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A Killing in the Hills Paperback – June 11, 2013

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A Killing in the Hills + Summer of the Dead (Bell Elkins Novels) + Bitter River (Bell Elkins Novels)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250028752
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250028754
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


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.”—SCOTT TUROW

“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.”—KARIN SLAUGHTER

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

"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."—LAURA LIPPMAN

"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."—TOM FRANKLIN

“A twisty plot—and a soulful depiction of a beautiful, besieged “afterthought of a town”—propels this debut mystery.”—People Magazine

“Keller perfectly captures the ennui of a community paralyzed by poverty and despair, and the pride of people who refuse to succumb to the insidiousness of drugs. . .A powerful debut.”—Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“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 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 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.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brett H TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 10, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a novel about a young girl, grown to be an educated woman and mother who returns to her hometown. She returns, not with a sense of revenge or payback but to do good. She seeks and gets the post of County Prosecutor, forms a close alliance with the County Sheriff and tries to clean up her home town that has become ravaged by drugs. To accomplish this Bell Evans gives up a well paid job with a top law firm and leaves her husband who has refused to follow her example and return to their old home town. The reader perhaps, feels that the old home town does not deserve such sacrifice: thirty years ago they allowed Bell and her family to lead a wretched existence and when Bell's father died, Bell was placed in a number of unsuitable foster homes and her sister was incarcerated for murder.

However, despite all this the past does not really pervade the book except, perhaps, that her sister is still in prison. The novel focuses more on Bell's relationship with her teenage daughter, Carla, and her fight with the drug barons of Acker's Gap. The novel builds to a crescendo as Bell realizes that even the Colossus can have feet of clay.

Julia Keller draws her characters well, particularly her main character, Belfa and her stroppy daughter, Carla. The reader gets a good view of Acker's Gap, West Virginia which seems a real enough small mountain town struggling with both poverty and crime. However, unfortunately the plot is rather pedestrian and too slow moving for my taste, and the twist at the end was just a little too predictable I felt. I am sure that this novel will be the first of a whole series of Bell Elkins novels but I am not sure that they will be on my personal reading list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By 251Ehmyay on September 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I liked this book. We recently moved to West Virginia and I was interested to see the author's take on what is a very real problem in West Virginia. I actually wished that she had elaborated on the drug problem a little more. If it was more in depth, I think the story would have had a deeper resonance. That being said, the story kept me interested and I look forward to being able to read the next in the series.
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Format: Paperback
The book starts with a jolting disaster, the apparent random murder of 3 men in a diner in a small West Virginia town. One witness is the daughter of the county prosecutor, Bell Elkins, the book’s main character. A second criminal case is added, the upcoming trial of a man accused of killing young boy, a death that occurred some months in the past.
Beyond these spectacular events, the story gets pretty lame. With a triple murder, you’d assume a platoon of authorities immediately fanning out to interview everybody from witnesses to family and friends near and far to employers current and former et al. Mostly we get Bell and the sheriff in desultory discussions. The reader finds out who the shooter is fairly soon but not the ‘boss,’ the person behind the shooter. For that, just pick any random person you encounter in the book, make up a reason to suspect that person and see if you are right. There’s not much that points to the actual boss more than to any number of other people.

The case of the child death is stalled when the trial is postponed. It is then readily resolved with one conversation Bell has with the jailed suspect, a conversation that should have occurred the first time the suspect was interviewed.

What fills out the book are two things. There are numerous descriptions of beautiful countryside contrasted with descriptions of impoverished urban scenes, dilapidated houses, trashy trailers, rusted vehicles. After several of these, I wanted to tell the author “Got it.” There are numerous flashbacks to Bell’s sadly awful upbringing. It takes about a dozen of these flashbacks to get out the whole story. What’s the benefit of the story in snippets?

Then there’s the mother-daughter element in the story.
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Format: Paperback
I could not finish reading A Killing in the Hills. The first bad guy, a drug dealer straight out of Joseph Wambaugh, is trotted out immediately, and the rest is a chase scene. Too bad, as Keller is a fine swordsmith.
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