Virginia Campbell's Reviews > A Killing in the Hills

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller
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Sep 09, 12

Read in September, 2012

Author Julia Keller steps away from a Pulitzer Prize-Winning journalism career to tell this richly-characterized, memorable tale of crime and punishment in a small rural town in West Virginia. As a young woman, Bell Elkins left behind Acker's Gap, WV, hoping to close the door on a troubled childhood and start a new life in Washington, DC. Marriage, a law career, and a child could not fit together for Bell and her husband, and after their divorce, she returned to Acker's Gap, bringing along her reluctant and rebellious seventeen-year old daughter, Carla. Bell's old friend, Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, is pleased that she has come home, but he is perturbed by her determination to become the Prosecuting Attorney of Raythune County. While he admires her conviction and despairs of her stubbornness, Nick warns her of the drudgery and bleakness that the job entails. Undeterred, Bell wins the position and determines to clean up the drug racket which is poisoning the small community. Bell's commitment to her work does nothing to ease the tense, often hostile relationship between herself and Carla. Everything changes one day, in less than a minute, when a gunmen opens fire in the local eatery, The Salty Dawg. Killing three old men as they drink their coffee, the gunman leaves chaos and horror in his wake. As he makes a fast exit, Carla sees his face, and thus becomes a victim of another kind. Later, she realizes that she has seen the killer once before in a place she shouldn't have been, and she keeps silent so that her mother won't know where she had gone. Carla decides to investigate the killing on her own to save face, causing more harm than good. As Bell continues her quest to destroy the hold that drugs have on Raythune County, she is targeted by the drug lords, and life becomes ever more complex. In communities such as Acker's Gap where poverty is an inescapable, intricate link in the chain of life, there will always be hunters who prey on the weak and the hopeless. This is an endless cycle, as old as humanity itself. On a personal note, West Virginia is my close neighbor--my home in Virginia is just a half-hour away from the WV border. I have a deep fondness for West Virginia and its people, and I have found much there to appreciate. The mountains, while looming and silent, are also breathtakingly beautiful. Their majestic reign encompasses all, and they are sure in the knowledge that the differences each new generation will bring will be absorbed into the timeless legacy of the past.

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