Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Always Compelling Bell Elkins Series Just Keeps Getting Better

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for The Cold Way Home, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Bell Elkins mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

On probation for killing her abusive father when she was ten, 54-year-old Belfa "Bell" Elkins can no longer work as a county prosecutor.  Along with two of her colleagues—former county sheriff Nick Fogelsong and Jake Oakes, whose injury in the line of duty as a deputy has left him wheelchair-bound—she's formed a private investigation firm.  While working a case involving a missing teenager, Bell is searching an isolated stretch of land that once housed the Wellwood psychiatric hospital when she discovers a corpse.  Marks on the body suggest its owner was brutally murdered.

The remains are identified as those of Darla Gilley, a 56-year-old local who was newly divorced from her alcoholic husband.  As Bell, Nick, and Jake look into the woman's past, they discover her strange connection to Wellwood.  Sixty years ago, Darla's grandmother was also killed at Wellwood.  Her murder was never solved and Bell can't help but think the two deaths must be related.  As she digs into the family's connection with Wellwood, Bell uncovers horrifying truths about the hospital's past.  Is Bell correct in her assumption that the murders are linked?  Or is she barking up the wrong tree, one that will distract her from finding Darla's killer?  If Bell and her team don't unmask the murderer soon, will another Acker's Gap local turn up dead on Wellwood's haunted grounds?

I've been a fan of the Bell Elkins series by Julia Keller since I randomly grabbed A Killing in the Hills—the first installment—off a library shelf.  I felt immediately drawn to Bell, a tough but compassionate county prosecutor, who cares deeply about the well-being of her down-on-its luck Appalachian hometown.  Keller's descriptions of the fictional West Virginia hamlet are vivid and heartbreaking, highlighting the sad (and very real) decline of towns in that region—a place of lush and aching beauty that is being slowly but savagely destroyed by the poverty of its people and the resulting plagues of crime, opioid addiction, alcoholism, and despair.  While the town becomes a character in its own right, the series is also filled with humans who are just as intriguing and complex.  Keller can always be counted on for compelling plots filled with enough twists to keep a reader hooked.  The Cold Way Home, the series' eighth installment, is no exception.  It's engrossing, eye-opening, and surprising.  Although the killer's motive seemed a little thin to me, the murderer's identity surprised me.  I definitely didn't see it coming, which is always nice in a mystery/thriller.  It won't shock you to know that I enjoyed this newest book in a favorite series.  Keller just keeps getting better, so I'll just keep reading her!

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly as well as 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 Stepdaughter (novella), Ghost Roll (novella), Last Ragged Breath, Evening Street (novella), Sorrow Road, Fast Falls the Night, and Bone on Bone)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Cold Way Home with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

1 comment:

  1. You find so many books that I have never heard of, I'm impressed.

    ReplyDelete

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