This debut novel from Chicago Tribune journalist (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Julia Keller is gripping from page one…reeling the reader in with clear depictions of small town life, adolescence, and brutal, senseless violence. Starting out shortly before a seemingly random shooting, the story introduces us to a mother and daughter who are both at odds with each other. The mother, Bell, works too much, overly dedicated to her job as prosecuting attorney for a small, impoverished county in West Virginia. And her daughter Carla is knee-deep in full-blown teenage rebellion. Actually, that rebellion sets the stage for the story…while waiting for her mother to pick her up from mandatory “anger management” class, Carla witness one of the most violent acts in Acker’s Gap, WV. After this, Carla becomes even more of a problem…not only is she still a behavior problem but now she also has upsetting, conflicting issues with what she witnessed. Bell, in addition to dealing with Carla and with the hunt for the murderer(s), also has other issues contending for space in her frantic world. Keller, as in her Chicago Tribune articles, truly does have a way with words… bringing characters, places and scenarios to life with true, vivid imagery. This was one of the best written mysteries I’ve read in ages! Hopefully, Acker’s Gap, along with Bell, Carla and the other colorful characters of this small town, will be back soon.