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The Killing Hills

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A literary master across genres, award-winning author Chris Offutt's latest novel, The Killing Hills, is a compelling, propulsive thriller in which a suspicious death exposes the loyalties and rivalries of a deep-rooted and fiercely private community in the Kentucky backwoods. Mick Hardin, a combat veteran now working as an Army CID agent, is home on a leave that is almost A literary master across genres, award-winning author Chris Offutt's latest novel, The Killing Hills, is a compelling, propulsive thriller in which a suspicious death exposes the loyalties and rivalries of a deep-rooted and fiercely private community in the Kentucky backwoods. Mick Hardin, a combat veteran now working as an Army CID agent, is home on a leave that is almost done. His wife is about to give birth, but they aren't getting along. His sister, newly risen to sheriff, has just landed her first murder case, and local politicians are pushing for city police or the FBI to take the case. Are they convinced she can't handle it, or is there something else at work? She calls on Mick who, with his homicide investigation experience and familiarity with the terrain, is well-suited to staying under the radar. As he delves into the investigation, he dodges his commanding officer's increasingly urgent calls while attempting to head off further murders. And he needs to talk to his wife. The Killing Hills is a novel of betrayal--sexual, personal, 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.


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A literary master across genres, award-winning author Chris Offutt's latest novel, The Killing Hills, is a compelling, propulsive thriller in which a suspicious death exposes the loyalties and rivalries of a deep-rooted and fiercely private community in the Kentucky backwoods. Mick Hardin, a combat veteran now working as an Army CID agent, is home on a leave that is almost A literary master across genres, award-winning author Chris Offutt's latest novel, The Killing Hills, is a compelling, propulsive thriller in which a suspicious death exposes the loyalties and rivalries of a deep-rooted and fiercely private community in the Kentucky backwoods. Mick Hardin, a combat veteran now working as an Army CID agent, is home on a leave that is almost done. His wife is about to give birth, but they aren't getting along. His sister, newly risen to sheriff, has just landed her first murder case, and local politicians are pushing for city police or the FBI to take the case. Are they convinced she can't handle it, or is there something else at work? She calls on Mick who, with his homicide investigation experience and familiarity with the terrain, is well-suited to staying under the radar. As he delves into the investigation, he dodges his commanding officer's increasingly urgent calls while attempting to head off further murders. And he needs to talk to his wife. The Killing Hills is a novel of betrayal--sexual, personal, 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.

30 review for The Killing Hills

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Putnam

    Loved this book. The prose and characterization are wonderful. There are two main plot lines, the murder mystery and the personal problem Mick, the main character has to deal with. The personal problem had great depth and was revealed slowly building intensity. I think I like it more than the murder mystery. The author also makes great use of setting and it carries the same weight as the main character without being overdone. Loved the local, could see it, smell it, and feel it, not easy to acco Loved this book. The prose and characterization are wonderful. There are two main plot lines, the murder mystery and the personal problem Mick, the main character has to deal with. The personal problem had great depth and was revealed slowly building intensity. I think I like it more than the murder mystery. The author also makes great use of setting and it carries the same weight as the main character without being overdone. Loved the local, could see it, smell it, and feel it, not easy to accomplish. The characters are vivid and three dimensional. The story is told in third person and the author sometimes shifts points of view toward the end of the scene (right in the middle of a page) to carry out the R, in MAR, (motivation, action, reaction), to show a different perspective of the reaction to the action. The author does it seamlessly without intrusion into the “Fictive Dream.” At first the story feels like a “slow burn,” but ramps up so gradually the reader is almost unaware. The dialogue has just enough local color to make fit perfectly like a puzzle piece. Being an author myself and watching the motivation (MAR) unfold, I’m usually pretty good at predicting the outcome, the story twisted twice at the end, events I did not see coming. Bravo. The main character Mick is a cerebral Jack Reacher and you don’t find out until the end just how much he is like Jack Reacher. Chris Offutt books are going on my permanent must-read list. David Putnam author of The Bruno Johnson series.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    “Appalachian people lived by old codes that compelled them to take action. Affronts were always personal. Acts of vengeance maintained themselves through generations.” Mick Hardin, is an Army CID agent whose current job is to investigate murders. He is stationed in Afghanistan but has returned to Morehead, Kentucky because his wife Peggy is pregnant. Mick’s sister Linda is the sheriff in Morehead. Mick and Peggy have issues, and while they work out a resolution Linda asks for Mick’s help in findi “Appalachian people lived by old codes that compelled them to take action. Affronts were always personal. Acts of vengeance maintained themselves through generations.” Mick Hardin, is an Army CID agent whose current job is to investigate murders. He is stationed in Afghanistan but has returned to Morehead, Kentucky because his wife Peggy is pregnant. Mick’s sister Linda is the sheriff in Morehead. Mick and Peggy have issues, and while they work out a resolution Linda asks for Mick’s help in finding out who killed Nonnie Johnson whose body was found dumped in the woods. Between his wife and the murder, Mick winds up overstaying his leave of absence, thus adding one more complication to his life. This was a compelling mystery, but the intertwined relationships of the people of Morehead were even more interesting. The author created colorful and realistic characters. People don’t waste words and learn a lot from family connections. “Who’s your people? ‘I’m a Mullins. Bowling on the other side.’ ‘Where you headed?’ ‘Up the road a piece. Third holler down, make a right.’” I loved Mick who is intelligent, skilled, compassionate and complex. I also love this author and I hope he writes another book featuring Mick, but I’ll read whatever he wants to write. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    Aaaahh, I just admire Chris Offutt's ability to capture a specific place - this guy manages to turn his home state of Kentucky into a main character without glorifying it or reducing it to its stereotypes. This suspense novel might not be as phenomenal as Offutt's masterpiece of social realism, Country Dark, but I was so entertained that I couldn't put it down and read the whole thing in one sitting. Our protagonist Mick Harding, a war veteran and Army CID agent, is currently AWOL and home in Ke Aaaahh, I just admire Chris Offutt's ability to capture a specific place - this guy manages to turn his home state of Kentucky into a main character without glorifying it or reducing it to its stereotypes. This suspense novel might not be as phenomenal as Offutt's masterpiece of social realism, Country Dark, but I was so entertained that I couldn't put it down and read the whole thing in one sitting. Our protagonist Mick Harding, a war veteran and Army CID agent, is currently AWOL and home in Kentucky where his wife is about to give birth and his sister who has recently risen to sheriff is in trouble. A woman has been pushed to her death, and the sister investigates the murder in which the FBI takes a perplexing interest. But it takes people who know the hills and the families who populate them to find out what happened, to uncover a betrayal and to stop the chain of revenge that has been set in motion. Meanwhile, Mick and his wife are struggling because of another kind of betrayal that threatens to tear them apart... There are parts of this novel that aren't particularly believable, especially the authority that Mick, a visiting soldier, gains in the investigation. But Offutt knows genre, and he plays with that knowledge: Mick is the Appalachian version of a noir investigator, and as he roams the hollers and questions his suspects, he is just fun to behold in all his hardboiled glory. The dialogue, the scene-setting, the depiction of values and worldviews are rendered in an almost musical way, it sucks the reader right in. Offutt has all my respect for writing about a region that is so often overlooked or depicted in a stereotypical way. He is an engaging, intelligent author, and I can't wait to read his next effort.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

    Mick's sister placed a phone call to him while he was in Germany. (stationed there as a CID agent) She has recently been appointed sheriff back in their small Kentucky hometown and she needs to let him know that his wife has been keeping a secret. The wife is pregnant. Mick takes leave and returns to the Kentucky hills....and dude the descriptions that Chris Offutt gives of this area is glorious. Read this book just for that alone if you must. When he gets there his sister needs his help. An old g Mick's sister placed a phone call to him while he was in Germany. (stationed there as a CID agent) She has recently been appointed sheriff back in their small Kentucky hometown and she needs to let him know that his wife has been keeping a secret. The wife is pregnant. Mick takes leave and returns to the Kentucky hills....and dude the descriptions that Chris Offutt gives of this area is glorious. Read this book just for that alone if you must. When he gets there his sister needs his help. An old guy was out in the woods gathering some ginseng and he stumbled on a body. Both storylines of this story are so good. The who done it part and Mick's personal life. I could not decide which I liked best. I actually liked this book so much that I read it in two days and if you have been following me the last year or so-you know that is a dang miracle. The only thing that earned this book a four instead of that five star is that I was still wanting more of it to the point when it ended quickly I was pissed off. But Chris Offutt might just be superman because he did write one that was perfection. Country Dark. Book source: Netgalley in exchange for review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Do What Has To Be Done. Imma steal a line from my best pal’s recent playbook and simply state . . . . Hot damn but do I love some hick lit! The story here is about Mick, an Army CID agent on leave who returns to his hometown to discover a baby he ain’t so positive he should be happy about and his newly elected sheriff sister dealing with a dead body an old ‘seng hunter happened to stumble upon out in the woods. Now it’s a game of beat the clock to solve the case while keeping the Feds at b Do What Has To Be Done. Imma steal a line from my best pal’s recent playbook and simply state . . . . Hot damn but do I love some hick lit! The story here is about Mick, an Army CID agent on leave who returns to his hometown to discover a baby he ain’t so positive he should be happy about and his newly elected sheriff sister dealing with a dead body an old ‘seng hunter happened to stumble upon out in the woods. Now it’s a game of beat the clock to solve the case while keeping the Feds at bay and doing so without raising the body count unless it’s absolutely necessary. This book was dang near perfect for me. I mean what’s not to like????? Chris Offut got himself on my radar with Country Dark. This latest release has made him an auto request. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    With the Kentucky backwoods as the backdrop for the story, The Killing HIlls takes the reader into a world most have never experienced. Offutt’s descriptions of the Appalachians and the people who inhabit the area were so powerful, I almost felt I was there. It’s a beautiful place, but behind all that beauty is poverty, secrecy, loyalty, kinship, betrayal, and now murder. It includes a fascinating cast of local characters, and the reader is left wondering which of them might be the murderer. Home With the Kentucky backwoods as the backdrop for the story, The Killing HIlls takes the reader into a world most have never experienced. Offutt’s descriptions of the Appalachians and the people who inhabit the area were so powerful, I almost felt I was there. It’s a beautiful place, but behind all that beauty is poverty, secrecy, loyalty, kinship, betrayal, and now murder. It includes a fascinating cast of local characters, and the reader is left wondering which of them might be the murderer. Home on leave to confront his wife, Mick Hardin, Army CID Agent, gets caught up helping his sister, the local sheriff, solve a murder mystery. Can he solve the mystery and fix his own personal problems all before his commanding officer orders him back to duty? The ending was surprising, and I laughed out loud. I enjoyed this book, and thank the publisher, Grove Press, and Net Galley for the opportunity to read it. I gave it four stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    Mick Hardin, an Army CID agent, is home in Eastern Kentucky to work out problems with his wife. His sister, a novice sheriff, encounters her first homicide investigation and enlists Mick's help. She's getting political pressure from a prominent politician who is trying to steer the investigation to protect someone. Mick is familiar with the town and the family loyalty of the various clans living there. He heads out in his grandfather's old pickup to question people in the hidden hollers. The App Mick Hardin, an Army CID agent, is home in Eastern Kentucky to work out problems with his wife. His sister, a novice sheriff, encounters her first homicide investigation and enlists Mick's help. She's getting political pressure from a prominent politician who is trying to steer the investigation to protect someone. Mick is familiar with the town and the family loyalty of the various clans living there. He heads out in his grandfather's old pickup to question people in the hidden hollers. The Appalachian families have a history of taking revenge for killings and other affronts, and they have memories that go back generations. Eastern Kentucky is a rural area of natural beauty, extreme poverty, and a lack of opportunity. Author Chris Offut has his roots there, and turns the setting into a strong presence throughout the book. Offut also writes for TV series, and is a master of snappy dialogue. Bits of humor lighten up the darkness of the story. "The Killing Hills" is such an engaging book that I hope there will be a sequel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Col

    Synopsis/blurb .... 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 concer Synopsis/blurb .... 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. ------ My take.... 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?" "Joe." "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." 5 from 5 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 https://col2910.blogspot.com/2021/05/...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andreas Tornberg

    A strong contender for the best book of the year, fast paced and beautifully written. I love the moody atmosphere and the strong and interesting characters. The Kentucky backdrop is perfect for this story. I highly recommend this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Deb Spera

    The Killing Hills takes you to a place that has its own code to live by. The law meets lawlessness and the marriage works. The writing has a fine eye to detail, the characters are authentic and the story compelling. Chris Offutt has done it again.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Mick, born and bred in the hollers of Kentucky, joins the service and is a criminal investigator for the Army. On an emergency leave home he finds himself enmeshed in local crime and in "hill-bred conviction of vengeful purpose." The initial death is being investigated by his sister, the local sheriff, and he lends her his experienced assistance while being distracted by a family situation involving his wife. This is not as much a mystery or crime novel as a visit to appalachia and examination o Mick, born and bred in the hollers of Kentucky, joins the service and is a criminal investigator for the Army. On an emergency leave home he finds himself enmeshed in local crime and in "hill-bred conviction of vengeful purpose." The initial death is being investigated by his sister, the local sheriff, and he lends her his experienced assistance while being distracted by a family situation involving his wife. This is not as much a mystery or crime novel as a visit to appalachia and examination of one man's soul searching. There are moments of true hilarity (one account of a solution to a construction problem brought tears to my eyes), but also there are solutions to family and tribal problems that make a kind of sense. This is the first of Chris Offutt's books I've read, but I'm not stopping here, and I hope that Mick shows up in future books.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt is a mystery with a dead body and a hunt to find the killer or killers. But it’s a story set deep in the hills of eastern Kentucky, which changes the game entirely. “Appalachian people lived by old codes that compelled them to take action. Affronts were always personal. Acts of vengeance maintained themselves through generations. Before school started each morning Mick had recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. Every child learned the words: “As The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt is a mystery with a dead body and a hunt to find the killer or killers. But it’s a story set deep in the hills of eastern Kentucky, which changes the game entirely. “Appalachian people lived by old codes that compelled them to take action. Affronts were always personal. Acts of vengeance maintained themselves through generations. Before school started each morning Mick had recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. Every child learned the words: “As we forgive those who trespass against us,” a strong and generous message that neglected to include a timeframe. In the hills it was handier to forgive trespassers after killing them.” The hills of Kentucky have a rhythm and flavor all their own. A place where people answer the door with a pistol but offer up breakfast to near strangers with just an exchange of family names and a nod. Everyone knows everyone else’s business. The stories, rumors, and history all run deep and together in the hills. I loved this line describing the culture….”Forthright but not forthcoming. Honest but reticent. Watchful but friendly.” Yup. That’s how it feels. That mixture is in the characters and language and pace. It’s all complicated and slippery. And riveting! I loved watching Mick maneuver his way through. If anyone can though, it’s Mick. Mick Hardin is a veteran and Army CID agent home on leave. I liked him at once. At page five for goodness sakes! He made me chuckle with his bug bath and straight talk. The Kentucky hills are a part of him. People talk to him. And that’s why his sister, Linda, the new sheriff in town asks for his help. The sibling chemistry here is a big bonus for me. The memories, jokes, and easy trust with each other made me wanna hang out with them the whole book. Linda has a murder and a county full of people questioning her command though. So she turns to Mick. But he has problems of his own to tend to in town. Mick doesn’t get home to Kentucky all that often. A fact that may or may not have hurt his marriage. He needs to talk to his wife. But hell...why face that when you can distract yourself with a murder? So off we go into the hollers…. Mr. Offutt brings both a place and its people to the page in color, character, and contradictions perfectly. His short chapters and no BS way of presenting a situation draw you in. And the clipped lines that say so much keep the pressure on. You’ll want to follow along and see what’s in those hills. It’s a complicated land, but a beautiful one at that. The sounds and smells and shades all stir on the page under a canopy of trees, shrubbery, humidity, bugs, birds, and squirrels. I loved it all. And you can tell Mr. Offutt does too. Highly recommended. This was my first Chris Offutt read, but it won’t be my last. I’m off to hunt down his previous work. And I hope upon hope we get more of Mick and Linda. And Johnny Boy! Haha…How could I forget Johnny Boy. Pull up a chair and say “Hidy” to a world like no other. p.s. One of my favorite quotes was Mick’s answer to a “How you doing?” question. “Feel like I been shot at and missed, shit at and hit.”

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    Chris Offutt loves Kentucky. And memoirs. Seriously, the man has written a conspicuous amount of memoirs for someone who is only 62. I mean, you’d expect that many from maybe a giant tortoise or someone of similar lifespan, but presumably some people are just that introspective and ready to spill it all into the world. Anyway…I actually don’t care for Kentucky at all or memoirs. But Offutt’s Country Dark was pretty excellent and so it made me want to read this book. Like Country Dark, this is a Chris Offutt loves Kentucky. And memoirs. Seriously, the man has written a conspicuous amount of memoirs for someone who is only 62. I mean, you’d expect that many from maybe a giant tortoise or someone of similar lifespan, but presumably some people are just that introspective and ready to spill it all into the world. Anyway…I actually don’t care for Kentucky at all or memoirs. But Offutt’s Country Dark was pretty excellent and so it made me want to read this book. Like Country Dark, this is a crime thriller set once again in the backwoods of Kentucky. The local community makes tightly knit seem like fishnets, they hold grudges like guns and family matters above all others…and not in that cousin loving way either, if that’s your idea of Kentucky’s backwoods. It’s just that they protect their own, above both reason and law, and when one of their own is found dead, body discarded in the woods, it sets off a chain of crime and retribution. But first there’ll be an investigation. Presided over by the local sheriff (uncharacteristically a woman elected as a political statement, but still) and her perfectly timed on leave brother, an Army trained investigator. The latter is our protagonist, Mick, combat toughened and presently whiskey soaked man who came home to sort out his marriage that’s been all but done in by long distance. Of course, he’ll set his personal crap aside to help his sister, we already discussed how important the family is in the community. And of course, it’s everyone’s personal crap that’ll be the driver and the killer behind the plot. Small town, small lives, large arsenals…it’s always going to end the same way. But here’s the thing that sets this novel and Country Dark before it above the rest of the Southern, country fried, Appalachian sort of fiction. It’s really freaking good and it’s got great characters. Yes, but also it actually has a way of explaining that lifestyle that makes you understand the people living it. Maybe not approve of it, enjoy it or wish to join in, but understand. And that’s a sigh of great literature, to make you understand something that seems incomprehensible, even repulsive, at a glance. And I believe the author accomplishes this by writing smart leading characters. Permit a comparison to the recently read Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith, another southern crime drama. Another well written book. And yet the leads in that book were kind of tragic idiots, people who avalanched their lives into a giant mess at times for no reason whatsoever other than just doing dumb things because that’s a de rigueur behavior around there. Wherein here, among these murderous topologies, Mick is genuinely a good smart guy, who understands both his community and the life outside of it, who has a moral compass and knows to adjust it according to his surroundings. Mick’s someone you can really like and engage with, the sort of protagonist you want to lead the story. And the same can be said for his sister. Even possibly to some degree about some of the rest of the cast. There’s an inherent logic here and some of it isn’t especially logical and some of it is driven by the backwardness and backwoodness of it all, but it’s there. Which makes for an infinitely more compelling read…even if it’s about Kentucky. Plus it’s dynamic, well written and reads very quickly. It ever has an excellent cover. All good things. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bogi Zweiundvierzich

    Let's talk about the basic recipe for a modern day mystery: A homicide in a hitherto peaceful place - check. The police in over their head - check. An investigator who is brilliant at solving crimes, but who sucks at live in general - check. I daresay, all the ingredients are there. But the way Chris Offutt blends them together is what separates this book from your run-off-the-mill mystery. Mick Hardin, our protagonist, suffers from PTSD and has a pregnant wife he's currently not on speaking terms wi Let's talk about the basic recipe for a modern day mystery: A homicide in a hitherto peaceful place - check. The police in over their head - check. An investigator who is brilliant at solving crimes, but who sucks at live in general - check. I daresay, all the ingredients are there. But the way Chris Offutt blends them together is what separates this book from your run-off-the-mill mystery. Mick Hardin, our protagonist, suffers from PTSD and has a pregnant wife he's currently not on speaking terms with. But he also has a keen eye, quick thinking and years of experience as an army investigator. So when the sheriff of his rural Kentucky home - his own sister - asks him for help investigating a homicide, he doesn't hesitate. He also has an ulterior motive above all - don't want nobody hurt, because he's seen too much of it in the army. And he takes this motive to reason with everything, even with a mule working as a post. (You'll understand it when you see it, I guess.) And this being Kentucky, Mick and the people he's going to meet on his twisted road to the truth are all being very, well, Kentucky-ian. Kentucky-ish? Kentuckyanish. I know that I'm missing the real life experience myself, but reading this - and especially the dialogues - just puts you in the right set of mind. I swear I've heard the people talk in my head with a rural Kentucky dialect. (Or at least with what my mind imagines this dialect sounds like. I'm drawing from my experience of watching Justified here, all seasons, with Mick as a stand-in for Marshall Givens. I'm undecided about the role of Boyd Crowder, though.) The southern style gives this book his appeal, when blood runs thicker than water. And it does, in a place where people judge you by the family name you carry around. What came a little short, though, were two things: The book itself - only 240 pages - and the mystery part, because there is actually little detecting done in this. That deprives me, as a reader, from the joy of guessing at the killer. And I have to admit that the end feels unsatisfying to me. I get the chain of events from a logical point of view, but it still feels kinda wrong. Same for the way Mick's personal drama resolves, though his point of view is relatable. It just feels like the end was kinda rushed, on all sides. And it takes away from the whole "homicide in a peaceful place" vibe. So, the setting and atmosphere are highlights, the characters are shady enough to make all of it interesting. The mystery is a bit disappointing in the end, turning out to be an accident and the rest is family feud (apparently it's everyone's favorite hobby in the Kentucky hills). For me, the whole thing felt kinda lackluster, like a great buildup to a rather short end. I'm at 3.5 / 5, which means it's decision time. I was inclined to round up, but the end was kind of missing a wrap up, so this time I'm rounding down to a 3.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I had heard some very positive reviews of this and prior novels from Chris Offutt and was very pleased to have the opportunity to sample his writing. Right off the top, Offutt presents a picture of the back country, the small communities and hollers of Kentucky and the variety of people who live there. And then the area-specific behaviors that dictate actions and outcomes. Certain behaviors are not only matters of politeness on a lonely hilltop; they are meant to keep you alive. Unlike in the ci I had heard some very positive reviews of this and prior novels from Chris Offutt and was very pleased to have the opportunity to sample his writing. Right off the top, Offutt presents a picture of the back country, the small communities and hollers of Kentucky and the variety of people who live there. And then the area-specific behaviors that dictate actions and outcomes. Certain behaviors are not only matters of politeness on a lonely hilltop; they are meant to keep you alive. Unlike in the city, don’t mount the stairs and knock on a door to announce your presence. Instead, stop your truck at a small distance, perhaps honk. Don’t get out unless/until someone comes out of the house and you’ve talked comfortably Enough of this background! In the foreground, Mick Hardin is on leave from his military CID job, which he both enjoys and excels at, and back in Morehead, Kentucky where he and his wife have a home and his sister is sheriff. His sister has requested his help with solving a local murder, one that doesn’t fit the usual profiles involving drugs, alcohol or beating by bad beaux. Mick agrees to help, combining the skills he’s honed in the military with the knowledge of the country he was raised in. This is an exciting and fun book to read. It’s also sad due to the evidence of the blight of opiates so casually present. I enjoyed the descriptions of the natural world contrasted with the people in it. The descriptions of manners and mores were enlightening since I live in an area where few know anyone else’s relatives. I recommend this book highly for those who like crime novels especially with a lot of character and a strong sense of place. Rating 4 to 4.5* A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    There’s little new ground trodden here, which isn’t to say it’s not entertaining. It’s just rather predictable and similar to many thrillers of recent years. In an effort to seek something different, Offutt uses a sister and brother investigative team, the sister the police detective, the brother absent without leave from the US army in Germany. Rather than building to an exciting climax, it dulls like a much used light bulb.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an impartial review. Much like Australian-noir before it, Appalachian-noir is having a moment and I am a fan. This short novel checks a lot of boxes -- rural Kentucky setting among the hollers, family feuds, cascading acts of violence and revenge -- so many boxes that, at times, it doesn't feel terribly original. Some characters feel real, others feel like offerings from central Hillbilly casting. I often struggle with colloquial spee I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an impartial review. Much like Australian-noir before it, Appalachian-noir is having a moment and I am a fan. This short novel checks a lot of boxes -- rural Kentucky setting among the hollers, family feuds, cascading acts of violence and revenge -- so many boxes that, at times, it doesn't feel terribly original. Some characters feel real, others feel like offerings from central Hillbilly casting. I often struggle with colloquial speech in novels and this title did not prove an exception. Characters speak in complete, grammatically correct sentences and then throw out heavily accented slang words and it did not feel authentic, only jarring. The plot is fairly basic and well paced. But, in the end, after all the shooting is over, there is no examination, no rumination, no consideration of this geographically-specific area and its propensity for mindless violence and generations of familial acts of revenge.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lesa

    The last book I read that used language so beautifully, so sparingly, and created such a vivid picture of a place, was James Anderson’s The Never-Open Desert Diner. Chris Offutt’s The Killing Hills takes readers into rural Kentucky with a hero whose story will break your heart. Mick Hardin is a man trapped between his career and his personal life. He’s suffocating, but he’s hanging on. Mick Hardin is a combat veteran with time spent in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Now, he’s in the Criminal Invest The last book I read that used language so beautifully, so sparingly, and created such a vivid picture of a place, was James Anderson’s The Never-Open Desert Diner. Chris Offutt’s The Killing Hills takes readers into rural Kentucky with a hero whose story will break your heart. Mick Hardin is a man trapped between his career and his personal life. He’s suffocating, but he’s hanging on. Mick Hardin is a combat veteran with time spent in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Now, he’s in the Criminal Investigation Division, specializing in homicide. He’s the right man to help when his sister, Linda, a sheriff, needs assistance. But, he’s really home on family leave because his wife is about to give birth. However, he and his wife are barely speaking to each other, and he’s living out in his grandfather’s old cabin in the woods. Linda is the local sheriff in Morehead, Kentucky, but some of the locals aren’t happy that a woman is sheriff. When a widow is found dead, murdered, the bigshots see it as their chance to push Linda out of her first homicide investigation. They can call in the FBI, but Mick is Linda’s secret weapon. He knows the hills, the woods, and the local families. He understands respect for property, and, most of all, blood family. As long as he’s home, he’ll help her. He knows how betrayals and family feuds can lead to more death. “An eye for an eye” is more than a Biblical saying in this area. Mick and Linda aren’t the only ones looking for a killer. So is the family of the dead woman. When Mick starts to avoid calls from his commanding officer, Linda knows he’s in trouble. But, Mick knows he has to resolve the situation with his wife before he can move on. His easiest problem just might be the murder investigation, the case of the dead widow. Voice and language. Chris Offutt has a spare writing style that can create a memorable character, Mick Hardin, while also bringing rural Kentucky to life. If you’re looking for a thoughtful story, a vividly portrayed setting, a remarkable man who slips perfectly into his environment, try Chris Offutt’s The Killing Hills.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Feinen

    The writing brings the Kentucky hills and families to life. Mick arrives home from a tour- to his extremely pregnant wife. After a short affair, Peggy is unsure of the baby's paternity. Mick moves into his grandfather's old shack in the hills, needing space to think. His sister, the newly appointed Sheriff, asks for his help. Linda has a murder to solve - a local woman found on a hill. With Mick's help, they work to earn the trust of the community to share what they know. Enjoyable quick read, s The writing brings the Kentucky hills and families to life. Mick arrives home from a tour- to his extremely pregnant wife. After a short affair, Peggy is unsure of the baby's paternity. Mick moves into his grandfather's old shack in the hills, needing space to think. His sister, the newly appointed Sheriff, asks for his help. Linda has a murder to solve - a local woman found on a hill. With Mick's help, they work to earn the trust of the community to share what they know. Enjoyable quick read, short and doesn't waste words.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Offutt has written a terrific procedural set in the Kentucky hills. Mick's AWOL because he came home to see his pregnant wife Peggy not to help his sister Linda, the Sheriff but then Nonny is murdered and he's in the thick of it. Linda's had a junior FBI agent foisted in her but she'd rather Mick talk to the family and this leads him down the path into a full investigation. Who can he trust? Well, it turns out that not everyone is who they appear to be. And everyone is somehow related to someone Offutt has written a terrific procedural set in the Kentucky hills. Mick's AWOL because he came home to see his pregnant wife Peggy not to help his sister Linda, the Sheriff but then Nonny is murdered and he's in the thick of it. Linda's had a junior FBI agent foisted in her but she'd rather Mick talk to the family and this leads him down the path into a full investigation. Who can he trust? Well, it turns out that not everyone is who they appear to be. And everyone is somehow related to someone else. He's a great protagonist, as, btw, is Linda. Offut has also pulled off incredible atmospherics without purple prose- the writing is clear, sharp, and propulsive. This is a complex story that kept me guessing with characters that leap off the page. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. Can't recommend this more highly- an excellent read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Chris Offutt writes with confidence and authority about the people, culture, terrain and nature of the Kentucky hills. This book is clearly written and replete with vivid characters, anecdotes and insights concerning human nature. I found it to be an exceptionally satisfying read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Least Torque

    I appreciated some aspects of the characters and plot and setting and occasional humorous bits, but a lot of it felt cliched. And there just was not enough depth — it needed more words to make it feel like more than an outline. The point of view shifts and telling what so many people were thinking was disconcerting. So this was just ok for me, but I might try another by this author anyway.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jim Thomsen

    THE KILLING HILLS is Chris Offutt's transparent bid for the big time, and it shows, and that's mostly a good thing, but not always. In contrast to his wonderful COUNTRY DARk, his previous grit-lit outing, Offutt steers away in THE KILLING HILLS from a taciturn antihero to an off-the-rack series-ready *ss-kicker on the side of law enforcement, though this off-the-rack hero has a few intriguing wrinkles: he's AWOL from his Army criminal-investigation unit so he can deal with his estranged wife, wh THE KILLING HILLS is Chris Offutt's transparent bid for the big time, and it shows, and that's mostly a good thing, but not always. In contrast to his wonderful COUNTRY DARk, his previous grit-lit outing, Offutt steers away in THE KILLING HILLS from a taciturn antihero to an off-the-rack series-ready *ss-kicker on the side of law enforcement, though this off-the-rack hero has a few intriguing wrinkles: he's AWOL from his Army criminal-investigation unit so he can deal with his estranged wife, who is pregnant with a baby that may or may not be his. Or not deal; in the tradition of his rough-country bearing, he's a hardcore drinker. But, as a way of functioning while putting off his reckoning, he agrees to help out his sister, the appointed sheriff of their home county, with an investigation into a dead women who doesn't quite escape the deadly suction of Dead Girl Syndrome. In the tradition of Appalachian Noir, Mick Hardin is able to get to places his sister can't, being both a man and hometowner, by trading on his name and his gender, and manages to peel an onion of old grudges and traditions that won't quite die to arrive at the solution and allow justice of the roughest sort to play out in fairly satisfying faction, kicking *ss pretty seamlessly when he feels it's called for. Though the most interesting part of this journey is the reckoning he does eventually has wife his wife ; despite his other off-the-rack qualities, the wounded vulnerability Hardin displays here is rare in the context of off-the-rack *ss-kickers in grit-lit and elsewhere in crime fiction, and Offutt does heroic work in showing Hardin's deepest strength through his deepest weaknesses. That said, things arrive at a pretty underwhelming and predictable end, and by that end I couldn't help but thinking how much more interesting THE KILLING HILLS would have been had it put its weight behind the novel's most interesting character: Mick's sister Linda. Linda, the sheriff in a town that hews largely to old masculine and misogynist ways. Linda, who is as tart as she is smart. Linda, who maintains a distance from masculinity, toxic and otherwise. Linda, who keeps her deputies in effortless check and negotiates local shot-callers with low-key aplomb. But this is clearly meant to be Mick's franchise, and the deeper THE KILLING HILLS goes, the more Linda fades into the hollows, and her role is to be her big brother's booster shot: and step back when the story calls for it because A Man's Gotta Do What A Man's Gotta Do: "Linda liked this side of him, the concentration he brought to bear, an intensity of focus. She’d seen it in pool players, bow hunters, and computer coders." That said, THE KILLING HILLS accomplishes most of what it sets out to do, and Offutt, a deep-seeded native of the region, shows his love for the Kentucky hills on virtually every passage and page with literary heart and a cracked-skin kind of hard humor: "One day I looked up our family tree. A monkey sh*t on my face.” And another favorite: The flag depicted two men shaking hands, one in a dark suit, representing the state capital. The other figure was dressed in the fringed buckskins of a frontiersman. Kentucky’s official motto surrounded the men: 'United We Stand, Divided We Fall.' Mick had always considered the image absurd. No politican ever shook hands with an Appalachian except to consummate the theft of land and mineral rights." The bottom line: THE KILLING HILLS just plain works, and if it's something short of transcendent along the way, it's still better than most crime fiction out there, and I'm on board with whatever Chris Offutt comes out with next. Even if I'm a lot more interested in Linda Hardin than her brother.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Geha

    The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt Hill people in Kentucky have a biblical sense of law and order when it comes to family, vengeance, and family honor. An eye for an eye, a life for a life, a balancing act that some say never ceases. A murder investigation is not always required as the suspect is known as soon as a body is found BUT in the case of this story…an investigation is required and that has more than one person involved with people potentially stepping on one another’s toes. The local she The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt Hill people in Kentucky have a biblical sense of law and order when it comes to family, vengeance, and family honor. An eye for an eye, a life for a life, a balancing act that some say never ceases. A murder investigation is not always required as the suspect is known as soon as a body is found BUT in the case of this story…an investigation is required and that has more than one person involved with people potentially stepping on one another’s toes. The local sheriff has politicians, the FBI, local residents and, others to wade through and a brother Mick, a CID officer on leave, to call in for consultation. This is a who done it, police procedural, and dive into small town dynamics filled with politics, , drugs, infidelity, and more. What I liked: * Mick Hardin: military veteran, CID officer, husband, brother, native to the area, home on emergency family leave, worried about his wife and their relationship, intelligent, capable, lethal, cunning, strategic thinker, and has a lot to think about and come to terms with. * Linda Hardin: Mick’s sister, sheriff, loves her town and job, seems a bit at loose ends, wonder if she is truly capable if she had to call in her brother to assist. * Johnny Boy: deputy sheriff, talker, detail oriented, smarter than he appears * Mr. Tucker: elderly gentleman, harvester of ginseng, military veteran of Korean War, more than he appears to be. * The writing and plot * The sense of local culture and use of dialect * The realness of the conflict Mick was facing in regard to his wife and the issues they had to face * Jojo the mule (poor animal), * Wondering if this might be the first book in a series…though whether it would be a series about the community and Linda as she does her job OR about Mick and his military jobs is still a mystery. Perhaps it is a one and done. What I didn’t like: * What Joe found out when he went home and talked to his wife * The way the local politicians put their own interests first * Not knowing for sure what will happen to some of the characters I invested in while reading this story Did I enjoy this book? Yes Would I read more by this author? Yes Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the ARC – This is my honest review. 5 Stars

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller

    THE KILLING HILLS is part thriller, part bittersweet tribute to author Chris Offutt’s Appalachian roots. The curious mix of elegiac prose, violence and quirky humor delivers a vibrant yarn that keeps readers engaged right up until the last uplifting page. Mick Hardin, an Army CID agent who is on leave for the birth of his wife’s (though not his) first child, gets caught up in a murder investigation. Between sorting out his marital issues and details of the crime, Mick overstays his leave, thereby THE KILLING HILLS is part thriller, part bittersweet tribute to author Chris Offutt’s Appalachian roots. The curious mix of elegiac prose, violence and quirky humor delivers a vibrant yarn that keeps readers engaged right up until the last uplifting page. Mick Hardin, an Army CID agent who is on leave for the birth of his wife’s (though not his) first child, gets caught up in a murder investigation. Between sorting out his marital issues and details of the crime, Mick overstays his leave, thereby adding one more complication to his already messy life. Mick’s sister, Linda, is the sheriff of Rocksalt, a backwoods town in Kentucky where people are known by their family ties. When Mike asks one suspect if he’s “Big Joe or Little Joe?” the response is “Neither one. They’re my cousins. They call me Little Big Joe.” Linda asks for Mick’s help in finding out who killed Nonnie Johnson, a middle-aged woman whose body was discovered by an old man while hunting for ginseng plants in the woods. Mick has a remarkable facility for worming the truth out of people who prefer to keep their actions and motives to themselves, and there are many who have reason to hide both. Meanwhile, Nonnie’s family wants revenge, a local politician wants a scapegoat so that the investigation can be closed, and Linda wants credit for finding the killer. Whether Mike can satisfy all three is one of the propellants that keeps readers turning the pages of this slim but compelling work of literary suspense. Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael Cody

    For a reader like me, a book like THE KILLING HILLS confirms the feeling that Appalachia, much of it at least, is a place of a piece. The mountains of Offutt's Kentucky and the mountains I know from western North Carolina and east Tennessee feel like kindred places, and the people who populate this novel and those who populate my memories certainly close kin as well. I'd been grading essays on mythology and early American literature for 3-4 days, and when I finished a batch around noon, I promise For a reader like me, a book like THE KILLING HILLS confirms the feeling that Appalachia, much of it at least, is a place of a piece. The mountains of Offutt's Kentucky and the mountains I know from western North Carolina and east Tennessee feel like kindred places, and the people who populate this novel and those who populate my memories certainly close kin as well. I'd been grading essays on mythology and early American literature for 3-4 days, and when I finished a batch around noon, I promised myself a reward, which turned out to be reading the second half of THE KILLING HILLS straight through without stopping except for getting from one place to another and eat a little supper. It didn't take much for me to keep this promise, as the novel's pace is quick, without sacrificing the beauty of the language, and the characters are strong and real. I just hopped in the truck and rode along with Mick Hardin as he worked his way through the murder case and the puzzle of his life. I took little side trips with other characters who get their point-of-view moments, but Mick's the one who took me through the landscape and the relationships and the story. I haven't read Chris Offutt before this, but in addition to completing THE KILLING HILLS, I'm into the last third of MY FATHER, THE PORNOGRAPHER, which is likewise captivating. I'm a fan.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    A bit more than halfway through "The Killing Hills," Mitch Hardin observes that the Kentucky hill country is a "pretty place with a rough history." The man he's talking to, replies that there's "not a hill here you can't say that about." (p. 155) Those comments go right to the heart of a tremendous book that is so well written that I both slowed down reading it to savor the plot and language, and kept reading it almost nonstop because it had grabbed me by the throat. Mitch Hardin is a chief warra A bit more than halfway through "The Killing Hills," Mitch Hardin observes that the Kentucky hill country is a "pretty place with a rough history." The man he's talking to, replies that there's "not a hill here you can't say that about." (p. 155) Those comments go right to the heart of a tremendous book that is so well written that I both slowed down reading it to savor the plot and language, and kept reading it almost nonstop because it had grabbed me by the throat. Mitch Hardin is a chief warrant officer in the Army CID, having stormed the castle, as they say, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Having returned home on emergency leave to deal with his wife's situation, which is delicate (as is his return), he also unofficially helps his sister, the county sheriff facing an election deal with a murder and the demands for a quick and dirty resolution from the local fat cats. Any murder, or any wrong, for that matter, requires vengeance according to the code of the hills. So avoiding either a vengeance killing or a stitch job on a convenient innocent goes to the heart of Mitch's job, whereas his wife requires an equally careful approach. He is a very smart, very tough piece of work steeped in local knowledge and in CID investigative procedures. Offutt is an excellent writer who reminds me a bit of Daniel Woodrell, only a shade better (which is saying something). "The Killing Hills" is as good a novel, much less thriller or Southern noir, that I have read. Ever.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nono

    3.5 stars. Hard to know what to say about this one. It was paced well, a quick read. Good use of dialogue with (presumably) authentic Kentucky “holler” slang pepped throughout. The story is a pretty basic whodunit murder with a bit of drugs and corruption thrown in. Not thrilling enough to be a thriller, not dark and seedy enough to be a noir, not macabre enough to be “southern/hillbilly gothic.” The author paints a nice picture, there’s a bit of regional and atmospheric charm that helps give this f 3.5 stars. Hard to know what to say about this one. It was paced well, a quick read. Good use of dialogue with (presumably) authentic Kentucky “holler” slang pepped throughout. The story is a pretty basic whodunit murder with a bit of drugs and corruption thrown in. Not thrilling enough to be a thriller, not dark and seedy enough to be a noir, not macabre enough to be “southern/hillbilly gothic.” The author paints a nice picture, there’s a bit of regional and atmospheric charm that helps give this fairly basic plot a bit of a literary edge. It was good enough that I would try another Chris Offut book but I was somewhat disappointed that the stakes weren’t that high. It lacked tension. I wanted more cold-hearted, bloodthirsty revenge and overall it was fairly tepid. There are some laughs, and a scene or two of “military man gets the better of backwoods criminals,” but I wanted more action. More conflict. The writing was strong enough to carry me to the end but at 75 percent of the way through I also stopped caring what would happen to these one-dimensional characters.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Chris Offutt showed up on my Kindle. Didn't stick around long, just wanted to say his piece and be on his way, but it was an all right visit. Told a good story, made some important points about the importance of trying to forgive even when it's impossible, created some decent atmosphere by contrasting the beauty of the Kentucky hills with the ugliness of at least some lives lived in them. He didn't throw in all that many twists, but I reckon his objective is to portray the world like it is, not Chris Offutt showed up on my Kindle. Didn't stick around long, just wanted to say his piece and be on his way, but it was an all right visit. Told a good story, made some important points about the importance of trying to forgive even when it's impossible, created some decent atmosphere by contrasting the beauty of the Kentucky hills with the ugliness of at least some lives lived in them. He didn't throw in all that many twists, but I reckon his objective is to portray the world like it is, not doll it up with a whole bunch of unlikely betrayals and crazy coincidences. Always good to see him, I like the sound of his voice, but he always takes off a little too early like he's afraid of wearing out his welcome. Funny how more boring novelists never think that way. Maybe he's trying to set an example. Anyway, if "The Killing Hills" shows up on your Kindle sometimes soon, I think you night get something out of it. Hell, even if you don't, won't take up too much of your time, at least.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian Grover

    I loved this book. It's a whodunit set in the hollers of eastern Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains, and Mick Hardin is a criminal investigator for the US Army who's home on leave to see his wife, who is pregnant with a kid that may or may not be his. When a dead body turns up, his sister the sheriff enlists his help in tracking down the killer. By which I mean basically she just steps back and lets him solve the case by himself. The setting immediately made me think of Justified, the Elmore Leonar I loved this book. It's a whodunit set in the hollers of eastern Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains, and Mick Hardin is a criminal investigator for the US Army who's home on leave to see his wife, who is pregnant with a kid that may or may not be his. When a dead body turns up, his sister the sheriff enlists his help in tracking down the killer. By which I mean basically she just steps back and lets him solve the case by himself. The setting immediately made me think of Justified, the Elmore Leonard book which was adapted into a fantastic TV series. And Hardin has a lot of the fun breeziness of Raylan Givens, who you knew going into any fracas would walk out without a hair out of place, having subdued the bad guys. Although he's some combination of hungover and depressed for most of the book, every scene with Hardin is a pleasure to read. The settings are evocative, and Offutt's prose is pure fun. Will definitely read more of his stuff.

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