From its shocking opening scene with the senseless gunning down of three old men in the local diner, “A Killing in the Hills” by Julia Keller sets a fast pace where her sleuth Bell Elkins, the prosecuting attorney is beleaguered by events bigger than her small WV town can handle.
Bell has only recently returned to Acker’s Gap, a move that ended her marriage. Neither her husband nor the townspeople can understand why someone who successfully left this depressed area would come back. They also question how healthy it is for her to return to the place where she experienced such violence and family trauma – and to bring her sulky, unenthused daughter to live there.
We enjoyed the complexity of the plot and her writing style, but a number of us were not engaged by the main characters. Several had a hard time reading about the death of the child in the story and the tragic circumstances that lead to a mentally challenged young man as the main suspect. We found her handling of these circumstances and how the thread came together to be plausible and acknowledged that these events enriched the characters, even if some of what is revealed was not appealing.
Overall, we could see where reviewers and others have lauded this book, but most found it to be a good, but not great, mystery.