From the night-black depths of a coalmine to the sun-struck peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, from a riveting murder mystery to a poignant meditation on the meaning of love and family, the latest novel in the critically acclaimed series strikes out for new territory: the sorrow and outrage that spring from a real-life chapter in West Virginia history.
Royce Dillard doesn't remember much about the day his parents-and one hundred and twenty-three other souls-died in the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster. He was only two years old when he was ripped from his mother's arms. But now Dillard, who lives off the grid with only a passel of dogs for company, is fighting for his life one more time: He's on trial for murder.
Prosecutor Bell Elkins faces her toughest challenge yet in this haunting story of vengeance, greed and the fierce struggle for social justice. Richly imagined, vividly written and deeply felt, Julia Keller's Last Ragged Breath is set in West Virginia, but it really takes place in a land we all know: the country called home.
The Buffalo Creek flood of 1972, a real-life West Virginia tragedy in which more than 100 people died, provides the backdrop for Keller's fourth Bell Elkins thriller (after 2014's Summer of the Dead), an intense study of childhood trauma and corporate malfeasance. Decades later (now in the present), Royce Dillard, a recluse whose parents perished in the flood, becomes a suspect when a dog sniffs out the corpse of Ed Hackel, a slick marketer, in a creek outside Acker's Gap. Hackel had been pressuring Dillard to sell his land so that it could be developed as part of the new Mountain Magic resort planned for the region. As prosecuting attorney, Bell is tasked with proving Dillard's guilt. When it becomes clear that something about Dillard doesn't fit the profile of a cold-blooded killer, Bell must dig deeper into a community rife with secrets. Keller conveys smalltown mind-sets with a folksy style that richly evokes a part of Appalachia still grappling with its past.