A Killing in the Hills
Julia Keller
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Buy *A Killing in the Hills* by Julia Kelleronline

A Killing in the Hills
Julia Keller
Minotaur Books
384 pages
June 2013
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Big-city crime arrives with a bang in Ackerís Gap, West Virginia, in Kellerís thriller. The pervasive culture of drugs and addiction intrudes into small-town life with the murder of three old men having coffee at the local Salty Dawg. Realizing she is late in picking up her rebellious seventeen-year-old daughter, Carla, from that venue, prosecutor Belfa Elkins is terrified that the teen may have been caught in the melee. Pushing her way into the crime scene, Belfa wraps her grateful arms around the temporarily unresisting Carla, the girl stunned by what has just occurred.

Bell has long been concerned with the increase of drug-related crimes gradually infiltrating Ackerís Gap, especially the sale of illegal prescription drugs on a massive scale. Bell has pledged to root out this particular menace, aware of the damage it has done to those around her: ďEach year the river of violence rose. And now it was washing up at the edges of Ackerís Gap.Ē The murders only exacerbate her frustration with the problem and her determination to fight the epidemic no matter how insane the odds of success. What Bell doesnít know, as she tackles the investigation with lifelong friend Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, is that Carla thinks she may have recognized the shooter.

Carla keeps her suspicions to herself, conducting her own low-key investigation, asking friends if they can identify a man at a recent party who was offering free samples of prescription pills. As Carla moves within striking distance of real danger, unaware of the alarm bells she has set off alerting the killer, Bell discovers pertinent information that might lead to a serious suspect. Interviewing the family members of each deceased man yields a variety of potential links, each family thoroughly vetted for interactions and activities that may have marked an old man for deathóor as an example to a zealous prosecutor in a town rocked by unexpected violence.

Inserting chapters that focus on the shooter, Keller offers insight into the nature and immediate plans of a killer for hire, arranging his next hit with the guidance of an anonymous employer manipulating events behind the scene. With nothing to recommend him but the coldblooded ease with which he extinguishes human life, the killer closes in on his next target: the prosecutor who wonít mind her own business. From the soulless shooter to a colorful cast of characters in Ackerís Gap, Keller imbues her thriller with small-town familiarity, the relentless pressure of economic distress and the security of conservative values eroded by drug trafficking.

Ackerís Gap has already lost young people to the epidemic, most of the current residents tired of the destruction to their community and outraged by the current spate of violence. As Bell Elkins and Sheriff Fogelsong unravel the secrets of families shielding one another from blameóand the fate of a mentally-challenged young man accused of a shocking murder hangs in the balanceóthe human face of Ackerís Gap is revealed in the complex relationships of its residents, Carla learning to rue her rebellious instincts in a deadly showdown that involves those she loves. Prosecutor Elkins has yet to face a betrayal beyond her wildest imaginings.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2012

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