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Last Ragged Breath

(Bell Elkins #4)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,359 ratings  ·  191 reviews
From the night-black depths of a coalmine to the sun-struck peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, from a riveting murder mystery to a poignant meditation on the meaning of love and family, the latest novel in the critically acclaimed series strikes out for new territory: the sorrow and outrage that spring from a real-life chapter in West Virginia history.

Royce Dillard doesn'
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 19th 2016 by Minotaur Books (first published August 13th 2015)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  1,359 ratings  ·  191 reviews

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Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
There are few authors who are more better appreciated by me than Julia Keller. I have not met her like so many current writers I have seen at book signings and festivals, but her art and skill have done more for my belief in reading than this exceptional writer.
I read many books and marvel at the plots and interaction of characters yet I am seldom moved to feel captured in the story, care so much for fictional events and be transported to a world imagined by other where I'd gladly spend more ti
Dale Harcombe
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I seem to have a knack of picking up books that are part way through a series. This is apparently book 4 in this series. It didn’t matter a bit. I was quickly drawn into this story where a man is murdered. Ed Hackel was the marketing manager for the planned Mountain Magic Resort. Since the body is found on Royce’s property and he has had a previous altercation with Hackel, Royce Dillard taken in to custody.
A young child of two at the time, Royce was a survivor of the Buffalo Creek Disaster back
Jun 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
The Hook - I enjoyed the first three books in BellElkins Series. Minotaur Press and Edelweiss kindly provided the e-galley due to be published August 25, 2015.

The Line the dedication –
”To Virgie A. Ramey, Effie Baker, and
Marvel R. Scarberry, three real-life
victims of the Buffalo Creek disaster
of February 26, 1972.

Chosen at random, as they were by the water.”

The Sinker – The anger Bell feels at the retirement of Sheriff Nick Fogelsong is woven throughout Last Ragged Breath. This anger i
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am back in small town USA with Bell Elkins, prosecuting attorney. Last Ragged Breath is the fourth novel in the acclaimed legal series by Julia Keller.

This is a series that has to be read in order, to be fully appreciated. Slowly over the course of the books, we get to know and love Bell Elkins. Bell has a complicated history. She comes from a background of poverty and abuse. Her mother disappeared, when she was a child. Her father was killed by her sister. She was brought up in the care syste
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read through several Bell Elkins books from my library...West Virginia setting and people - Not for me.
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Another excellent book in this beautifully written series set in the geographically breathtaking and economically bleak coal mine country in West Virginia. Bell Elkins, a prosecuting attorney, goes after the truth in this fascinating tale based on the historic tragedy that took 123 lives in the Buffalo Creek disaster of 1972. One of the survivors of this horrific flood, Royce Dillard, was a two year old toddler when he was thrown to the arms of safety by his parents who were then swept away and ...more
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone has story...what if someone threatened to destroy yours..this is the dilemma posed by author Keller in Last Ragged Breath.

Last Ragged Breath is the 4th book in the Bell Elkins series by Julia Keller. I love love love this series. Keller has opened my eyes to the beauty and the darkness of West Virginia. I have treasured every book in this amazing series. Julia Keller is a memorable writer and storyteller.

In each book in this series we learn a little more about Bell Elkins. She is not
Ilyssa Wesche
Another solid installment in the Bell Elkins series. It will be interesting to see how all the characters progress in the next book - I feel like everyone was left in a tentatively hopeful place.

My one complaint would be that I could do with a little less of the "we are Acker's Gap, West Virginia, home of the downtrodden and emotionally bankrupt." I mean set it up at the beginning of every book if absolutely necessary (although maybe by book 5 assume the reader remembers?) And most of all, I get
I am running out of things to say about these mystery series I read. They are good, not great. I eat them up. I fall in love with the leads, like Bell Elkins. How can I NOT want to know what she's up to? Even if it means reading a book that's got a slightly predictable plot, and focuses too much on backstory? I'm only human. And I'm stuck on this series. Good word to end on: I'm grateful to this book for introducing me to the history of the Buffalo Creek disaster. I had no idea, and I'm glad I d ...more
Colin Mitchell
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
New investment is at to happen in Acker's Gap with the inception of the Mountain Majic resort, that is until the body of Edward Hackel, their chief goffer/land agent, is found dead on Royce Dillard's property. Dillard lives the life of a recluse and has little contact with the outside world following the 1972 flood disaster when he was orphaned. Belfa Elkins, still smarting from the departure of sheriff, Nick Foglesong, is determined to obtain a conviction in court but is there a niggling doubt ...more
I bought my book from The Works as part of 3 books for five pounds. Looking back after reading Bitter River by Julia Keller I much preferred Bitter River than Last Ragged Breath, but that is my own personal choice.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
In Last Ragged Breath, a man walking a dog finds a body. Or more correctly, Goldie the dog, discovers the body. It's a brutal murder and all evidence points to the property's owner, Royce Dillard. The victim was a salesman working for a corporation with plans to build a vacation resort in the West Virginia mountains. Dillard's property fits nicely into their plans. The two men have had several negative encounters over Dillard's refusal to sell. The community rejects the idea that Dillard, a recl ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: part-of-series

I am not really into Mysteries like this and especially when I have jumped into the series, although a quarter of the book reiterated what happened in the previous books, it only does a little clipping so I wasn't really none the wiser as I obviously didn't know who was who and what was what.

That is my fault for choosing a book that obviously is not a stand alone in a series. I wish the publishers would say that in the description as it can put us readers off.

I did like the sound of the plot and
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Last Ragged Breath is my favorite book in the series thus far. Looking forward to the next one. Have also read the Bell Elkins ebook short stories and thoroughly enjoyed them. Thank you, Julia Keller!
Laura Bentley
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must-read for mystery lovers! Julia Keller is a natural storyteller, and her novels in the Bell Elkins' series are set in West Virginia where she grew up and went to school. Her deep understanding of the people and their history is clear and riveting. ...more
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Julia Keller's exquisite writing shines in hew new Bell Elkins mystery. Interesting plot line and well done character development makes this a must read. ...more
Jill Tharp
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cannot say enough good about this author. Her writing is beautiful and the murder mysteries are always exciting. Couldn't read this one fast enough. ...more
Christopher Williams
Maybe the best of this series. Also the last, unfortunately. At least for a while. The plotting is excellent here. An outsider who is holding up a major development near the town is accused of murdering the company representative who has been hassling him to sell his land. All the evidence points to him being guilty. Bell pursues the prosecution but has a nagging doubt that all is not as it seems. The twist, when it comes, is skillfully done and believable. Nick is no longer the sheriff either, ...more
Barbara Nutting
I don’t rate this series very high and yet I keep reading on! The author milks the plot to the very last drop - too much description, very slow moving and Rhonda and Goldie were the only characters I liked! The coal mine scene made my stomach lurch but mining and poverty in West Virginia hold no interest for me. Why do I keep reading theses books, I don’t know but I’m hooked - off to book 5 as the saga continues.
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, as I have loved the other mysteries I've read by Julia Keller. Not just the usual mystery, these: they combine compelling characters and stories with Keller's signature well-researched background information to provide layers of depth not commonly seen in many books of this genre.

This story takes place in Ackers Gap, WV, a hard-luck community to which prosecutor Bell Elkins has returned after time as a high-powered lawyer in the Washington, DC area. It's her home, one filled w
Oswego Public Library District
This is a contemporary mystery based on a true West Virginia flood in 1972 that eerily echoes the West Virginia flood of 2016. Few authors do such an excellent job of helping readers really see and understand the people of the Appalachian region. Keller's description of its small towns where everyone knows each other along with all their mannerisms and values makes a reader feel like they could just sit down and order a piece of pie at the local corner cafe. Keller does not sugarcoat the region, ...more
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every West Virginian remembers the Buffalo Creek Flood of 1972, one of the worse coal mining disasters in our state's long history of such disasters. This particular one figures prominently in the background of Julia Keller's 4th Bell Elkins' thriller.

Royce Dillard was only two years old when the sludge damn ruptured send thousands of gallons of death through the coal mining valley wiping out whole communities. He survived but the trauma of his ordeal followed him for the rest of this life until
Aug 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
Belfa Elkins came home to West Virginia to become the prosecuting attorney for Aker's Gap. Royce Dillard was a child when the floods came down the mountains and ripped him from his mother's arms; both his parents perished and he survived. The coal company responsible for the slurry dam breach paid some insurance and Royce has lived high in the woods with his dogs ever since. Now, Royce is accused of killing a man who wanted to buy his property -- the only place Royce feels safe. Bel has to unrav ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather disappointed in the book. I was looking forward to reading another book about the people of Appalachia along the lines of Donald Pollock (Knockenstiff, The Devil All the Time, etc.) but this book missed the mark. The author's main character was a lady prosecutor who obsessed over a former sheriff with whom she had a deep professional relationship; too much was made of the relationship which I thought detracted from the story. Guess I'll have to wait (and hope) for Donald Pollock to write ...more
Katherine Clark
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is more like 4 and 1/2 or 4 and 3/4s. What a fantastic book. This takes place in West Virginia coal country. The characters are smart and we care about them. There are dogs (over 7!) and they are important to the story. People learn about themselves, and they learn not to give up on their dreams. The murder mystery--I have a bit of mixed feelings about it which is why I can't give this 5 stars, but it comes around. I heard the audio book. Fantastic. Highly recommend this work. ...more
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, series
4 1/2 stars. Keller's writing flows seamlessly connecting vivid descriptions of the desperation and beauty in the West Virginia town, Acker's Gap. I care about that town. My only quibble was Bell's immature response to Nick's career change. The Buffalo Creek Flood of 1972 is a horrific tragedy that I should have remembered but didn't. I'm completely hooked on this series. ...more
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clearly I love this series and I was thrilled when I got my copy of Last Ragged Breath. Like the three previous books, this one is engaging and exciting. The setting is wonderful and Keller has left us hanging and now waiting for #5. If you haven't read any of the others, just start with #1 and work your way through. You won't be sorry. ...more
RoseMary Achey
The beginning of this novel was plagued with too much character introspection and too little editing. The author finally found her groove in the last quarter of the book. I love the vivid character's in this series, however some of their thoughts are best left out of the book. ...more
Lynne Perednia
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What started out as an intriguing mystery in Keller's series, set in West Virginia, became a very, very good story about how people view themselves and fit into each other's lives. ...more
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite Bell Elkins book to date. I have a couple of things I have to read for work, but after that I'll be reading the next book in this series. ...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

Other books in the series

Bell Elkins (8 books)
  • A Killing in the Hills  (Bell Elkins, #1)
  • Bitter River  (Bell Elkins #2)
  • Summer of the Dead (Bell Elkins, #3)
  • Sorrow Road (Bell Elkins, #5)
  • Fast Falls the Night (Bell Elkins, #6)
  • Bone on Bone (Bell Elkins #7)
  • The Cold Way Home (Bell Elkins, #8)

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