A Killing in the Hills
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

A Killing in the Hills (Bell Elkins #1)

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  1,379 ratings  ·  318 reviews
In A Killing in the Hills, a powerful, intricate debut from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Keller, a mother and a daughter try to do right by a town and each other before it's too late.

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,...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by Minotaur Books (first published August 1st 2012)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Book Description: In this powerful, intricate debut from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Keller, a mother and a daughter try to do right by a town and each other before it's too late.

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 i...more
switterbug (Betsey)
A Pulitzer prize-winning journalist writes a first novel about a murder of three elderly men in the West Virginia hill country. The possibilities intrigued me from the first few pages, and I expected a well-written piece of work--no fluff, no sloppiness, clean editing, and mature, solid plot and theme structure. A good journalist is experienced in the weight of a word, the sharpness of a sentence. Unfortunately, this debut novel turned out to be derivative and prosaic, with minimal tension and a...more
Carol
My sincere thanks to Alison Fisher, Library Marketing Coordinator, Adult Trade of Macmillan for getting the e-galley to me at my request. A Killing in the Hills will be published August 21st.

The highest compliment I can give Julia Keller's debut novel is that I'd like to read another featuring prosecutor, Belfa Elkins; Bell for short. I'm not a fan of series fiction as a whole, but I say, bring on the next one!

The story starts out with a bang, literally. "Pock, Pock Pock." The gunman enters Th...more
Andrea
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Don
I don't get the buzz on this book. It was a real disappointment. There are a number of aspects about it to criticize:

1. The book really needed an editor. It's incredibly repetitious; there are descriptions of people that are repeated and ideas that are re-stated numerous time.

2. Too often, Keller strives for the memorable sentence, but usually just falls flat and sounds self-consciously literary.

3. The characters are two-dimensional, not at all subtle.

4. This is supposed to be a suspense novel,...more
Elizabeth
Predictable plot with a cliched cast of characters. I do not understand the praise for this book.
Cindy Crawford
A Killing in the Hills is set deep in the mountains of West Virginia, and the place is as important to the story as any of the characters. Keller's lyrical descriptions of the setting makes the mountain and the surrounding woods and towns and roads and houses and shacks and abandoned mines come alive. At times when reading I had to consciously pull myself out of the setting--I felt like I too lived in this town and saw these places.

There's also a good mix of interesting characters and a solid my...more
LORI CASWELL
Bell Elkins grew up in Acker's Gap, West Virginia. After a tragic upbringing that includes a fire and the death of her father, she then goes from foster home to foster home. She goes away to college, gets married and has a child. She feels drawn to return to Acker's Gap to make a difference. Her marriage falls apart and she takes her daughter home to West Virginia. She runs and is elected prosecuting attorney for Raythune County. The county has a serious drug problem and Bell is determined to cl...more
Vivian
Acker's Gap, West Virginia could literally be any small town within the United States. The problems found there are found elsewhere. And the growing problem faced in many small towns is a problem with drugs (meth as well as prescription drug abuse). Prosecuting attorney Bell Elkins is working hard to see that Acker's Gap doesn't become tainted by the ever-increasing drug problems.

A native West Virginian, Bell has seen plenty of trouble in her life and was able to succeed despite the rough start...more
Mark
Death in Appalachia. Acker’s Gap is a small West Virginia town. A rural area that is both beautiful and grotesque. Rampart drug use and incessant poverty are the reasons for the latter, issues that currently plague many areas across America.
One Saturday morning, three old man, longtime friends, are having coffee at a local diner. They are brutally gunned down by a lone assailant, who quickly flees. Bell Elkins, the county prosecutor, is called in to investigate. Her teenage daughter witnessed t...more
Allison
Set in the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains, this debut mystery by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Keller is both atmospheric and fast-paced. The story centers around Belfa Elkins, a prosecuting attorney, who is strong, independent and doggedly determined to rid her community of the drug dealers who are dragging it's people further into the depths of despair and poverty. Little does Belfa know that her anti-drug crusade will bring death to her town and danger to her family. The plot...more
Kathleen Hagen
Winter of Secrets, by Vicky Delany, b-plus, Narrated by Carrington MacDuffie, Produced by Blackstone Audio, downloaded from audible.com.

Sometimes the smallest towns have the darkest secrets.Siblings Wendy and Jason Wyatt-Yarmouth and their friends are in British Columbia, enjoying a two-week
vacation. Tragedy strikes the group of privileged students when two of them crash through the ice into the frozen river.It's Christmas Eve and the snowstorm
of the decade has settled over the peaceful Canadian...more
JoyAnne
The murder of three elderly gentlemen in a burger joint quickly grabs your interest. The door opens, in walks a gunman, he takes aim at the men and within seconds all are dead. With several customers at the time no one is able to give a description of the killer to the police. However, one teen not only saw him but knows who he is, she met him at a party once where illicit drugs were being used and doesn't want her mother to know. She doesn't know his name or where he lives though and sets out o...more
Kristina
A Killing in the Hills seemed like a good literary mystery novel, something I would enjoy. While I would still go with the assessment that it's more of a literary novel, I have to say I didn't enjoy it. It was very wordy and full long, windy descriptive phrases that distracted me from the story itself. Here's one: "Bell Elkins tore through the tape as if it were tinsel on last year's Christmas tree--as it were, that is, superfluous, out of place, and certainly nothing that ought, under the prese...more
Anne
I always enjoyed Julia's writing at the Chicago Tribune - her lyrical prose and way with a turn of phrase. So I was eager to read her foray into a mystery/suspense genre and hopeful to have a new heroine to follow. I wasn't disappointed with her first book. Keller brings her gifts of phrasing to this novel and uses them well to make you feel like you know Ackers Gap and understand the pull of home to her heroine, Bell. This first book has a lot of heavy lifting to do - establishing characters, b...more
Cyn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy
I really enjoyed this book, a great mystery and with the family issues, makes me think this might be the start of a great series.

This story is set in a small town (fictional Acker's Gap) in West Virginia, but frankly, this small town reminded me a lot of my hometown in SE Ohio.

The book starts out with people in a diner. All of a sudden, three older gentleman (sitting together at a table) are shot. The prosecutor's daughter witnesses the shooting and the story takes off from there ...

Besides the...more
Ami Sands
I know this sounds pretentious, but this book was my first ever mystery thriller. I'm not a literary snob (well, perhaps I am) because I can't read anything that is not well-written. I just don't enjoy it, don't wish to invest the time.

This novel is wonderful and Keller is a first-rate writer. I loved the powerful West Virginia setting, both the beauty and the hardship vividly drawn--Keller knows this place as one would know a person whom one loves and grieves for. The mother-daughter drama is c...more
Alessandra Trindle
A well-written, tightly plotted, emotionally gripping first in a series, "A Killing in the Hills" delivers a fresh perspective into the murder mystery genre by focusing on a county prosecutor in rural West Virginia. The prosecutor, Bell Elkins, comes with plenty of her own baggage when she returns home to WVA after a decade in the bright lights of Washington, D.C.

There were some flaws to this mystery. I found the reveal a bit implausible, though it did surprise me who the drug kingpin was. Also...more
Jim Huang
Readers who fail to spot the bad guys early should have their mystery licenses revoked. But this is, nevertheless, a great read because it’s so totally earnest. Bell Elkins is a prosecutor is a small West Virginia town. Her daughter is a witness when a gunman shoots three men. Bell's life is consumed with this and other cases that arise out of the fabric of this tight-knit community. Bell is All In every minute, and readers will be too because commitment like this can't be faked. (On sale 8/21)
Annie
Release date August 2013.

I picked this book up at BEA because I like this kind of book. I like the murder-mystery-detective series and I really hope there is a follow up to Belfa Elkins. Well written, thought provoking, geographically descriptive, and timely topic. For a first time novel by Julia Keller, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, this is pretty darn good. There were a few week spots, I was totally bugged by Carla's story line.

Please write another one soon Julia.
Nancy McFarlane
I don’t often stop while reading a mystery to re-read a sentence or paragraph because it is so beautifully written and so descriptive that I want to remember it. But, I found myself doing that quite frequently while reading A Killing in the Hills. On top of being beautifully written, it is a tension filled suspense novel and murder mystery with characters so well developed I felt like I really knew them and the sense of place so vivid I felt like I had been there.
Rose
I enjoyed this mystery very much, finding books set in my home state of West Virginia appealing from the get-go. But the familiarity of the setting was not the only element that made this book a satisfying read. The author crafted an interesting, suspenseful mystery which surprised me at the end. I had suspicions about "who done it" from about midway through the book -- but I was wrong!

Keller drew convincing portraits of the characters, and her understanding of the situations confronting residen...more
Jen Klug
One star says that I just "did not like it." But believe me, that's putting it far too mildly.

I haaaaaaaaaaaated this book.

It should have been good - in spite of how terrible it was, I cared about the characters, which means this author is obviously capable of something. But still. I hated it. Hated it. I just finished it and I'm angry about having given it time. Look, Julia Keller:

1. The similes, girl. Too, too, too, too much, and not even good ones. The similes are thick, like a layer of dead...more
Tabitha Sharp
Too much extra descriptive text. The story got lost in it. Also wasn't prepared for the scene from her childhood at the end of the book. Way too much!
Jann Barber
Our mystery book club members read one of Keller's Belle Elkins books. Keller is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and she did a great job of developing the characters in this, the first of two, novel.

Belfa Elkins has returned to Acker's Gap, West Virginia, with her teenaged daughter, Carla. She serves as the County Prosecutor. Her own past haunts her; many of the citizens of Acker's Gap know something of her past, but few know the full story.

When three senior citizens are brutally gunned dow...more
Regina Spiker
When county prosecutor Bell Elkin's daughter, Carla, witnesses a triple murder at the Salty Dawg in their hometown of Ackers Gaps, WV, Bell is determined to protect Carla and find the killer. Unfortunately even though the diner was full of people, no one has description of the suspect. As days go by and Carla relives the horrifying event the face with the gun looks like a young man she seen at a recent party - where drugs were flowing easy. How can Carla give the information to her mom but not b...more
Mary
I decided to read this book because author Julia Keller is a WV native like myself. At first I did not expect I was going to enjoy this book but as I read on found I was mistaken. It is a good mystery even though I figured out who was the culprit before the end. My fondest part of reading this book was wonderful ability she has to describe WV. I now live in another state but her absolutely accurate description of the mountains with their curvy roads, small towns and the people.

The one thing tha...more
Jodi
Although I've read many mysteries and suspense novels, I had never previously heard of this author prior to reading this for my library book club. What a pleasant surprise it was! It would typically be classified in the Mystery/Suspense genre, but this book was so much more than that. The author did an excellent job of capturing the personality and characters of a small town in Appalachia without doing it in the condescending and/or flippant way that seems to be typical of many authors. Issues o...more
Merry
Set in a small town in West Virginia that is wild and beautiful but poverty stricken and plagued with drug problems, the story revolves around the County Prosecutor, Bell, and her 17 year-old daughter, who witnesses the murder of three older men meeting for coffee in the local restaurant. With a set-up like this, the book should have been a great read. However,...

Many of the events in the book just didn't make sense (her daughter could identify the murderer but didn't tell her mother because she...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Other Woman (Jane Ryland, #1)
  • The Boy in the Snow (Edie Kiglatuk Mystery, #2)
  • What the Heart Remembers
  • Yesterday's Echo
  • The Red Queen Dies: A Mystery (Detective Hannah McCabe, #1)
  • Letters From a Murderer: The First Jameson & Argenti Investigation
  • Faces of the Gone (Carter Ross Mystery #1)
  • Aunty Lee's Delights: (Singaporean Mystery #1)
  • The Paris Directive
  • Black Fridays (Jason Stafford, #1)
  • The Buzzard Table (Deborah Knott #18)
  • The Survivor
  • Secretariat Reborn
  • The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton
  • The Prophet
  • The Fall of Saints: A Novel
  • Fatal Decree
  • Hard Target
1245113
Julia was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. She graduated from Marshall University, then later earned a doctoral degree in English Literature at Ohio State University.

She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and has taught at Princeton and Ohio State Universities, and the University of Notre Dame. She is an essayist for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. In 2005, she won the Pul...more
More about Julia Keller...
Bitter River  (Bell Elkins #2) Back Home Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It The Devil's Stepdaughter: A Bell Elkins Story Summer of the Dead

Share This Book