Phone calls before dawn are never good news. And when you're the county's prosecuting attorney, calls from the sheriff are rarely good news, either. So when Bell Elkins picks up the phone she already knows she won't like what she's about to hear, but she's still not prepared for this: 16-year-old Lucinda Trimble's body has been found at the bottom of Bitter River. And Lucinda didn't drown—she was dead before her body ever hit the water.
With a case like that, Bell knows the coming weeks are going to be tough. But that's not all Bell is coping with these days. Her daughter is now living with Bell's ex-husband, hours away. Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, one of Bell's closest friends, is behaving oddly. Furthermore, a face from her past has resurfaced for reasons Bell can't quite figure. Searching for the truth, both behind Lucinda's murder and behind her own complicated relationships, will lead Bell down a path that might put her very life at risk.
In Bitter River, Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Keller once again weaves a compelling, haunting mystery against the stark beauty and extreme poverty of a small West Virginia mountain town.
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?
In Summer of the Dead, the third Julia Keller mystery chronicling the journey of Bell Elkins and her return to her Appalachian hometown, we also meet Lindy Crabtree—a coal miner's daughter with dark secrets of her own, secrets that threaten to explode into even more violence.
Acker's Gap is a place of loveliness and brutality, of isolation and fierce attachments—a place where the dead rub shoulders with the living, and demand their due.
In Sorrow Road, the latest mystery from Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Julia Keller, two stories—one set in the turbulent era of World War II and one in the present day—are woven together to create a piercingly poignant tale of memory and family, of love and murder.
Bell Elkins, prosecuting attorney in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, is asked by an old acquaintance to look into the death of her beloved father in an Alzheimer’s care facility. Did he die of natural causes—or was something more sinister to blame? And that’s not the only issue with which Bell is grappling: Her daughter Carla has moved back home. But something’s not right. Carla is desperately hiding a secret.
Once again, past and present, good and evil, and revenge and forgiveness clash in a riveting story set in the shattered landscape of Acker’s Gap, where the skies can seem dark even at high noon, and the mountains lean close to hear the whispered lament of the people trapped in their shadow.
Royce Dillard doesn't remember much about the day his parents-and one hundred and twenty-three other souls-died in the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster. He was only two years old when he was ripped from his mother's arms. But now Dillard, who lives off the grid with only a passel of dogs for company, is fighting for his life one more time: He's on trial for murder.
Prosecutor Bell Elkins faces her toughest challenge yet in this haunting story of vengeance, greed and the fierce struggle for social justice. Richly imagined, vividly written and deeply felt, Julia Keller's Last Ragged Breath is set in West Virginia, but it really takes place in a land we all know: the country called home.
And then comes a shattering discovery.
During an excavation in a remote area of the county, a skeleton is found. DNA testing proves it is related to DNA already on file: that of a convicted felon named Shirley Dolan. Along with the age and approximate time of death, the DNA link leads to a chilling conclusion: These are the remains of Bell's mother, Teresa Dolan. She didn't run away. She was here all along. And further examination reveals that she was a homicide victim.
Bell automatically pins the blame on her late father, Donnie Dolan. But evidence emerges that it could not have been him. And so Bell must solve the most agonizingly personal case of her career: Who murdered her mother?
The place is known as Evening Street, and it is here Bell comes whenever she can spare the time. She rocks ailing infants to sleep, and she provides what medical science-for all of its marvels-cannot: A simple human touch.
One terrifying night, the distraught father of an Evening Street baby breaks into the facility. Gun in hand, he holds the staff hostage and demands a reckoning for a family grudge--with helpless infants only inches away.
And so begins a standoff at Evening Street. Bell Elkins is swept up into the crisis, as the drama escalates toward a lethal flashpoint. At the center of it all is a baby, only hours old, but already ancient in his knowledge of pain.
For Bell Elkins no day is ever the same.
But on this day, for the third day running, Bell has woken up from the same dream. A dream about a boy needing her help, reaching out to her. Bell, always unable to help.
Already unsettled, she becomes embroiled, in her role as prosecuting attorney for Raythune County, in an investigation into a couple running a local day-care centre, and Bell suspects that her day is only going to get worse. A suspicion that is compounded when she's forced to confront a friend's treachery and a ghost from her past.
No day is ever the same, but will Bell be forever changed by this one?