Friday, November 12, 2021

Review: The Killing Hills

The Killing Hills The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this from NetGalley for review.

“There’s murder in them thar hills!”

Mick Hardin is a combat veteran and investigator with the Army CID who has returned home on leave to find that his wife is pregnant and the baby may or may not be his. As he tries to cope with that he’s retreated to the cabin in the Kentucky hills where he was raised by his grandfather to do some serious drinking. His sister is the local sheriff and when a girl is found murdered in the woods, she asks Mick to help her find the killer. Looking into the crime means dealing with the dead woman’s angry relatives, other suspicious hill folk, political intrigue, an FBI agent, and some thugs sent to keep Mick from interfering with the local heroin distribution.

There’s two immediate and easy comparisons that spring to mind when discussing this one. The first is the excellent TV series Justified, and the second are the great Quinn novels by Ace Atkins. If you’re a fan of either or both of those then I think it’s safe to say that you’ll probably like this book.

However, while there are similarities in story and setting to those other works, Chris Offutt has carved out his own unique niche here. There’s a real sense of the place and people that comes up in various gritty details. For example, at one point Mick knows he’ll have to go up some steep muddy roads in an old pick-up so he haggles with a local mechanic to get an old scrap engine to use for weight in the back of his truck. (That brought back a memory from my own youth of how my dad had a couple of old tire inner tubes filled with sand to put the back of his truck for weight in the winner.)

Offutt also establishes a complex web of the kind of personal relationships you find in small towns where everybody has some kind of history or blood connection to everybody else. Generational grudges are held and judgements are made depending on your lineage. It’s also the kind of place where time seems to stand still in some ways, and the progress that does come just seems designed to screw over the locals.

It’s a solid crime story with a great rural vibe to it.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment