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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
    Genre: Mysteries

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Vivian T. (Charleston, WV) (08/20/13)

Small Town Troubles Continued
BITTER RIVER starts off with a murder and the problems just keep coming. Bell Elkins is now dealing with empty nest syndrome (her daughter decided to relocate to Washington DC and finish her high school education there), she has a beau (that is quite a number of years younger than she is), and problems are still hounding this small WV town. The most prominent is the murder of a pregnant 16 y.o. student/athlete that was respected and adored by almost everyone. To complicate the issue the murdered student's mother is a former love-interest of the sheriff. If that weren't bad enough someone has taken pot-shots at the prosecuting attorney's office. Ms. Keller has provided a great read that continues where A KILLING IN THE HILLS left off. Her stories are filled with characters and scenarios that are realistic and wholly believable. I read BITTER RIVER in one sitting and can't want for the next installment in this series.
Shirley F. (Franksville, WI) (08/16/13)

Bitter River
I enjoyed the mental mechanics of this book and trying to determine who did it. The characters were for the most part well drawn, the story was engaging, and the ending a surprise. I did not care for the constant similes in the beginning of the book. It bothered me that so many crimes occurred in a little place- with one stop light - and the DA was so busy!
Sherri A. (Westbrook, CT) (08/11/13)

Bitter River
Ackers Gap, WV...a place you'd never want to visit, but a place that surely stays with you long after you've finished reading either book in Julia Keller's fantastic series (so far...there better be lots more!). Belfa Elkins (but don't you EVER call her that, she goes by Bell) is such a well thought-out, realistic character that I would follow her anywhere--so her being the prosecuting attorney in small-town West Virginia, with her own dark past, makes these mysteries a MUST READ...the second is every bit as good as the first, and that's saying a LOT...
Betsy R. (Gig Harbor, WA) (08/06/13)

Second book just as good
The same setting as A Killing in the Hills, Bitter River has the same unique blend of mystery and character relationships. The descriptions are vivid although a little overdone sometimes. Bell, the county prosecutor, frequently must deal with crimes against people she has known most of her life. This novel focuses around the death of a promising young pregnant teen; still, the murder is not a focus of the story as much as the town.
Rita H. (Centennial, CO) (08/01/13)

Bitter River
Bitter River is an engrossing mystery story set in a small town in West Virginia. Beginning with the murder of a young teenage girl, the story unfolds with yet more deaths and disasters. References to previous murders detracted from my enjoyment because it highlighted the fact that I had not read a book which apparently preceded this one and I do not like to read series books out of order. I really enjoyed the book and found the characters to be believable. I enjoyed the romance between Bell and Clay and I was satisfied with the story's ending and the final irony surrounding the character, Eddie.
Lauren C. (Los Angeles, CA) (07/23/13)

Enjoyed this more at the start than by the time I finished it
I very much enjoyed "Bitter River" when I started reading it. The mystery started immediately, with a dead girl pulled from a car found in the river. The main character, prosecutor Bell Elkins was also interesting, living in the small town of Ackers Gap where she grew up. When the book first starts she is looking for her sister Shirley who was just released from prison but who disappeared. I also liked that Keller went into the background of other people in town so that it wasn't just a mystery where you only get to know the key characters.

But then Keller went overboard with explaining the backgrounds of every single person in town. I felt like hundreds of pages in, I knew everyone but the mystery wasn't any closer to being resolved and the plotline with the sister seemed to have vanished altogether. Finally things were resolved, but I didn't feel that the rationale behind the murder was particularly imaginative and unraveling it wasn't handled in a suspenseful or intriguing way.

I thought initially that I'd give this five stars based on my first impression of the book, but by the end was just ready to finish, so I've downgraded my rating to four stars instead.
Susan R. (Julian, NC) (07/22/13)

Bitter River
I definitely enjoyed this book and found it very interesting, I especially enjoyed the mystery about the murder of the 16 year old girl but thought the book lost some of its steam with the terrorist plot. I live in a small town in the south where everyone is related and enjoyed the descriptions of the people in Ackers Gap, I plan to go back and read the first book in the series and then read this one again. I would recommend this book!
Power Reviewer Vivian H. (Winchester, VA) (07/20/13)

Bitter River~Inconsistent but enjoyable
Bitter River is a murder mystery involving the death of Lucinda Trimble, a talented 16-year-old girl, who is found dead in the Bitter River. The story is set in the West Virginia mountain town of Ackers Gap, a place peopled with pragmatic folks dealing with economic hardships who have little to no trust of outsiders. Raythune County prosecutor Belfa Elkins, who grew up in various foster homes after the death of her violent father, has returned to her hometown of Ackers Gap after a failed marriage to find healing in the mountains.

Julia Keller writes with melodic prose that pulled me into the story from the first page and kept me wanting more – until the last third of the book when the plot became overly contrived with a subplot involving an international terrorist and the writing felt rushed. I started to turn pages restlessly to get to the end, which was, for me, unsatisfying.

As for character development, I liked and admired Bell Elkins, a pick yourself up by your bootstraps and keep going woman, who is both tough and vulnerable. She would be fun at Happy Hour. Many of the peripheral characters are drawn clearly enough that one can recognize in them somebody we know and with whom we can empathize.

All in all Bitter River is a good book. The first 2/3 is excellent. If Ms. Keller writes another episode in the life of Bell Elkins, I will read it.
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