Sometimes in my dreams I’m back in Charleston, West Virginia, wandering the wooded ridgelines of Sherwood Forest where I lived for six years as a child. The hills and hollows, the switchback roads, the heavy humidity, and the acrid scent of chemicals when the wind blew in from the southwest. The wild beauty of the hills co-existed with hulking chemical plants along the banks of the Kanawha River and grinding poverty in the hollows. Contrasts with razor sharp edges that pierce your soul, even when you’re just a kid.
And that probably explains why I was drawn to Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and West Virginia native, Julia Keller’s Bell Elkins books—a fairly new mystery series set in fictional Acker’s Gap, “a shabby afterthought of a town tucked in the notch between two peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, like the last letter stuck in a mail slot after the post office has closed down for keeps.”
This mystery series begins with a dream too. County prosecutor Bell Elkins is haunted by her early years in a trailer on the banks of a West Virginia creek and the dark tragedy that changed the course of her life. “You could smell the creek, a damp rotting smell that was somehow also sweet, even before you could see it. The woods around it made a tight screen, as if the branches were gripping hands in a game of Red Rover. Daring you to break through.”
In A KILLING IN THE HILLS, Julia Keller’s debut book, three old men in a crowded restaurant are gunned down in broad daylight: “Pock Pock Pock.” Bell Elkins and the local sheriff Nick Fogelsong suspect that the horrific crime is tied to the illegal prescription drug trafficking that is “roaring across the state like a wildfire in a high wind,” but they are baffled by the shooter’s deliberate targeting of the three old friends. “One shot per head.” This is not a random act of violence. And even worse, Bell’s teenage daughter witnessed the murders.
What I like best about the series is Bell Elkins. She’s a fierce crusader with a shadowy past that both propels her and hinders her in her roles as prosecutor, mother, friend, sister, ex-wife, and child of Acker’s Gap. “To know and not to do is not to know,” is the driving force behind Bell Elkins’s return to the small mountain town from which she had once thought she’d made a clean break. She has an unshakable conviction that she must do what she can to beat back the poverty, hopelessness, and crime that is ravaging her homeland. In this way, she reminds me of the heroine of my own book, BROKEN PLACES, who also wrestles with the same question: What is our responsibility to act in the face of the suffering we witness?
Reading the Bell Elkins books reawakened a lot of memories for me (West Virginia luggage—a paper bag, riding my bike up and down the steep roads of my hilltop neighborhood, the scent of the woods in the summer), but you don’t need to have lived in West Virginia to thoroughly enjoy this excellent crime fiction series. Author Julia Keller explores universal themes of loss, redemption, forgiveness, and personal responsibility that resonate powerfully while her skillful crafting of engrossing mysteries will keep you guessing to the end. Good stuff, as my AP English teacher used to say!
What book have you read recently that struck a personal chord? I’m giving away BROKEN PLACES (ebook) to one randomly selected commenter! Be sure to return to K&T on Monday, July 28th, to see if you’re the winner. I’ll also be posting the names of the 2014 Romance Writers of America Rita® and Golden Heart® Romantic Suspense Winners!
Thanks for all your fun comments! The winner of our If Dogs Could Talk blog is Marsha West. Congratulations, Marsha! Please contact me here with your preferred email addy for the Starbucks Gift card.
If dogs could talk it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one~Andy Rooney
Maybe it’s just me, but I think it would be extra fun if dogs could talk!
Remember Andy Rooney and that delightful acerbic wit of his? I sure do. And I miss his brief, straight to the point rants on the television show 60 Minutes. His segments were fun, and I think a precursor of Jerry Seinfeld’s What’s up with that? routines.
So today in honor of Andy Rooney or Jerry Seinfeld or both, I have a What’s up with that? blog for you.
First the disclaimer: Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. Maybe you can explain it to me, because I feel confident that right here among us are readers who do it.
What is it? You ask. Well, this it. I scratch my head whenever I hear someone say: I really did not enjoy this book, but once I start a book I have to finish it.
Erm. I don’t get it.
I realize there are some good reasons to finish books you don’t like. For example, your mother wrote it and dedicated it to you (Shannon I’m talking to you). Your critique partner wrote it (my critique partners only write awesome books, but I’m just sayin’ in case yours doesn’t). You agreed to judge it in a contest. You are a book blogger or agreed to provide a review. Your teacher assigned it, and there’s a quiz tomorrow. I’m not talking about these situations.
I’m talking about someone who feels they must finish a book because they bought it or started it, or just because they can’t quit anything.
Now I’ve sat through a few movies I didn’t like, but that was because I was with someone else, and I didn’t want to make them miss out on something they were enjoying. But I have never finished a book I didn’t like without a good reason. The world is littered with books I’ve begun but didn’t finish, and I don’t feel one iota of guilt.
So here’s my question: What kind of reader are you? Are you a wall-banger like me, who tosses the book at the first sign of trouble? Or do you finish a book no matter what? If you do, please tell us why. Ten dollar Starbucks card to one lucky commenter.
CONGRATULATIONS, JACQUI NELSON!
You’re the Murder Down Under winner of The Profiler ebook!
To claim your prize contact us with your email address and preferred format within 10 days.
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And don’t miss Carey Baldwin’s Andy Rooney style blog next Tuesday!
A Starbucks gift card is up for grabs!
Ever wonder where ideas for spy stories come from? Well mine often come from visits to Washington, D.C. embassies. See if you can get a few ideas of your own after reading about my latest covert exploit.
Living in Washington is wonderful. The city is a museum, culture is everywhere, and politics often makes sleeping pill prescriptions totally unnecessary. Sometimes I lose sight of how interesting and different our city is, but events like the one I attended on Friday night shake out complacency.
Yes, I was a guest at the Royal Thai embassy in Georgetown. The food was sumptuous, the Ambassador and his staff gracious, and the entertainment divine. I had such a good time, two days later my cheeks still hurt from smiling so much. Here’s a snippet of the entertainment for you to enjoy.
The cherry on the cake truly was the Thai Masked Dance Khon Troupe from Bangkok. For over an hour they danced, fought, joked, clowned, and displayed aspects of the Thai heritage. The men wore brilliant golden costumes, the women dripped dozens of orchids from their hair. Each movement — practiced over decades — seemed effortless, yet I couldn’t fathom getting my fingers into the artistic backward curving gestures or moving with such precise grace.
I’d like to thank His Excellency, Ambassador Vijavat Isarabhakdi for his kind generosity during the evening. He reminded me of my husband’s and my trip to Bangkok a few years ago — and a place and people so lovely, I cannot wait to visit there again.
First I want to thank the CRIMES OF PASSION authors for participating in the Inside the Actors Studio quiz! If you didn’t catch the interview, you can read the post here.
The winner of CONCRETE EVIDENCE in audio CD is:
Quantum, to claim your prize, contact us with your mailing address within ten days!
Summer is officially here and like many of our readers, I’m looking to fill up my ereader with sexy, intense, and mysterious stories for vacation reading, which is why I’m extra thrilled to tell our Kiss and Thrill audience about a new 6-book bundle available for a limited time for only $0.99!
CRIMES OF PASSION, full of heart-pounding, sexy suspense, includes books by four New York Times bestselling authors! I am so honored to have Body of Evidence included with these fantastic titles!
~ Crimes of the Heart Collection ~
CRIMES OF PASSION
Six Romantic Suspense Books
Toni Anderson – Her Sanctuary
Terri Reid – Loose Ends
M A Comley – Past Temptation
Rachel Grant – Body of Evidence
Jennifer Blake – Love and Smoke
Denise Grover Swank – Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes
To learn more about the CRIMES OF PASSION authors, I donned my James Lipton beard and put them in the Inside the Actors Studio hot seat.
What is your favorite word?
M A: Perpendicular
What is your least favorite word?
M A: Scenario
What turns you on?
Toni: Tom Hardy’s smile
Terri: A good mystery
M A: Kindness
Rachel: Wit (six-pack abs don’t hurt either)
Denise: A confident man
What turns you off?
Toni: The list is endless.
Terri: Bad writing
M A: Conceit
Rachel: Fart jokes
What sound or noise do you love?
Toni: Bird song
Terri: An owl hooting nearby on a dark night
M A: A trickling stream
Rachel: My children’s laughter
Jennifer: Ocean surf
Denise: My children’s laughter
What sound or noise do you hate?
Toni: Bird song at 5 AM
M A: Animals in pain
Rachel: Leaf blowers
Jennifer: NASCAR racing
Denise: Loud squeaks
What is your favorite curse word?
Terri: Crap – just ask Mary O’Reilly
M A: Shit
Denise: Frickety-frack (I have little kids. Enough said.)
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Toni: FBI agent :)
Terri: Billionaire – that’s a profession, right?
M A: Vet
Rachel: Covert operative
Denise: I love being an author. I wouldn’t want to be anything else.
What profession would you not like to do?
Toni: Garbage man – looks like the hardest job in the world in this city.
Terri: Proctologist – ’nuff said.
M A: Slaughterman
Rachel: Any job that involves putrid odors on a daily basis.
Denise: Sanitation worker
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Toni: “They’re all waiting for you.” :)
Terri: “Welcome home.”
M A: “Welcome, I’ve had my eye on you for a while. Thanks for going the extra mile to support all the needy animals on Earth.”
Rachel: “I’ve decided to make an exception in your case.”
Jennifer: “Come on in, honey, glad to see you could make it!”
Denise: “You made the world a better place.”
I love both the similarities and differences in our answers! What do you think? Do you have a favorite word? To celebrate the release of CRIMES OF PASSION I’m giving away a copy of CONCRETE EVIDENCE in audiobook (CD format) to one randomly selected commenter.
BODY OF EVIDENCE (Evidence Series) – Rachel Grant
In North Korea retrieving the remains of GIs, archaeologist Mara Garrett is arrested and sentenced to death for spying. Curt Dominick, an ambitious, infuriatingly sexy US attorney mounts a rescue misson that morphs into an explosive chase across the Pacific. Desire clashes with loyalty when the conspiracy they uncover threatens not only their lives but national security.
HER SANCTUARY – Toni Anderson
Running for her life, ex-FBI agent Elizabeth Ward escapes to the solitude of Montana with a new identity. Nat Sullivan, struggling to keep his ranch from bankruptcy, doesn’t need a beautiful stranger complicating his life. But Elizabeth isn’t what she seems. And when a murderer and rapist track her down, they all discover the power of revenge — and redemption.
TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES (Rose Gardner Mystery – Book 1) – Denise Grover Swank
Rose Gardner’s had visions before, but never of herself dead. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered instead, she’s the prime suspect. Rose makes a bucketlist of 28 wishes, targeting neighbor Joe, with secrets of his own, for #15: Do more with a man. Then her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in jail isn’t her biggest worry.
LOOSE ENDS (A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery – Book 1) – Terri Reid
Combining her cop experience with a talent to communicate with ghosts, PI Mary O’Reilly’s big challenge is convincing the handsome police chief she’s not nuts. But when the ghost of a woman drowned in a Senator’s swimming pool 24 years ago points to a connection with the cold cases of five missing girls, Mary becomes a target of a serial killer out to tie up all his loose ends.
LOVE AND SMOKE (Contemporary Collection) – Jennifer Blake
Riva Staulet triumphed over past betrayal to reinvent herself as a woman of wealth and power. Noel has always been a Southern gentleman of rock-solid principle, stalward in his sense of justice. When a ruthless politician from her past resurfaces, Riva must risk utter ruin to prove him a murderer. And as death and disaster loom, Noel must choose to stand with her or against her.
PAST TEMPTATION (Temptation Series) – M A Comley
Until now, Nicole’s main focus in life has been running her successful business while raising her daughter, Sammy Jo, single-handedly. Now, Nicole’s ex-boyfriend, Josh, has turned up determined to rekindle the relationship he ran out on. But before they get the chance to pick up where they left off, Nicole’s personal life is put in mortal danger.
And don’t forget to comment for a chance to win CONCRETE EVIDENCE in audio CD!