The Cold Way Home by Julia Keller
It was 7:17 P.M. on Thursday, October 24th, and Deputy Steve Brinksneader was ready to call it a day. More than ready, actually. He had a full shift under his belt and supper waiting on the table at home. He was supposed to be done. He should've been finished more than two hours ago, if you wanted to get technical about it, but there'd been too many reports to write and an obese, unruly prisoner--probably high on something, given that he was twisting and lunging and machine-gunning obscenities--that he had to subdue, in order for his colleague, Deputy Dave Previtt, to squire the man into a cell. He didn't know what the man had done. The man was Dave's prisoner, not his, and there'd been no time to talk about it, because the man had broken free from Dave and he had to render assistance.
And now: this.
The call had come crackling over his radio a minute and a half ago and Steve knew he had to respond, knew he had to attend to it. Duty was duty.
I've said before that Julia Keller's mystery series, set in West Virginia, is among my favorites. I'm always delighted to see a new book appear - glad to revisit the beautiful setting that the author paints for us in each book. Bell Elkins and her friends and colleagues are also favorites of mine. They are not perfect by any means and certainly the area that Keller describes has massive problems. However, I love these books.
The Cold Way Home is the 8th book in the series. Bell Elkins has had a lot of life changes as we've gone from story to story. She's now a private investigator and is in partnership with Nick and Jake, both former law enforcement officers. They each bring their own strengths to investigations, but they are still figuring out how this new business will work in their financially depressed area. Julia Keller relates a good crime story, but also bases Wellwood, a former mental hospital, on real stories of what happened to patients who no one wanted to live with and who few cared about. I loved reading this book and will try to patiently wait for the next book. If this series sounds intriguing to you, I recommend you start with the first in order to meet the characters - A Killing in the Hills. My thanks again to my blogging friend Susan for bringing Julia Keller's work to my attention several years ago.
Deep in the woods just outside Acker's Gap, West Virginia, rises a ragged chunk of what was once a high stone wall. This is all that remains of Wellwood, a psychiatric hospital for the poor that burned to the ground decades ago. And it is here that Bell Elkins – prosecutor turned private investigator – makes a grim discovery while searching for a missing teenager: A dead body, marred by a ghastly wound that can only mean murder.
To solve the mystery of what happened in these woods where she played as a child, Bell and her partners – former sheriff Nick Fogelsong and former deputy Jake Oakes – must confront the tangled history of Wellwood and its dark legacy, while each grapples with a private torment. Based on a true chapter in the troubled history of early treatment for psychiatric illness, The Cold Way Home is a story of death and life, of despair and hope, of crime and – sometimes, but not always – punishment.