Finished my third book for the month. This one is part of a series I started reading many years ago. I have several to read to catch up. These stories are set in West Virginia in a fictional town called Ackers Gap. The protagonist is a county prosecutor named Belfa Elkins. She goes by the name of Bell. Her county is riddled with drug abuse and most of the cases involve drugs except for the occasional murder investigation.
Bell is divorced and the mother of a young woman Carla who is now in her early twenties. The previous book involved a killer who kidnapped Carla when she was a teen and she witnessed some horrific things. Afterwards she left Ackers Gap to live with her father who is part of a legal team in Washington DC. That was difficult for Bell but she and her husband work together to do what is right for their only child. Bell had once been part of that lifestyle in Washington DC but with their divorce she felt compelled to come back to her hometown to do some good.
This book is set during the winter and the author’s descriptions of the blustery snowy weather made me feel like I should be able to see my breath. Luckily I didn’t and was able to wrap up in a blanket with a warm drink and enjoy the ride.
She meets with someone she went to college with who was also from the area whose father is in a local Memory Care facility. The father has died recently and the woman asks Bell to investigate his death because she does not believe that he died from Alzheimer’s.
She meets the friend, Darlene, at a bar and she notices that though the woman ordered a drink, Darlene swished it around but never actually took a drink. The next day, Bell discovers that Darlene missed a turn on one of those back roads and that she had a high level of alcohol in her system. Bell also discovers that Darlene had an anniversary chip on her for staying sober. Darlene and Bell had not had a good relationship in the past and so wasn’t even sure if she wanted to get involved in Darlene’s father’s death but when the woman’s female love interest shows up and tells Bell she found a note from Darlene asking her to contact Bell in case of her own death, Bell gets involved.
Julia Keller slowly presents the story with interviews from locals and employees of the care facility. The book also jumps back and forth between the past and the present to tell about the friendship of three young men, starting when they were just boys. They are involved in a secret from their past that has caused one of them to feel the need to confess over the years. One of the young men had always had the ability to persuade his friend that for all their best interests they need to let it go. Darlene’s father was one of those young men. This storyline is skillfully weaved between the telling of Darlene and her father’s deaths along with an employee of the facility and another older woman who were found shot as the story started unfolding. The author tells you just enough to make you want to keep reading. This was another book that I stayed up way too late to finish.
This series of books has the ability to pull you into the story. They have well developed characters that you care for. The small town has a handful of regulars that are quirky enough to make you want to visit again and again.
Julia Keller is an excellent writer. Her books shine with just the amount of description needed to make you feel as if you are there in Ackers Gap. She has developed the kind of characters who feel real and her stories are gritty enough to feel like something you might have read about in the newspaper. If you enjoy Louise Penny’s books, I do think you would enjoy this series.
Julia Keller spent twelve years as a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune, where she won a Pulitzer Prize. A recipient of a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, she was born in West Virginia and lives in Chicago and Ohio.
What have you been reading this month? This is my third completed book, so far, so fairly sure I will make my goal of four books this month. I hope you have missed out on the tornado season that has started down south. We are currently coming out of a few days of colder weather and heading into a warmer Spring weekend. My hubby and I have been trying to spend a little time each day walking. I have also turned more toward books than T.V. When I finish a book, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.
May you escape into a book this week.
Until next time,