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Bitter River (Bell Elkins #2)

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  1,032 ratings  ·  220 reviews
In the next stunning novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning Julia Keller, following the popular A Killing in the Hills, a pregnant teenager is found murdered at the bottom of a river.

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 alrea
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 29th 2014 by Minotaur Books (first published September 1st 2013)
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The Hook - When one of my GR friends reviewed Summer of the Dead the third Bell Elkins Mysteries it occurred to me I hadn’t even read the second in the series. I loved #1, A Killing In the Hills so what was I waiting for?

The Line – “Sometimes it was better to leave people with a clean bright dream of what might have been—than to get involved in the ragtag mess of reality.

The Sinker – Like the John Denver song, Country Roads, Julia Keller’s Bitter River evokes the beauty and the hardship of the
When I read the first book in this series -- A Killing in the Hills -- I was frustrated by what seemed to be way too much back story in proportion to the amount of actual crime investigation, but chalked it up to setting the stage for the series. I expected this one to have less background -- we now know the characters and the town -- and more action. While there certainly was action -- much of it totally ridiculous -- there was also a ton of description of the run-down and hopeless town. It's r ...more
Peter T. Tomaras
WSJ gave good review, checked Amazon, there were some bad reviews, but most were good. I should have believed the bad ones: "Ordinary, and maybe plain bad," "Bogged Down in Details," and "Good Book Spoiled by Excess." I second all those emotions. This author apparently has a series featuring small-town D.A. Bell Elkins, and has a following, but I jumped in on this one, and I almost "returned" the Kindle version for a refund. Keller never met a modifier she doesn't love, and sets a record for tan ...more
This is another wonderful story set in Acker's Gap, West Virginia. Bell Elkins is the star of the novel, a promising lawyer who returned home to become Raythune County's prosecuting attorney. Helped and assisted by her friend and long time anchor after a troubled childhood, Sheriff Nick Fogelsong.
With such main characters the series is crime centred; here it is an investigation into the murder of a pregnant teenager.
However the canvas is as broad as the Appalachian Mountains which brood over the
Thanks to NetGalley and Headline for the ARC of this book.

Oh dear; unfortunately this is a really bad book.

The writing is really clunky. It uses far too many adjectives, loads of tautology, and there is lots of unnecessary detail – it’s fine just to tell me the sheriff opened his notebook; I don’t need to know it’s one of those ones with a cardboard front and spiral wire binding.

With crime and thriller books, you can sometimes forgive poor language if the plot is exciting and twisty or the chara
Maybe it's sophomore slump, I hope, but this book was less successful on every level than her first. The description of the West Virginia mountain town is the best thing about the book. The characters, except for Bell and Nick the sheriff, are pretty forgettable, or unlikeable, or both.

There are too many plot lines, and several of them are just plain silly - the whole terrorist thing, for one - and the final reveal of the killer of the young woman found dead in the first chapter comes from so fa
Naomi V
3-1/2 stars

This was a really good mystery; different from most I've read lately. Bell Elkins has returned to her home in Ackers Gap to "do good" but she's not some young idealistic girl with no idea what she's getting into. She grew up in this Appalachian town in West Virginia and has lived in Washington DC, but wants to use her skill and education to make a difference where it's needed more.

Her high-school age daughter has recently moved to DC to live with her father and Bell is on her own now
Fabulous book...loved it as much as the first novel in the series, A Killing in the Hills. Julia Keller can write and she can tell a mean story. Bitter River can stand alone but I absolutely recommend reading the first novel as well as it is so good.

Bell Elkins, a lawyer who is the prosecutor in the small town in West Virginia where she grew up, is faced with the murder of a 16 year old girl who was found murdered in the Bitter River. Bell had a traumatic and violent childhood but has risen abov
Julia Keller follows up last year’s terrific debut novel, A Killing in the Hills, with another gripping mystery set in West Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains.

In "Bitter River'', Prosecutor Bell Elkins continues to struggle with her personal life. She desperately misses her teen daughter Carla, who is living with Bell’s ex-husband in Washington, D.C. She is seeing a man 15 years younger than her and is trying to keep their relationship hidden. She keeps hoping her sister Shirley will finally come
Ami Sands
I was disappointed in this sequel to A Killing in the Hills. I loved the first book, thought it was well written, suspenseful, smart, with a beautifully evoked setting.

The sequel was thinner, straining with a series of plot twists right up to the climax. The ending, though a shock, lacked credulity. A good ending to a mystery/thriller should be unexpected, but make perfect sense once you arrive there. This ending was yanked out of the blue and was absurd, not in keeping with the characters, as t
Jul 23, 2013 Judi rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judi by: BookBrowse
Shelves: read-in-2013
I posted my review on BookBrowse since my review copy came from them. I am giving it two stars "It was O.K." and gave it the rating of "Average" on BookBrowse. Here's what I said on BookBrowse:

Set in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, it centers on solving a pregnant teenage girl’s murder in the small mountain town of Acker’s Gap in Rathune County. Belfa Elkins is prosecuting attorney of Raythune County and although the story is told in third person, it is mostly her point of view; her
I didn't think the 2nd in the series was as good a read as "A Killing in the Hills". The CIA plot seemed contrived. The murderer seemed fabricated for surprise with too little foreshadowing. I think there is hope for this series. The author has made it clear that Bell Elkins loves West VIrginia so let's move on to the real problems and crime in Appalachia and not rely on unlikely terrorist plots. I loved getting a glimpse of Mary Sue ( sheriff's wife) and hope her character plays a more prominen ...more
Concealed beneath the water, her body waits to be found.

Sixteen-year-old pregnant Lucinda Trimble from Acker's Gap High-school is found dead in a car in the Bitter River.

Sheriff Nick Fogelsong had a relationship with Lucinda's mother Maddie Trimble twenty seven years ago. Telling Maddie that her daughter was dead was the hardest thing that he ever had to do in his life.

Maddie did not understand how her daughter was dead. She had checked her daughter before she went to bed and could see that her
I'm on a murder mystery kick. And i like to say it like this: muurrrrrderrrrr mystery.
Brenda Burnett
didn't read the first book, but don't think it made too much of a difference. (Though I would like to know what happened to make her daughter move away.) Poor Appalachian town, coal, but not too much business left, except hard feelings everywhere. Pregnant teen is found murdered, in the river. She was the bright star of her generation, had tons of potential, who could have done this to her? Rich boyfriend, his wheelchair bound brother, their mother? Her best friend? Good twists to the plot.
When I found out that Keller had made Bell Elkins into a recurring character in a series, I was thrilled! The writing is not exceptional, but it is solid. And I love a good mystery. This book, and the first in the series, are sort of like wearing pajamas and watching a Law & Order marathon. Comforting, compelling but not really challenging.

I enjoyed this book, until the twists and plot resolutions were revealed. They just weren't very good, to be honest. They felt haphazardly decided last mi
Once again Julia Keller takes us back to the small community of Acker’s Gap and Bell Elkins. This is the follow up to ‘A Killing in the Hills’. Bell has to deal with the death of a pregnant teenager, in suspicious circumstances and some unusual violent acts taking place over the town.

I’ve grown to love the characters of Bell Elkins and the sheriff, Nick Fogelsong. There is a complexity to these characters and a real depth to them. Bell really is quite fascinating. We now know the horrific back s
Originally posted on

Whole Lotta Twisted Going-ons
Bell is as tough as the mountains that cradle the small town of Acker's Gap, where she serves as County Prosecutor. Hell, there sure is a lot of criminal activity in that place! You got a young girl murdered, some crazy guy shooting an elderly lady, and terrorist blowing up the oldest building in town. This is in addition to the ordinary business of sneaky love trysts, troubled families, and missing sisters. Folks trust their sharp-
Gail Strickland
Meh. Takes lots of patience to read all the way to the end.
Jun 18, 2015 Diane rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Diane by: Tucson Festival of Books
I consumed Bitter River in a couple of sittings, immediately pulled into the story which begins as County Prosecutor Belfa Elkins drives home to Acker's Gap from another unsatisfying visit with her teenaged daughter under the supervision of her ex-husband and his current flame. Bell learns that one of Acker's Gap's most promising and engaging young students has been murdered, found in her boyfriend's car submerged in the Bitter River. Young Lucinda's eccentric mother's story doesn't quite hang t ...more
This story takes place in a very small 'town' in West Virginia. The book started off ok, except that the 'southern'/hillbilly similes were a bit over done, and the asides in sentences went on and on. Solving the murder of a young girl got a bit side-tracked when a bombing occurred, and then the whole story just went downhill.

******Spoiler Alert******
Remember the small town setting...with probably fewer than 2,000 inhabitants? Well, an ex-CIA guy comes to town. He knows the sheriff, and is suppo
Bitter River was an ARC that arrived in the mail and gave me another author to follow.

Publishers Weekly: The murder of 16-year-old Lucinda Trimble, whose strangled body is found in a car in the Bitter River, propels Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Keller's worthy sequel to her well-received adult fiction debut, A Killing in the Hills (2012). As West Virginia prosecutor Bell Elkins and the rest of closely knit Acker's Gap struggle to fathom who could have wanted to kill the popular high school
Oswego Public Library District
The first female prosecutor ever in tiny backwoods Ackers Gap, WV has a tough case to solve, i.e, the murder of a pregnant teen. This story reveals all sides of this Appalachian community, inviting the reader to experience this small town with all of its good and bad aspects. The author grew up in WV, is currently a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and now lives in Chicago. There is a distinct and vivid sense of place in that the author clearly wants readers to see WV in an improved light: char ...more
This book really wasn't bad, but it also wasn't good. Let's call it a Luke warm read. Set in a small town in West Virginia, it is the second in what I suspect will be an ongoing series for this author. Bella is the county prosecutor, in the small town that she grew up in. This book starts out with the murder of a young girl, and goes from there, as Bella works with the sheriff to solve this mystery while also sorting through some issues with her ex husband.

The book itself reminds me of the work
For a small town in West Virginia, Ackers Gap has a proportionately large share of trouble--and murders. One thing I've enjoyed about both books in this series is the tension between County Prosecutor Bell Elkins' personal and professional lives, her love-hate relationship with her hometown and the mountains around it (they can be both menacing and incredibly beautiful), and her back story as an abused child who witnessed justice and its terrible consequence. There are a lot of raw edges here a ...more
Debbie Maskus
Julia Keller is a new author to me and I thoroughly enjoyed Bitter River. I listened to the book on CD and the reader did an excellent job. Keller's writing reminds me of listening to a lyrical poem, where the reader yo-yos between emotions. I could almost see every character and scene presented in the novel, due to Keller’s superb use of language. Keller depicts the grimy life and conditions of mountainous West Virginia in a manner that allows the people to stand proud. The people of a small to ...more
Kristi Lamont
Something felt . . . I dunno, choppy, maybe, about this book? Like a variety of stories were pasted together with not enough glue? Maybe it's because I didn't know it was the second in a series and read it as a stand-alone. Also felt like most of the characters' choices/conversations/other interactions weren't believable. Plus, I seem to have accidentally wandered into a West Virginia mystery sub-genre of late. Maybe I can take only so many descriptions of rundown trailers and pain pill addicts ...more
Emily Weisenburger
I picked this book up up at the library and there was no indication on the exterior of the paperback that Bitter River is the second in a series. I thought it was odd that there were references to rather dramatic events that happened prior, so I figured I missed something, like book one. I do think I will go back and read the first one. I enjoyed this book, but it did not race along like mysteries often do. It felt more like a novel that had a mystery woven within its pages. I liked the feeling ...more
The first female prosecutor ever in tiny backwoods Ackers Gap, WV has a tough case to solve, i.e, the murder of a pregnant teen. This story reveals all sides of this Appalachian community, inviting the reader to experience this community with all of its good and bad aspects. The author grew up in WV, is currently a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and lives in Chicago. There is a distinct sense that the author wants readers to see WV in an improved light: characters actually read books there, g ...more
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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 a guest essayist on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS and has been a contri
More about Julia Keller...

Other Books in the Series

Bell Elkins (4 books)
  • A Killing in the Hills  (Bell Elkins, #1)
  • Summer of the Dead (Bell Elkins, #3)
  • Last Ragged Breath (Bell Elkins, #4)
A Killing in the Hills  (Bell Elkins, #1) Summer of the Dead (Bell Elkins, #3) Back Home Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It A Haunting of the Bones (Bell Elkins, #3.5)

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