(Image from Barnes & Noble)
(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Sorrow Road, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Bell Elkins mysteries. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)
Like Belfa "Bell" Elkins, Darlene Strayer grew up in Appalachia, went to law school, and now works in the profession. Unlike Bell, Darlene is well-known and makes good money as a federal prosecutor in northern Virginia. Despite her lofty status, the high-powered lawyer has come to ask for Bell's help. Darlene's 89-year-old father, a patient at a local care home for people with Alzheimer's, has died. Although the care center's staff insists Harmon perished of natural causes, Darlene is not convinced. In the weeks before his death, Darlene's father was trying to communicate something urgent to his daughter. She believes Harmon was killed to prevent him from divulging the secrets locked away in his damaged mind.
Bell is not wholly persuaded by Darlene's pleas. Then, the lawyer is killed in a freak accident and other patients at the care center die under suspicious circumstances. Bell can't ignore the case any longer. Something sinister is definitely going on. How and why did Harmon Strayer die? Is the care center trying to cover up its own incompetence? Or did the old man's secrets go deeper than anyone could have imagined? As Bell looks into the situation, she discovers a tragic story of three boyhood pals and the dark secret they've been keeping for more than 50 years. How far will someone go to keep it buried forever?
I've enjoyed every installment of Julia Keller's Bell Elkins series. Sorrow Road, the fifth book, is no exception. Like its predecessors, the novel is atmospheric, bringing the complicated glory of Applachia to vivid life. The serial characters continue to intrigue me, as do the new ones we meet in Sorrow Road. Plotwise, the story remains taut and compelling throughout. The back-and-forth in time gives the tale an extra layer of depth, a device that I always find immensely appealing. Although Sorrow Road (like Keller's other mysteries) isn't exactly a happy story, it is a hopeful one. Not surprisingly, I enjoyed Keller's newest addition to the Bell Elkins series. I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment, Fast Falls the Night, which comes out in August 2017 (not soon enough, in my humble opinion).
(Readalikes: Other books in the Bell Elkins series, including A Killing in the Hills; Bitter River; Summer of the Dead; Last Ragged Breath; and Fast Falls the Night)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language, violence, mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter