High summer in Acker's Gap, West Virginia—but no one's enjoying the rugged natural landscape. Not while a killer stalks the small town and its hard-luck inhabitants. County prosecutor Bell Elkins and Sheriff Nick Fogelsong are stymied by a murderer who seems to come and go like smoke on the mountain.
At the same time, Bell must deal with the return from prison of her sister, Shirley—who, like Bell, carries the indelible scars of a savage past.In Summer of the Dead, the third Julia Keller mystery chronicling the journey of Bell Elkins and her return to her Appalachian hometown, we also meet Lindy Crabtree—a coal miner's daughter with dark secrets of her own, secrets that threaten to explode into even more violence.Acker's Gap is a place of loveliness and brutality, of isolation and fierce attachments—a place where the dead rub shoulders with the living, and demand their due.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
SUMMER OF THE DEAD by Julia Keller, is part of a series as the third installment (Bell Elkins Series #3) and boy oh boy, is Bell is in the middle of all sorts of problems— crime, mystery, and high drama in the old mining town of Acker’s Gap, West Virginia.
As Bell returns to her Appalachian hometown, readers meet bookworm, Lindy Crabtree—a coal miner's daughter with dark secrets of her own—secrets that threaten to explode into even more violence. Her father has more than dementia, a retired miner and as strange as they come, living in the cellar so he can feel as though he is still in a mine (and does not like visitors). All sorts of evil surrounding this household.
In addition, Bell’s sister, Shirley is out of prison and is living with Bell. It is difficult to keep tabs on this one, much less control. She feels she owes her sister, after protecting her years ago from an abusive father. Otherwise she may not be where she is now, in her career and life (college, law school, motherhood, public office—none of it could have happened, without Shirley.)
Thirty years have passed since that night, yet even now, when Bell contemplates her sister’s sacrifice, a sacrifice that had consumed so much of Shirley’s life—the prison sentence had been extended again and again by Shirley’s fighting and insubordination and by an escape attempt—Bell is overwhelmed.
However, along with her duties as prosecutor and the gruesome reality of Freddie Arnett’s unsolved murder there is also the fact her daughter would be arriving for a visit (and she is not looking forward to Carla seeing her aunt Shirley in the midst of rebellion, alcohol, cigarettes, and self-pity).
This was my first book by Julia Keller, and looking forward to going back and reading the previous books in the series. The author did an outstanding job of creating a strong connection between sisters and the characters for a positive takeaway, in the midst of this suspenseful and dark page-turner crime thrilling mystery and tragedy—which makes for a satisfying and engaging read, as Bell takes a journey as she deals with her past. (Loved Bell!)
Julia’s acknowledgement included the inspiration for this book, which can be haunting—as SUMMER OF THE DEAD, portrayed the devastating long term effects of these stricken miners. Highly Recommend!
Loved the quote: “For what other dungeon is so dark as one’s own heart? What jailer so inexorable as one’s self." Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables