Review: A Killing In The Hills by Julia Keller

A Killing in the Hills
(Bell Elkins Novels)

First in Series
Published by Minotaur Books (August 21, 2012)
Hardcover: 384 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1250003485

A Killing in the Hills

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 clean up the county.

While Bell is working on another tragic case where a child was killed she learns that 3 elderly men have been gunned down in a local diner. The same diner where her now 17 year old daughter Carla was waiting for her Bell to her up. The eatery was full of witnesses but it happened so fast no one really saw the shooter. Why were Dean Streeter, Shorty McClurg, and Lee Rader targeted? Was it random? Drug related? Carla was shocked and horrified by what she saw, but after a few days, she begins to recover enough to believe that she might be able to help her mother do her job. Bell vows to find and bring the killer to justice not knowing her daughter may already know who he is or that Carla may be putting herself in danger to help her.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

A Great Debut to a new series!!

Julie Keller has created some wonderfully flawed characters and set them loose in West Virginia.

This first story has more than one mystery for readers to follow and she has woven them together seamlessly. We learn about Belfa’s (yes, that her real name) past and her dysfunctional family that made her the woman she is today. A young boy is killed and Bell has to decide how to move forward charging a mentally challenged 28 year old. Three elderly residents are gunned down by an unknown assailant. Add to that Bell’s teenage daughter going through normal growing pains and then she witnesses this terrible shooting.

Bell has a true friend in the sheriff and he is there to walk with her through the mayhem and he does his best to protect her. I love the meetings over pieces of pie as they try to sort out the clues. Last one to arrive buys the pie!

Bell has a lot on her plate besides her job a prosecuting attorney for the county. Her sister has just been paroled from prison and her daughter would rather be living with her dad. With this a foundation has been laid for the series moving forward. Bell is a strong woman with a noble agenda that will probably get her in lot of trouble.

One of my favorite parts of this story was Bell driving in the mountains to question the mother of the mentally challenged suspect. The author’s description of the winding roads, cliff drop offs, up and down the mountains, made me feel like I was right in the vehicle holding on for dear life. Extra tension was added when she was being followed. It was a white knuckle moment holding on to my kindle as I couldn’t read the pages fast enough.

I am looking forward to my return to this “shabby afterthought of a town”. If you are a mystery lover you too will enjoy this story.

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About This Author

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 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. Julia lives in a high-rise in Chicago and a stone cottage on a lake in rural Ohio.

Check out her website at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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