Finished November 24
A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller
This mystery novel features Bell Elkins, prosecuting attorney for Raythune County, West Virginia. Bell is a native of the county as is her ex-husband, also an attorney. They moved to Washington, D.C. for years, but Bell felt that something was missing and coming back to her home county and trying to make a difference there was what called her.
As this book opens, Carla, Bell's teen daughter, is sitting in a cafe in town on a Saturday when someone walks in and shoots three older men sitting together at a table. For Bell, the professional has become personal. Carla is traumatized, but also motivated to do something to help her mother.
Bell works closely with the sheriff Nick Fogelsong, and one of their targets is the drug business. There have always been drugs around as far as Bell remembers, but the business has become more professional, and the poor in the county more targeted.
This latest murder though doesn't seem connected to that. As Nick and Bell dig into the men's backgrounds, Carla also starts digging, looking to connect a face to a name. Carla and Bell have been going through some typical mother-teen daughter disagreements as Carla begins to assert her independence, and Bell is careful to give her space while still trying to keep a protective eye.
We also see the situation from the point of view of the young man who committed the crime, with his situation and struggles a big part of the story.
Bell also has another case she is preparing for trial, a case that seems cut-and-dried, but that Bell has a feeling that there is more to than meets the eye. As she interviews family members, she begins to realize the asserts her two assistants bring to the job as well.
Keller was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist before venturing into becoming a novelist and her writing skills are evident here. This is a story about community, about a struggle for survival and about the difficulties of life in America today. A great read.