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A Killing in the Hills Hardcover – August 21, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"A Killing in the Hills superbly evokes the hard times and wooded beauty of a poverty-stricken county in West Virginia. . .A finely written and engrossing debut."
Houston Chronicle

A Killing In The Hills is a gripping, beautifully-crafted murder mystery that shows that small-town West Virginia is no longer Mayberry. Great reading.”

“Julia Keller is that rare talent who combines gripping suspense, a fabulous sense of place and nuanced characters you can't wait to come back to. A must read.”

A Killing in the Hills is a remarkably written and remarkably tense debut. I loved it.”

"Julia Keller's A Killing in the Hills is a terrific debut—atmospheric, suspenseful, assured. I hope there's more to come in the story of Bell Elkins and Acker's Gap."

"Be careful opening this book because once you do you won't be able to close it. Instead, clear the weekend, silence the phone and settle into Acker's Gap, a place as fascinating and fraught with violence and beauty as Daniel Woodrell's Ozarks or William Gay's Tennessee. A killer novel."

“Outstanding. . .Keller does a superb job showing both the natural beauty of Appalachia and the hopeless anger of the people trapped there in poverty. . .Unforgettable.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review, Pick of the Week)

"A page-turner with substance and depth, this is as suspenseful and entertaining as it is accomplished."
Booklist (starred review)

“A fictional debut for a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, born and raised in West Virginia, whose love for the state, filled with natural beauty and deep poverty, pervades a mystery that has plenty of twists and turns and a shocking conclusion.”
Kirkus (starred review)

About the Author

JULIA KELLER was born and raised in West Virginia, and now lives in Chicago and Ohio.  In her career as a journalist, she won the Pulitzer Prize for a three-part series she wrote for the Chicago Tribune about a small town in Illinois rocked by a deadly tornado. A Killing in the Hills is her first mystery.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250003482
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250003485
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By PattyLouise VINE VOICE on July 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A Killing In The Hills
Julia Keller

My "in a nutshell" summary...

An attorney in a small West Virginia town is targeted by a killer. In addition to that she has multiple issues...her daughter, her past, her sister. These issues are not pleasant ones.

My thoughts after reading this book...

Totally amazing fast paced thriller that was almost impossible to put down...the kind of book that literally grabs you and holds you until you are finished. From the first few pages where the old men were shot while sipping coffee at Salty Dawg's ( and this is not a spoiler, this information is in the book's summary ) to the last amazing pages...this book held me captive. West Virginia, drugs, poverty, and dysfunction tossed in with memorable characters made this book superb.

What I loved about this book...

I loved the characters in this book. They were varied and complex. They all had issues. Some were sad, some were miserable, some were ridiculously funny. Some were pathetic and some were just plain evil...really horribly evil.

What I didn't love...

I did not love the bad guy...he was the guy you love to hate!

Final thoughts...

This definitely is not a cozy cozy mystery but it is a fabulously chilling one. It's that lovely cross between a calm sit by the fire book and a thrill ride. I loved this book. This author is a new author for me but one that I will seek out again!
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I SO wanted to be enraptured with this book- the first 2 chapters really had my attention and I thought I would be glued...but by chapter 5 I just wasn't as involved. I'm not really sure why, the author did an excellent job of providing backstory for the main characters, setting the turning point in the town gone bad scenario and making the town somewhere you wouldn't mind visiting. She got everything about the reality of small towns right, but there was so much that seemed not necessary (some editing was definitely needed to make it a tighter mystery), that I lost interest (which is really odd for me). I found myself skipping ahead and reading pages, then going back and reading here and there, and I found that the ending made sense to me, as I had it figured out about half way through.

I'm not sure a series would be enticing to me. As I liked the sheriff, but Bell had issues (daughter witness a mass murder and she leaves her home? I don't care if it's fiction, you stay more than 30 minutes with your kid)and while they may have been explained, I just can't see myself reading another book with her as the lead.

Other people may find this a totally engrossing book, and with some editing it might be.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By L. Burns VINE VOICE on August 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Who would walk into a crowded fast food restaurant and shoot three men as they sat drinking coffee? And why? Why these particular three friends; why this kind of violence in a small, rundown West Virginia town? These are the questions that prosecutor Bell Elkins is faced with in the wake of a seemingly random triple homicide. As gruesome as this killing is, Bell can not give it her undivided attention. The trial of a twenty-eight year old, profoundly mentally impaired man is about to get underway. Albie Sheets killed a six year old boy; a boy he befriended and often played with. Should Bell charge him with murder, or was it just an accident - a game gone terribly wrong?

This is how we are introduced to Bell Elkins, thirty nine year old single mother and chief prosecutor for Acker's Gap, West Virginia. Bell is juggling her overwhelming professional responsibilities with the daunting task of parenting a moody, angry seventeen year old girl. As the mystery unfolds, Bell's personal and professional lives intersect, driving the tense storyline to a heart-pounding conclusion.

I thought this was a first rate mystery. I am not an "armchair sleuth", it's not putting together the pieces of the puzzle that draw me to a mystery, but rather the characters. I find that authors who write this genre generally know how to create intriguing, multi-dimensional characters. Julia Keller excelled in this area. These characters were richly drawn; realistic and relatable. She is a very visual writer - I could clearly picture each scene. The dialog had a natural, non-scripted feel to it. As a parent of a teen myself, I must say that she "got" the relationship between Bell and her daughter.

As for the mystery itself...
Read more ›
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Skip on August 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the very first page, I was totally under the spell of A Killing in the Hills. I was captivated by the beautiful writing, the fascinating characters, and the quick-moving plot. The last time I was so enthralled by a book was when I read The Client by John Grisham.
Like Grisham, this author weaves a great story into an exploration of human desire and motivation. TV crime shows often make villains simple bad guys -- but A Killing in the Hills asks us to look at WHY someone might choose murder and drug-dealing as a career path.
The characters in the book are SO real. In fact, as I read some of the comments here, they reminded me of the way people talk about real people, like their friends and neighbors: complaining about Bell's behavior as a mother, for instance. Many people criticize women they know for their parenting skills. There are no perfect parents. Most mothers I know -- especially single mothers -- do the best they can. Bell has a demanding job. She loves her daughter, but she also loves her job. Tough choices must be made.
I also love the sheriff character.
Bottom line: If you love John Grisham, you'll love this.
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