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.
Offutt's brooding and bloody country noir (after Country Dark) takes readers to the hollers of rural Kentucky, where meth and Oxycontin ravage the population, and havoc is wrought by long-festering family feuds. Mick Hardin, a traumatized veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now working as an Army intelligence agent, teams up with his sheriff sister to solve the murder of Nonnie Johnson after her body is discovered deep in the woods. In the process, they find themselves pitted against coal tycoon Murvil Knox; a meddling agent FBI agent who fingers an obvious patsy in disturbed outsider Tanner Curtis; roughneck brothers Bobby and Billy; and a pair of bumbling henchmen sent by arch-criminal Charley Flowers. Soon Hardin is up to his ears in intrigue and trying to keep a low profile as he interrogates suspects including local miscreant Fuckin' Barney; Knox's hapless nephew Delmer Collins; Nonnie's vengeful son, Frankie; and the earthy Old Man Tucker, who found Nonnie's body. Not only will Hardin have to find his man somewhere among this cast of backwoods desperados, he'll need to do so before he becomes a casualty of grudges old and new. The lean prose elicits more than a hard-boiled style, and while the brisk yet gnarled atmosphere is reminiscent of Winter's Bone, the dime-store crime novels of Jim Thompson, or even William Faulkner's Sanctuary, Offutt brilliantly evokes the body and soul of his wounded hero. It adds up to a mesmerizing and nightmarish view of what lurks just over the hills. This is sure to be Offutt's breakout.
Lean, austere, smart and abrupt—fascinating story.