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2014-01-26 16.17.32Bitter River is actually the second book in a mystery series by Julia Keller. The first book, A Killing in the Hills, was one I found while walking the stacks in the library.

This is a straight forward mystery novel, so those of you who love your mysteries will like this one. It is an easy, quick read. It had a surprising twist that I didn’t see coming, and that is always refreshing.

Bell Elkins is the prosecuting attorney in a small county in West Virginia. Sheriff Fogelsong, works closely with her. They have known each other since she was 10 years old and experiencing a tragedy, and he was a young deputy just starting out. This book focuses on a young girl, star of the high school basketball team, who is found dead in her car in Bitter River. She was popular and well liked in the community. She was also pregnant.

While they are investigating this murder, they have a sniper shooting and an explosion in town. It is a very busy few days in Ackers Gap, West Virginia. Are these incidents related? You will have to find out on your own.

Elkins has an involved backstory. She is divorced and has a teenage daughter, who is living with her dad, a high powered lobbyist in Washington D.C. During this investigation she keeps getting silent phone calls from a sister who was just released from prison. I don’t want to give away all of her secrets before you have a chance to discover them for yourself, but they are interesting and varied.

Fogelsong has been a father figure to her since she was 10. They have an intriguing working relationship. He has is own issues, the main one is probably his schizophrenic wife. Together these two make an unconventional crime fighting pair. It is a type of relationship I haven’t found in a mystery series before.

I don’t know much about West Virginia. The furthest west I’ve been is Branson, Missouri. All I knew about West Virginia before reading this book was that there are mountains and mines there. Keller weaves historical and cultural details into her stories, and this is something I’ve really enjoyed about these books. For example, I didn’t know why, or how, West Virginia separated from Virginia. She explains a bit about how it happened within the story.

I recommend this book for a lazy weekend. Perhaps one that involves snow and a crackling fire. If you are looking for an easy mystery read, this is a good choice.

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