A veteran on leave investigates a murder in his Kentucky backwoods hometown in this Appalachian noir by the acclaimed author of Country Dark.
Mick Hardin, a combat veteran and Army CID agent, is home on a leave to be with his pregnant wife—but they aren’t getting along. His sister, newly risen to sheriff, has just landed her first murder investigation—but local politicians are pushing for someone else to take the case. Maybe they think she can’t handle it. Or maybe their concerns run deeper.
With his experience and knowledge of the area, Mick is well-suited to help his sister investigate while staying under the radar. Now he’s dodging calls from his commanding officer as he delves into the dangerous rivalries lurking beneath the surface of his fiercely private hometown. And he needs to talk to his wife.
The Killing Hills is a novel of betrayal within and between the clans that populate the hollers—and the way it so often shades into violence. Chris Offutt has delivered a dark, witty, and absolutely compelling novel of murder and honor, with an investigator-hero unlike any in fiction.
Two word review - bloody brilliant.
Story, setting, community, history, family, politics, distrust, fractures, murder, investigation, interference, control, going AWOL, marital issues, pregnancy, job issues, suspicion of authority, silence, outsider amateur cleaners, drugs, a patsy and a helluva lot more besides.
It's pretty hard to articulate exactly what I loved about this book, a few weeks on from reading it.
I'll try ... the family dynamics between the sheriff, Linda under pressure to close a murder case and her brother, Mick an absent army investigator; the Kentucky setting, with the people and their connection to the land, with a deep sense of belonging and family, with people judged on the behaviour of previous generational interactions between families; the wildness of the setting; the relationship between Linda and her staff and sister-in-law; the outside tension and pressure applied to her investigation; Mick, his suffering and estrangement from his pregnant wife, with both bearing responsibility for the schisms in their relationship; his skillset in gaining the trust of people and his genuine desire to help others while assisting his sister in finding answers and justice for the murder victim. That's enough for starters.
It's a fantastic story, a really enjoyable murder investigation which offers a lot more than a typical mystery - where A gets murdered by B because of X and C sets out to catch them. You get the feeling that Chris Offutt cares deeply for this land and these people. Reminded me a bit of Larry Brown. Can't give any higher praise than that.
"Which one are you?"
"Big Joe or Little Joe?"
"Neither one. They're my cousins. They call me Little Big Joe. You wanting tires, gas or a Bible? They'll everyone get you where you need to be."
This was possibly my first time with Chris Offutt. I might have read The Good Brother many years ago - so long ago it probably doesn't count. His other books - Country Dark, Out of the Woods and Kentucky Straight are moving up the pile.
Read - April, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 240
Source - review copy courtesy of Edelweiss - Above the Treeline site
Format - Kindle