The Cold Way Home is author Julia Keller’s 8th book in the Bell Elkins mystery series. Keller’s wonderful novels appear to be a well-kept secret. And it’s a secret that should be let out to the masses, or at least the masses who like mystery drama, because Keller is a wonderful writer.
The books are somewhat dark, if realistic. They take place in the small town of Ackers Gap in the mountains of West Virginia. The troubles we hear about regularly on the evening news have been taking their toll on this community. Opioid and heroin addiction is claiming many of the young people who still live in this almost-ghost-town. The coal mines have shut down, and there are few jobs left for the people of the town. I have followed Bell from the beginning, when she was the district attorney. As the novels went on, more and more secrets from her past were revealed. Now she is no longer the district attorney, but has started an investigative business with her friend and former sheriff Nick Fogelsong, and a former deputy assistant who is now a paraplegic from a drug-related shooting.
Their first case is a doozy. A woman is found dead at a long-abandoned mental hospital located out in the middle of nowhere. The mental hospital was rumored to have used experimental (and horrific) medical practices during its time of operation. The woman was killed with a hatchet and no one knows why she was killed, or even why she was at that particular spot. I will admit that the murderer’s identify was about as unexpected to this reader as in any mystery novels I’ve read. I literally gasped out loud when I learned the truth.
Keller’s writing is exceptional. Her descriptions are so clear and eloquent that you can hear the trees as they blow and feel the cold in the air. The story is told from all three of the private investigators, and the three couldn’t be more unique. The author weaves their personal stories into the novel, making us feel almost like they are our friends too.
I love this mystery series, and have recommended it to many. The Cold Way Home is no exception.