Fast Falls the Night
Julia Keller Minotaur
An ongoing theme in Julia Keller’s superior series about Raythune County prosecutor Bell Elkins is how these West Virginia residents manoeuvre when jobs are scarce but drugs have overrun the area. Hope, though often in short supply, is the only thing to which they can cling.
Hope seems elusive in Fast Falls the Night, Keller’s excellent sixth novel that takes place during 24 hours, mainly in the town of Acker’s Gap. By the end of the horrific day, 33 people will have overdosed from tainted heroin, three will have died from the drugs and two other deaths are directly related to the heroin that has been laced with an elephant tranquillizer. The epidemic stretches thin the prosecutor’s office, the police, paramedics and hospital staff as each hour brings more overdoses.
The situation also brings a moral conundrum — how to treat addicts for whom few have sympathy. “They’ve done it to themselves,” becomes a constant refrain.
Keller’s challenge, which she rises to beautifully, is making the reader care and understand why these people turned to drugs, without sanctioning their actions. Fast Falls the Night is less a tale about drug overdoses and more about compassion and complex characters.
The balance in Fast Falls the Night comes from Bell and Sheriff ’s Deputy Jake Oakes. Bell’s sense of justice and desire to make her hometown a better place propels her daily, both professionally and personally.
The 24-hour time frame imbues a sense of urgency to the plot as Keller shows the day’s events through various points of views. Keller also avoids the pitfalls of the TV drama 24, in which Jack Bauer raced across Los Angeles in minutes. Here, a cop really can quickly make it across town.