Friday, November 2, 2012

A Killing in the hills of West Virginia

A Killing in the hills by Julia Keller is a good if imperfect first mystery for the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Set in the fictional town of Ackers' Gap, West Virginia, the descriptions of the setting and the lives of the people there are the strength of the book. I'm also intrigued by the protagonists. Belfa (a native of Acker's Gap with her own history & baggage), now divorced, has returned to her hometown with her teenage daughter, Carla, and become the district attorney. She and the sheriff are uncompromising in their fight to eliminate drug traffic in their community.

When Carla is present at the shooting of three old men at a local restaurant, no one has a clue who did it or why.

I don't like mysteries that put you inside of the head of the murderer, and this is one of them. We know from the start who 'dun it and why. I didn't find this character sympathetic at all, I would probably have enjoyed it more if he was drawn with more depth.

Carla's choices were also a bit suspect for me, though she isn't a cardboard character like the killer.

Finally, the reveal of the person responsible for ordering the killing came a bit out of left field. Again, I would have enjoyed it more if this character had been drawn with more depth, showing the pressures that provided the impetus for his involvement.

Drugs, small towns, and lack of financial opportunities are a rich source to draw from. I hope Julie Keller can take the time to create more nuanced villans the next time around

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