Very highly recommended: The Cold Way Home (Keller)

The novels that Julia Keller, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, writes are never easy reads…but, boy, are they good! Each book is set in Ackers Gap, West Virginia, a place that faces far too many harsh realities. There are many drug problems, crushing poverty, a lack of resources and yet…people persevere.

This title is the eighth in the series which began with A Killing in the Hills. Long time readers will want to catch up with Bell Elkins, a former attorney (to know why “former” you need to read the earlier books), Jake, who is disabled (to know why, you need to read the earlier books) and Nick, the former sheriff. The three now run their investigative firm. Each has a rich and complex backstory of life events and relationships. Because of the depth of backstory, old readers, like me, are eager for updates but you can also read this novel as a stand alone.

I have learned to trust this author, even when the official book description sounds bleak. In this one, the devastating story has to do with a former hospital where lobotomies were performed on women who were “troublesome” and certainly not capable of giving consent or even asked about consent. This historical malpractice figures in the story that takes place in the current day even though the hospital has been long closed. So…oh, no is what I thought. Not sure I can go there but…I am so glad to have read this title.

There is despair in this one but also glimmers of hope. There is also a death to be investigated, lots of local color and beautifully delineated characters, even minor ones such as a trucker and a librarian.

I give The Long Way Home 5 stars, not something I do often. I recommend it most highly.

Many, many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for this book in exchange for an honest review. I am already longing for the next in the series.

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