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Bitter River (Bell Elkins Novels) Hardcover – September 3, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Bell Elkins Novels (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250003490
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250003492
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The murder of 16-year-old Lucinda Trimble, whose strangled body is found in a car in the Bitter River, propels Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Keller's worthy sequel to her well-received adult fiction debut, A Killing in the Hills (2012). As West Virginia prosecutor Bell Elkins and the rest of closely knit Acker's Gap struggle to fathom who could have wanted to kill the popular high school honor student, a sniper fires at the county courthouse, almost killing Bell's assistant. Days later, a devastating explosion levels Ike's diner, moments after the divorced attorney finished breakfast with her much younger lover, Clay Meckling. Suddenly, remote Acker's Gap seems under siege, with Bell, stalwart sheriff Nick Fogelsong, and their team scrambling to find answers before the next attack. Ultimately, some of them prove less interesting than the questions Keller, a native West Virginian, poses about the nature of friendship and family—as well as the engaging, unsentimentalized Appalachian community she has created. Agent: Lisa Gallagher, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Sept.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The world intrudes cruelly on Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, the hometown to which D.C. lawyer Bell Elkins has returned to try to make a difference. As county prosecutor, Bell is working with childhood friend, Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, on the murder of 16-year-old Lucinda Trimble when a potentially fatal shot is fired into the courthouse and soon followed by a tragedy at the local diner. The town mourns Lucinda—bright, beautiful, bursting with potential, but pregnant and planning to marry her high-school boyfriend—while both Bell and Nick display blind spots in the course of pursuing their investigation. The town is in shock after the diner incident, and Bell’s theory about what may be behind it comes just a little too late to prevent further bloodshed. With her 17-year-old daughter, Carla, now living with Bell’s ex in D.C. after the dangerous events in Keller’s highly-praised A Killing in the Hills (2012), Bell occasionally longs for the excitement of the city, but a single compelling personal reason keeps her in Acker’s Gap, however isolated it is. Once again, Keller combines masterful storytelling, a vivid sense of place—the beauty and poverty of Appalachia—a complex cast of characters, and a suspenseful, superbly executed plot that displays a depth rarely seen in mystery fiction. --Michele Leber

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Customer Reviews

I look forward to the next in the series.
Frederick J. Keller
Well written, some really good plot twists, some surprise bits of humor, I really liked this book and I think fans of good mystery fiction will enjoy it also.
There's no doubt that the author is a talented writer, but it felt like too much of a good thing.
L. Burns

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
All is Not Well in Acker's Gap.

Sheriff Nick Fogelsong has just pulled a car from Bitter River. Worse, it contains a dead teenaged girl. Worse, she was dead before the car went into the water. Worse, she's pregnant. Worse, Nick knows her, and knows her mother.

And then... things get worse. Bell Elkins, the prosecuting attorney of Raythune County, is driving back home in the wee hours of the morning after a dreadful visit with her ex, his new girlfriend, and her daughter, who has recently gone to live with her father. She gets the call from the Sheriff. And it turns out that the victim - Lucinda Trimble - was a good friend of Bell's daughter.

But it gets worse. The Sheriff goes to notify the mother of the victim, who is the town's resident artsy fartsy aging hippie... with whom Sheriff Nick had a fling long ago. And of course, the artsy fartsy aging hippie mother is a suspect, and Sheriff Nick has a serious conflict of interest here, but he does the initial interview anyway.

Does it get worse? Sure! Bell's father was a sexual predator. Bell's sister killed him, defending Bell, went to jail, and has just been released but Bell doesn't know where she is. Add to that, a former friend of Bell's, ex secret service, has come to town fore some quiet time, and things start to seriously go wrong.

It gets even worse, but I don't want to spoil the intrigue.

This is the second of Julia Keller's books featuring Bell Elkins. I have not read the first, but after reading "Bitter River", I am tempted to go back and take a look. I am even more tempted to read her next.

That being said, here are the Top ten Things That are Great About "Bitter River":

10. Character, character, character.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By L. Burns VINE VOICE on August 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When a sixteen year old girl is murdered in Acker's Gap, West Virginia, it's up to Prosecutor Bell Elkins to build a case against the murderer. In an area that is overrun with poverty, unemployment and drug abuse, the young victim seemed on her way to escaping to a better life - until someone put an end to it.

Meanwhile, Bell's own life is in flux. She's nearly forty; her teen daughter no longer lives with her and the never ending cycle of poverty and crime in her community is starting to wear on her. This case, and the events following it, will change Acker's Gap and impact Bell in ways she never imagined.

This is a follow-up to last year's A Killing in the Hills, and I have mixed feelings about it. The story is broken into two parts. Part One was very slow moving. There's no doubt that the author is a talented writer, but it felt like too much of a good thing. Nearly every sentence, every description, contains a simile. Sometimes it's very evocative and makes a scene or event more vivid, but often I felt like I was losing the thread of the story due to the sheer volume of the words used to tell it. By Part Two the storyline begins to pick up some steam, but having to wait 200 pages for a Mystery to "grab" you is frustrating.

On the plus side, the characterization is quite good. Bell is a complex and not always likeable character, but she feels "real". The grim reality of life in Acker's Gap is portrayed in gritty detail, but also with compassion, and the dialog has a natural feel to it.

In the end I was left feeling like there was a good mystery here, but it often got lost in long, descriptive passages that rambled off course.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Angie Boyter VINE VOICE on August 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
County prosecuting attorney Bell Elkins is on her way home to Ackers Gap, WV, from a visit to her daughter in DC when she receives a call from Sheriff Nick Fogelsang that the body of popular high-school student Lucinda Trimble has been found in the Bitter River, and murder is suspected. Bell's beloved daughter Carla has recently moved to DC to live with Bell's ex-husband, and the murder of a young girl is especially hard for her to deal with as she tries to come to terms with her daughter's absence. Complicating things further, an old friend from DC, former CIA agent Matt Harless, has announced he is coming to Ackers Gap for an extended visit, and Bell is unsure what his coming might mean for her. As Bell and Nick work to solve Lucinda's murder and deal with their own personal challenges, more violence erupts in the small town---a sniper shoots into the courthouse, Ike's Diner is destroyed in an explosion that kills several well-liked residents, and no one knows where the next incident will occur.
I really enjoyed Keller's first book, A Killing in the Hills, and the aspect that I liked best in it shows again in Bitter River. The characters drive the book. I was especially charmed by the relationship between Bell and Sheriff Nick Fogelsang, who has known Bell since she was a child. A male-female partnership is common in mystery stories, but most often there is a romantic element, and it is a pleasure to see a close friendship without any sexual overtones. Not that Bell's life lacks sexual overtones, and Bell's relationship with the much younger Clay Meckling also adds interest to the story. Bell's loneliness and regret that her daughter is no longer with her rings true.
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