Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Killing in the Hills, by Julia Keller

For Belfa Elkins being the Prosecuting Attorney for Raythune County is suppose to be a fairly simple job. The small town of Acker's Gap and the rest of the county aren't much in the way of size. For West Virginia they are about as small town and normal as you would expect. But something has happened. Drugs have moved into the area and are really starting to cause a ripple effect in crime that is beginning to look more like large city issues than small town America.

When Belfa (her friends call her Bell) moved back to Acker's gap with her daughter she was returning to small town life and small town values. She felt that leaving the Washington D.C. area and all of it's large city crimes would be behind her. She also left behind her husband who wanted nothing to do with small town life, but everything to do with being a Washington D.C. lawyer / lobbyist / insider with lots of clout and the money to go along with it.

Bell and her daughter Carla have done fairly well in small town America, but Bell is finding the fight more and more difficult as she teams with her friend, Sheriff Nick Fogelsong to fight drugs and organized crime. But their fight takes on a new aspect, the killing of three older men in the town fast food restaurant starts a cascading effect that may have terrible repercussions for Bell and Carla as well as the entire town.

Carla is at the restaurant when a gunmen opens the door, guns down the three senior citizens and then calming leaves taking no other lives. Why these three men? Why in open daylight? Why with so many witnesses? What is really going on.

Carla saw the gunman and thinks she may know who it is but she doesn't tell her mother or the police. She keeps it to herself. Is it an act of defiance or protection? Is it being non committal or being afraid to get involved?

Further, the gunman has been hired by someone who wants to send a message. But as part of that message he also wants to take out the County Prosecutor. Is it a disgruntled criminal that Bell has put behind bars, or is it part of the organized crime that is bringing drugs to the region.

Julia Keller puts together a great novel with lots of intrigue, mis-direction and plenty of human drama that will keep you turning the pages. Will Carla ever reveal what she knows? Will Carla and Bell ever reconcile their mother / daughter differences? Will Carla leave and move back to Washington D.C. with her dad? Will Bell turn the corner on the criminals and get a hand up on the drug problems and the crime problems?

There are two other story lines mixed in with the main story. One is that of an adult man who has the maturity of a 12 year old. He is accused of killing his young 10 year old playmate. But should he be tried as an adult or let go because of diminished capacity. Bell has to decide whether to prosecute. Also there is the story of Bell's background (childhood) and the fact that her sister was put in prison twenty nine years ago for the brutal murder of their father. But was it murder or was it self-defense? Should her sister be let out on parole or not? Will Bell come to her sisters aid or just let her languish in prison?

This is a fun summer read that any Grisham fan would love to read. I hope you enjoy it, and I'm sure that you will be like me at the end, wanting a bit more and anxious for the next Bell Elkins novel.


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