Sorrow Road

Sorrow Road

Mysterious Book Report No. 294

by John Dwaine McKenna

The green rolling hills of West Virginia

are the nearest thing to Heaven that I know

though the times are sad and drear

and I cannot linger here

they’ll keep me and never let me go . . .

are the opening words to a song that was made famous by Emmylou Harris.  It was written by a folksinger, poet and one-time rail riding hobo named Utah Phillips—and it expresses his appreciation of, and love for, the incredible beauty of our thirty-fifth state. But, just like the rest of Appalachia, there’s another side of West Virginia, a place that’s been striped of natural resources, stripped of jobs and stripped of hope.

Sorrow Road, (Minotaur Books, PB, $15.99, 351 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-08959-5) by Julia Keller is the fourth novel in her Bell Elkins series, all of which take place in Ackers Gap, West Virginia . . . where she’s the prosecuting attorney for Rathune County.  It’s a place hemmed in by mountains, beleaguered by seemingly unending snowstorms with raw, arctic-like temperatures in the present day . . . and it’s where, back in 1938 a crime was committed and covered up and forgotten, only to resurface in the twenty-first century with the death of an old man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in an Appalachian nursing home.  That’s when an old college classmate and fellow attorney asks Bell to look into the circumstances . . . the man was her father.  He was one of three local men who served aboard a battleship at Normandy during the D-day landing in 1944, where a short conversation results in deadly consequences seventy-two years in the future.  As the bodies pile up and the mysteries deepen, this poignant tale of past deeds and modern consequences will keep you glued to the pages as the mystery unfolds while Bell juggles her job, iffy love-life and  adult daughter Carla, who’s come home suddenly . . . harboring a dark, shameful secret of the go-to-jail kind!  I promise . . . you won’t be able to put this tense and near-perfectly plotted novel down once you start reading.  Although the MBR got to Ms. Keller’s party three books late, we promise to remedy that soon.  And hey! Stay tuned, she’s got a new one, Fast Falls the Night coming in August.  We’re looking forward to it.

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