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Bitter River

A Bell Elkins Novel

By Julia Keller

Bitter River
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013,
    400 pages.

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There are currently 24 reader reviews for Bitter River
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Dawn Z. (Canton, MI) (07/19/13)

Formulaic
This book was okay, but it followed the typical mystery/thriller formula. I enjoyed the descriptions of Acker's Gap, though, and the characters were pretty well-developed.
Carol E. (Stone Mountain, GA) (07/18/13)

Bitter River
Bitter River by Julia Keller captured my interest at the beginning of the book. The main storyline, while not unique, was presented in an attention-grabbing way. There was a diverse, if a bit large, cast of characters, and some of their reasons for being were not fully developed. A few of them were one dimensional and not enough of their backgrounds and personalities were revealed. Had that been done it would have enabled me to have more of an emotional connection to the characters. Prosecutor Bell Elkins, the main character, struck me as being a bit unreasonably cold and angry with almost everyone; however, she and Sheriff Fogelsong seemed to have a close friendship.

Ms. Keller moved the story along fairly well and was generally entertaining. But her overuse of similes and metaphors created long, run-on sentences and made me, at times, lose sense of the narrative. These factors caused me not to enjoy as much a book that has the potential to be an intriguing and enjoyable read.
Kat F. (Palatine, IL) (07/17/13)

It was good but...
I think it could have been better. The plot was good, the characters were well rounded and the setting worked well for the story. However, I felt the subplots, particularly one, was far fetched and given the small amount of info hard to swallow.

Had I known this was part of a series, I would have read the other book(s) first so as to getter a better feeling for the characters and their situations.

All in all, a decent summer read.
Kristen K. (Atlanta, GA) (07/16/13)

Good Characters But Body Count High
I enjoyed reading this mystery that takes place in a small town in West Virginia. The main characters are complex and I found myself interested in their past and futures. I did not figure out the mystery until the end. The one feature I did not like about this book was the inclusion of a subplot involving the CIA and a terrorist. I believe the author should have trusted the small town she created and its inhabitants to keep the reader interested instead of throwing in this subplot and killing lots of extra people. I probably wouldn't recommend this to my book club--it seems more like a summer beach read.
Norman G. (Washougal, WA) (07/11/13)

well-written but lacking
The best part of the book was the setting in a tired small town. It brought a realism to the story that helped with the believability of the everyday characters that populated the book. The storefront community that developed also helped with the story as it progressed as I am familiar with many to these locales in our area. I enjoyed all the interactions that progressed through the plot until the last forty pages. The action at the end, especially the explosion, just seemed a little over the top for what led up to the it. The book satisfied as a read but could have been more with a little stronger, different ending.
Linda S. (Tucker, GA) (07/11/13)

Bitter River: Bitter Reading
The blurb about "Bitter River" by Julia Keller held such premise that I eagerly awaited my advance copy. A voracious reader, I prefer literary novels but read cereal boxes if one is placed in front of me, and unfortunately, this book reads no better than that provided by my morning Cheerios.

The main story centers on solving the murder of a teenage girl in rural Appalachia; two sub-plots bring more depth to the main character. While the characters were very human and the setting a part of the story, too much of the writing feels forced to me, the author trying too hard. Many of her metaphors miss their mark ("Her hair was the color of a dirty Q-tip" – ewe!), deus ex machina carries one of the sub-plots, and the ending is contrived, neatly tying up all three story lines. In the climax of one of the sub-plots, the main character, a woman lawyer, knowingly goes unarmed and alone to a house where someone is firing an assault weapon – really? I get it that Bell is a tough broad, but ultimately her story is not worth my time.
Patricia H. (Norman, OK) (07/09/13)

Real Characters
I love a good mystery. But I really love a good mystery with characters who could easy be my next door neighbor. The whodunit part was sort of obvious but the reasons for it were not so one couldn't be sure. The main character was a strong but not necessarily confident woman, which is a great theme, not to have the superwoman. Other characters helped make the story a different kind of mystery read. Wonderful book and I will read more by this author. Although mystery solved, am hoping for a sequel to find out how the personal chapter in her life is resolved.
Mary Margaret F. (North Venice, FL) (07/07/13)

Bitter River
When I was notified that I would be reviewing this book, I read Julia Keller's debut novel so I was already familiar with Belfa Elkins and the complex characters surrounding her in Ackers Gap.
I thought that this was a good read with story lines weaving their way throughout the book with suspense, well-developed characters and the author's love for the setting permeating the piece. Belfa personifies West Virginia and I look forward to the next book featuring this strong female character.
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