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Bitter River    by Julia Keller order for
Bitter River
by Julia Keller
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Bitter River follows A Killing in the Hills as the second of Julia Keller's mysteries starring West Virginia prosecutor Belfa 'Bell' Elkins. Michael Connelly's strong recommendation on the cover caught my interest and the story did not disappoint. In fact, I now need to look up the first book which I missed.

Bell is divorced from her lobbyist husband Sam. She lives and works in small town Acker's Gap, 'where time seemed to keep a different rhythm than anywhere else'. Bell is in a relationship with a much younger man, Clay Meckling. She works closely with town sheriff Nick Fogelsong, who is also a close friend. Bell misses her daughter badly. Carla has moved to live with her father in Washington, D.C.. And Bell searches for her older sister Shirley, who was jailed for thirty years and then disappeared before Bell could contact her.

The book opens on the discovery of the strangled corpse of pregnant, sixteen-year-old Lucinda Trimble in a car in the Bitter River. A complication is the fact that Nick was once in a relationship with her mother Maddie. Another is the arrival in Acker's Gap of an old friend of Bell's, ex-CIA analyst Matt Harless, who is taking early retirement and looking for a place to 'chill out'.

But as the investigation progresses, violent incidents escalate. A sniper fires at the the county courthouse, followed by a horrific explosion in Ike's diner, and deaths. Of course, Bell herself ends up in dire danger, her life dependent on the action of a woman who hears voices. Bell's response to Mary Sue's comment that the voices are loud, drowning out everything else? 'Okay, well - tell them to shut the hell up.' That line made the entire book worth reading for me.

I like Bell Elkins, temper and all. She has grit and guts and I am anxious to read more in this series. If you appreciate strong heroines you don't want to miss Bitter River.

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