Julia Keller spent 12 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 Viriginia and lives in Chicago and Ohio.
Royce Dillard doesn't remember much about the day his parents --- and 123 other souls --- died in the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster. He was only two years old when he was ripped from his mother's arms. But now Dillard, who lives off the grid with only a passel of dogs for company, is fighting for his life one more time: He's on trial for murder. Prosecutor Bell Elkins faces her toughest challenge yet in this haunting story of vengeance, greed and the fierce struggle for social justice.
It’s high summer in Acker's Gap, West Virginia, but no one is enjoying the rugged natural landscape. Not while a killer stalks the small town and its hard-luck inhabitants. County prosecutor Bell Elkins and Sheriff Nick Fogelsong are stymied by a murderer who seems to come and go like smoke on the mountain. At the same time, Bell must deal with the return from prison of her sister, Shirley --- who, like Bell, carries the indelible scars of a savage past.
County prosecuting attorney Bell Elkins's latest case is a bad one: pregnant 16-year-old Lucinda Trimble’s body has been found at the bottom of Bitter River, and she was dead before she hit the water. But that’s not all Bell is coping with these days: her daughter is now living hours away with her ex-husband, one of her closest friends is behaving oddly, and a face from her past has resurfaced. Searching for the truth will lead Bell down a path that could put her very life at risk.
Three elderly men are gunned down at a local diner. One of the witnesses to the brutal incident was Carla Elkins, the prosecuting attorney’s daughter, who believes she might be uniquely placed to help her mother do her job. But could Carla also end up doing more harm than good --- in fact, putting her own life in danger?