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Fast Falls the Night


Fast Falls the Night

I confess that I have no idea how I missed the Bell Elkins series over the past several years. The name Julia Keller is well known to me; I encountered her byline many times in my hometown newspaper, and her books are set in backwoods West Virginia, just a couple of hours away from my front door. I have no excuse. My ignorance, though, provides me with the opportunity of discovering an author who is new to me with FAST FALLS THE NIGHT, a truly riveting work that has provided me with the impetus to seek out the preceding volumes of this fine series.

This latest installment takes place over the course of a single day in the crossroads town of Acker’s Gap, West Virginia. Acker’s Gap is tucked into a corner of Appalachia that is nearly indistinguishable from the similar environs of nearby extreme southern Ohio. Bell Elkins is the area’s quietly troubled county prosecutor, a job that makes Sisyphus’ labors seem easy by comparison. When we first encounter Bell in FAST FALLS THE NIGHT, she is seriously considering upping sticks and taking a much more prestigious and rewarding position with a law firm in Washington, D.C. However, all thoughts of that are buried when an epidemic of heroin overdoses overtakes Acker’s Gap and the area surrounding it.

"...a truly riveting work that has provided me with the impetus to seek out the preceding volumes of this fine series."

It begins with the death of a young woman in a convenience store restroom just after midnight. It continues, with overdoses across the somewhat narrow class and income demographics of the small town. Acker’s Gap soon finds itself overwhelmed by the number and frequency of the overdoses, due to shortages of personnel and resources in law enforcement, first responders and hospital facilities. Each chapter is told by or from the point of view of a revolving series of characters, each of whom is a participant in one way or another in the disaster that is being visited upon the town, one that was predictable yet impossible to prevent.

Bell is chief among these, with her point of view tempered by her own problems that are about to become much, much worse for reasons that have nothing to do with the epidemic at hand. A decision is made to cut off the drugs at their source --- if such can be determined --- leading to an event and a conclusion that has a disastrous side effect all its own. Meanwhile, people’s lives go on, which means that tragedies occur, secrets are revealed, and death is in the air. It is a story that is complete in itself but will have repercussions that undoubtedly will shape and affect future storylines in the series.

FAST FALLS THE NIGHT is as real as it gets. One of the book’s many strong points is that it attempts to discuss an issue that is being raised with more and more frequency: that being whether saving habitual drug offenders --- bringing them back from the brink of death following an overdose --- is a worthwhile endeavor, particularly for those who routinely put their own lives in danger. There are many who say that such rescues on a repetitive basis are a waste of time, resources and personnel that could be much better used elsewhere. Others argue that all patients should be treated equally, regardless of whether their problem is self-inflicted or otherwise.

This novel presents both arguments very well, which is as it should be. The result is a disturbing tale that is unexpectedly touching in places, however briefly. Don’t be afraid to jump on here.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 25, 2017

Fast Falls the Night
by Julia Keller

  • Publication Date: July 17, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 125008962X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250089625