“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 honour, with an investigator-hero unlike any in fiction.”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt. The Killing Hills was published by No Exit Press on 23rd November 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Killing Hills but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Hollie at No Exit Press for sending me a finished copy.
Upon seeing The Killing Hills for the first time I knew I had to read it. I am such a huge fan of small town literary crime thrillers and this one looked to tick all of the boxes. That feeling you get in your gut that tells you that you can’t let a particular book pass you by? Yup, that’s what I felt. So as soon as The Killing Hills arrived at damppebbles HQ, I got stuck in. I just couldn’t resist. And I savoured every second I spent with this beautifully written mystery.
Mick Hardin is home from the army to sort out a few personal problems he’s having when his sheriff sister, Linda, ropes him in to help with her first murder investigation. Mick, a combat veteran now working with Army CID, has the hands on experience Linda lacks. As the investigation progresses and his marriage spirals out of control, Mick is drawn deeper and deeper into the closed Kentucky hill community he left behind years ago. Can Mick solve the murder before the killer strikes again…?
This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it certainly won’t be the last. I was transported to another world thanks to Offutt’s vivid imagery, his standout characters and his clear love of the Kentucky hills. I’m very much a ‘character’ reader. I like the characters in the novels I read to stand tall from the page. But I also love a setting that becomes as much a part of the story as the characters themselves. Where the characters and the setting are weighted almost equally. And Offutt does exactly that in The Killing Hills.
With pressure on Linda from outside the community to solve the murder, Mick uses his years of experience to assist her in the investigation. The brother/sister bond these two have makes for a very enjoyable read. The well placed digs, the history held between the two of them, the obvious admiration. The retorts, the hard hitting truths no one else would dare speak, the perfectly placed moments of humour. I really warmed to both characters and I hope this is not the last we see of them.
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Killing Hills ticked all the boxes for me and I relished every moment I spent in the Kentucky hills. I loved the community and the constant dead ends Mick faced as the hill folk closed ranks. Only by Mick using his own knowledge of local life was he able to chip away at the truth and make gradual progress. Marvellous stuff! The mystery aspect of the novel was wonderfully intriguing and I was at a loss as to whodunit. I also really enjoyed the sub-plot of Mick’s failing marriage and it’s unexpected spin. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read which I recommend.
I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Killing Hills. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt was published in the UK by No Exit Press on 23rd November 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |
Chris Offutt is the author of the short-story collections Kentucky Straight and Out of the Woods, the novels The Good Brother, Country Dark and The Killing Hills, and three memoirs: The Same River Twice, No Heroes, and My Father, the Pornographer. His work has appeared in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays, among many other places. He has written screenplays for Weeds, True Blood, and Treme, and has received fellowships from the Lannan and Guggenheim foundations.