, witnesses the murder of three old men at a local fast-food joint, her love-hate relationship with Bell becomes worse, especially since she recognizes the killer as someone she saw at an alcohol- and drug-laced party she can't mention to her mother. Bell and her longtime friend Sheriff Nick Fogelsong have been fighting a losing battle against the drug kingpin whose dealers are feasting on the misery of the poor and often desperate population. So it's only natural that they suspect these killings are drug-related. In addition, Bell has to decide if she wants to prosecute a mentally challenged young man accused of killing a child he often played with. Even with her own life in danger, Bell won't back down. A fictional debut for a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, born and raised in West Virginia, whose love for the state, filled with natural beauty and deep poverty, pervades a mystery that has plenty of twists and turns and a shocking conclusion.