Fast Falls the Night

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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.

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