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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Keller Changes Things Up In a Very Good Way With Sixth Bell Elkins Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Fast Falls the Night, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Bell Elkins novels.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

When a young woman overdoses on the dirty floor of a gas station bathroom, it's a sad, tragic death.  Not an out-of-the-ordinary one, however.  Not in Appalachia, where life is tough, people are discouraged, and illegal drugs are plentiful.  Addiction and all the ugliness that goes along with the "Applachian virus" are just part of life, especially in the small town of Acker's Gap, West Virginia.  When another overdose occurs within hours of the first, however, then another, then another, it quickly becomes apparent that the victims have partaken of a bad batch of heroin.  Laced with a lethal tranquilizer, the drugs are toxic.   

Bell Elkins, the Raythune County prosecutor, is as alarmed as everyone else by the escalating death toll in her little town.  In order to stop the madness, she and the police need to locate the dealer responsible for the tainted drugs.  It's a frantic, adrenaline-fueled, race-against-the-clock hunt that is unlikely to result in a happy ending.  Not everyone believes county resources should be used to fight a losing battle, but it's happening anyway.  At least for one night. 

As if Bell doesn't have enough on her plate with the desperate drug investigation, she has to deal with a sister who's dying of cancer, a boyfriend who's pressuring her into marriage, and a shocking revelation that will shake her to her core.  For the 45-year-old prosecutor, it's going to be a very, very long night ...

I've enjoyed all the books in the Bell Elkins mystery series by Julia Keller and have come to expect a certain formula from them.  That's why Fast Falls the Night—the sixth installment—surprised me so much.  Keller changes things up this time around in a few ways.  First, this story takes place over a 24-hour period, which makes for a much faster paced novel than usual.  Second, she focuses on new characters and relationships.  As much as I love Bell and miss Nick Fogelsong, injecting some new blood helps make Acker's Gap feel more interesting and alive.  Third, Keller ends the book with a cliffhanger.  Although this is par for the course with lots of mystery/thriller series, Keller always wraps her stories up at the end.  At first, I thought Fast Falls the Night's very abrupt conclusion was due to a printing error in my ARC.  Nope.  While the not-so-satisfying finale was definitely unexpected, I can't deny that it's making me crazy for the next installment in the series.  I have to know what happens, darn it!  I also have to say that I like the changes Keller makes in Fast Falls the Night.  They've injected new energy into the series.  I would have been anxious for the next Bell Elkins book anyway, but now I'm chomping at the bit.  August 2018, come quick!

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books in the Bell Elkins series, including A Killing in the Hills; Bitter River; Summer of the Dead; A Haunting of the Bones [novella]; The Devil's Step-Daughter [novella]; Ghost Roll [novella]; Last Ragged Breath; Evening Street [novella]; and Sorrow Road)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, blood/gore, depictions of illegal drug use, and other disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Fast Falls the Night from the generous folks at Minotaur Books, a division of St. Martin's Press/Macmillan.  Thank you!


  1. Change is good but that’s a long time to have to wait for the next book.

    1. Right? Minotaur usually sends me ARCs of her books, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed ...

  2. Adding this entire series to my 2018 To Read list. Thanks! :D

    1. I'll be interested to see what you think of it!

  3. I love mysteries, but haven't heard of this author. This sounds like a good one.

    1. Yeah, she seems to be an under-the-radar kind of author. I discovered her by accident while perusing the mystery shelves at my library!

  4. Somehow I have missed this series but it sounds amazing! Bell Elkins sounds like a great investigator though she definitely sounds like she needs a nap!

    1. It's not a well-known series at all, but I really like it. Bell's a great character because she's very human and therefore relatable. And, yes, she definitely needs a nap!

  5. A good mystery that I really like to read. The main character has to deal with a lot, too much you would say, but that's life sometimes. I only love cliffhangers when they are truly good! This one sounds good! Good as in you can't wait to read the next book! :)

    New follower.

    1. The cliffhanger TOTALLY took me by surprise. I honestly did not know what to think!

      Thanks for commenting and following :)

  6. Oh fun that there were some surprises in this installment!!!

    1. This one definitely changes things up. I'm still in shock over some of the changes, though. Ha ha.


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