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Bitter River

Bell Elkins Novels

Julia Keller

Minotaur Books

In the next stunning novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning Julia Keller, following the popular A Killing in the Hills, a pregnant teenager is found murdered at the bottom of a river.

Phone calls before dawn are never good news. And when you’re the county’s prosecuting attorney, calls from the sheriff are rarely good news, either. So when Bell Elkins picks up the phone she already knows she won’t like what she’s about to hear, but she’s still not prepared for this: 16-year-old Lucinda Trimble’s body has been found at the bottom of Bitter River. And Lucinda didn't drown—she was dead before her body ever hit the water.

With a case like that, Bell knows the coming weeks are going to be tough. But that’s not all Bell is coping with these days. Her daughter is now living with Bell’s ex-husband, hours away. Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, one of Bell’s closest friends, is behaving oddly. Furthermore, a face from her past has resurfaced for reasons Bell can’t quite figure. Searching for the truth, both behind Lucinda’s murder and behind her own complicated relationships, will lead Bell down a path that might put her very life at risk.

In Bitter River, Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Keller once again weaves a compelling, haunting mystery against the stark beauty and extreme poverty of a small West Virginia mountain town.

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Chapter One
 
 
Three people stood on the south bank of the Bitter River. Two of them, a petite woman and a stocky man, had stationed themselves near the water but the third, an older and even bigger man in a long black overcoat and a brown flat-brimmed sheriff’s hat, was positioned halfway up the steep slope, a spot that granted him a more generous perspective. All three looked anxious, uncomfortable, as if they weren’t quite certain what to do or how to be. Motion was their preferred state, action was how they defined themselves, and this interval—this standing
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REVIEWS

Praise for Bitter River

“Julia Keller is a beautiful writer and Bitter River has an elegiac force to it that is powerful and gripping. Bell Elkins is one of the most fully realized characters in fiction today. I just turned the last page on this one and I want more.”—MICHAEL CONNELLY

“Julia Keller's lyrical and evocative prose in Bitter River propels the novel until all you can do is hang on until the final page. Her sense of place is spot-on and bittersweet.”—C.J. BOX

“Gripping suspense, a fabulous sense of place and nuanced characters you can't wait to come back to. A must read.” —KARIN SLAUGHTER

“Remarkably written and remarkably tense. . .I loved it.” —DENNIS LEHANE

"A gripping, beautifully-crafted murder mystery. . .Great reading.” —SCOTT TUROW

"A terrific debut—atmospheric, suspenseful, assured." —LAURA LIPPMAN

"Clear the weekend, silence the phone and settle into Acker's Gap, a place as fascinating and fraught with violence and beauty as Daniel Woodrell's Ozarks or William Gay's Tennessee. A killer novel." —TOM FRANKLIN

“A soulful depiction of a beautiful, besieged afterthought of a town.” —People

“Outstanding.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review, Pick of the Week)

“Engrossing...[A] superbly detailed and suspense-drenched mystery.” —Library Journal (starred review, Debut of the Month)

"A powerful debut.” —Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Julia Keller

  • JULIA KELLER spent twelve years as a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune, where she won a Pulitzer Prize. A recipient of a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, she was born in West Virginia and lives in Chicago and Ohio. Bitter River is her second adult novel.
  • Julia Keller Mike Zajakowski
    Julia Keller
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    Bitter River

    Bell Elkins Novels

    Julia Keller

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    FROM THE PUBLISHER

    Minotaur Books

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