Recommended reads: Tragedy in Appalachian town focus of enthralling mystery

Fast Falls the Night, by Julia Keller

Prosecutor Bell Elkins soon realizes that her Appalachian hometown is facing a tragically fatal challenge — fighting a single day’s record number of heroin overdoses from a batch tainted with a lethal tranquilizer — as Fast Falls the Night. This is the most recent in the enthralling mystery series by Pulitzer Prize winner and author Julia Keller.

The first overdose murder comes right after midnight, followed by many more before the full day ends. The police and prosecutor work desperately to track down who is selling the bad batch of drugs. It’s most disturbing that this novel is based on a real-life event. The author tells this story through the perspectives of the different victims and also other people in the small town of Acker’s Gap in West Virginia. The reader then gets an understanding of what brings people to the brink of tragedy, and also the impacts that one person’s actions can have on so many different people.

While Bell Elkins is feverishly working with the police, she’s also facing some dark family issues surprisingly uncovered, that are undeniably life altering. It’s one thing to deal professionally with unspoken tragic events that affect others, but how will Bell deal with it when she’s confronted with buried emotions and acts within her own personal history?

The author, Julia Keller, spent 12 years as a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune. It was during that time that she won the Pulitzer for journalism, that the Chicago Tribune says was  “for a gripping, meticulously reconstructed account of a deadly 10-second tornado that ripped through Utica, Illinois.”

What struck me immediately by these articles she wrote in 2004 was how she puts the reader so completely into the setting and scene of the storm, through every sense including desperation/fear, but the focus was how she made the stories about the people –- their stories and the impact on their lives. It’s so much like her writing in her books.

So often in mysteries, it’s the acts that are the focus, but she puts the characters in the forefront. In Fast Falls the Night, each chapter heading is a character, and each is written from their different points of view. The reader really gets to walk a few steps in these characters’ shoes, and that elicits a glimmer of understanding.

And if you want to hear more from the author, listen to Kendall & Cooper Talk Mysteries with Julia Keller.

— By Wendy Kendall

Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.

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