MARILYN STASIO, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW – ONE OF THE 10 BEST CRIME NOVELS OF THE YEAR
"The plotting is skilled, as is the sleuthing, and the landscape is stunning. But it’s the hard-jawed characters, with their tough talk and scarred souls, who really get under your skin.” — Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
Return to McFalls County and Bull Mountain in Hard Cash Valley, where Brian Panowich weaves another masterful tale of Southern Noir.
Dane Kirby is a broken man and no stranger to tragedy. As a life-long resident and ex-arson investigator for McFalls County, Dane has lived his life in one of the most chaotic and crime-ridden regions of the south. When he gets called in to consult on a brutal murder in a Jacksonville, Florida, motel room, he and his FBI counterpart, Special Agent Roselita Velasquez, begin an investigation that leads them back to the criminal circles of his own backyard.
Arnie Blackwell’s murder in Jacksonville is only the beginning – and Dane and Roselita seem to be one step behind. For someone is hacking a bloody trail throughout the Southeast looking for Arnie’s younger brother, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who possesses an unusual skill with numbers that could make a lot of money and that has already gotten a lot of people killed—and has even more of the deadliest people alive willing to do anything it takes to exploit him.
As Dane joins in the hunt to find the boy, it swiftly becomes a race against the clock that has Dane entangled in a web of secrets involving everyone from the Filipino Mafia to distrusting federal agents to some of hardest southern outlaws he’s ever known.
Early in Panowich's gritty, pull-no-punches third thriller set in Georgia's McFalls County (after 2019's Like Lions), two thugs corner Arnie Blackwell, who has just arrived in Jacksonville, Fla., with a suitcase full of cash, in Arnie's motel room. One of the men accuses Arnie of having stolen a lot of money. When Arnie refuses to explain how he did it and who else was involved, the pair torture him to death. Georgia Bureau of Investigation consultant Dane Kirby flies to Florida to join the FBI in looking into Arnie's murder. Dane is baffled about the motive, until he learns that the dead man was at the Slasher, the largest cockfighting tournament in the U.S., which was recently held in McFalls County. Arnie somehow managed to bet successfully on every fight in every round, an impossible feat akin to clearing out the MGM Grand "of every dollar in one night." The violent search by Arnie's killers doesn't end with his death. The suspenseful plot is enhanced by Panowich's gifts at making even walk-on characters memorable. Fans of Ace Atkins's Quinn Colson series will be pleased. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
Panowich never disappoints
From Bull Mountain and Like Lions to Hard Cash Valley, Panowich writes excellent stories. They are tragic tales, but within the violence his protagonists show grace and strength. The stories have violence, but they are not about violence. They exemplify the beauty and strength of the human soul much more than the darkness.