Bitter River was my introduction to Acker's Gap, West Virginia and Bell Elkins. Acker's Gap, a small town in Appalachia must deal with the problems of poverty, unemployment, and drugs that have typified areas of Appalachia. The Cold Way Home is the 8th book in the series, and an awful lot has happened to the characters since Bitter River. (I intended to continue with the series, but somehow never did.)
Although I missed all the books in between, The Cold Way Home can be read as a stand-alone as the plot is contained within the pages of the novel.
At least ten years have past since Bitter River, and Bell has had quite a few live changes: she is no longer the county prosecutor, her daughter is grown, Nick Fogleman has retired and there is a new sheriff. The lives of the characters have continued and situations have changed--as they do in the normal course of living.
Currently, Bell, Nick , and Jake Oakes have formed a small detective agency, often assisting the sheriff and prosecutor when they are overwhelmed with other problems. The three decide to take the case of a missing young woman: Dixie Sue is nineteen, but "simple" as her mother tells Bell.
Someone has seen Dixie Sue and her new boyfriend in the woods near Wellwood, a psychiatric hospital that burned to the ground in the 1960's, and when Bell treks up the ruins of the hospital, she discovers the body of a woman. The body is face down, and Bell assumes it is Dixie Sue, but once the sheriff and coroner arrive, the body turns out to be Darla Gilley.
Who would want to kill Darla? The detective team gets involved with the investigation and all kinds of secrets eventually come to light--especially concerning the hospital itself and those who worked there.
The early treatment of the mentally ill was especially grotesque, and patients were committed for reasons that were not always medical. Although Wellwood may be a fictional facility, Walter F. Freeman was a real person and practiced until 1967. Spoiler: Walter Freeman charged just $25 for each procedure that he performed. After four decades Freeman had personally performed as many as 4,000 lobotomy surgeries in 23 states, of which 2,500 used his ice-pick procedure, despite the fact that he had no formal surgical training. In February 1967, Freeman performed his final surgery on Helen Mortensen.
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Mystery. August 20, 2019. Print length: 320 pages.
Tripwire by Lee Child. I thought I had read all the books in the Jack Reacher series, then realized I had missed one. Back up and catch up.
Starts in Key West, ends up in New York. Reacher actually made an effort to try giving up his nomadic lifestyle.
Reacher isn't a comic book hero, but his skills are at least as remarkable and require the reader to just give in and enjoy the ride. I'm addicted to Reacher.
I'm caught up with this series now, and I'm eagerly awaiting Blue Moon which will be out in October.
Thriller. 1999. Print length: 586 pages.
I'm also caught up with Kennedy Hudner's Alarm of War military science fiction/space opera series. I read Alarm of War I several years ago, and this summer I picked up The Other Side of Fear and Desperate Measures. And so the trilogy is concluded. Exciting and suspenseful--I couldn't put them down. Mr. Hudner, what now?