Mick Hardin, an agent in the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), is back home in the Kentucky hills as The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt begins. Home on leave with a family problem that is not going to get fixed by drinking himself to sleep each night, he is at his grandfather’s place. That makes it easy for his sister, the new sheriff, to find him.

Mike knows that Linda did not come out in full uniform, in the county vehicle, and waited around while he pulled himself together to face the new day, to pay a social call. He knows she wants something, and that whatever it is, it has to be important. She does and it is important.


She has a three-day old murder to solve. The big shots that run things don’t like having a female sheriff and are angling to use the murder to get rid of her. The investigation is going nowhere. Normally when somebody is killed in the local area, everybody pretty much knows who did it and why. Not in this case as the murder was not a drug killing, a vendetta, or a property dispute.


Veronica “Nonnie” Johnson was a 43-year-old widow who everybody liked. She wasn’t dealing drugs or using them. She wasn’t mixed up with bad people. She was doing everything right, it seems, and yet somebody killed her and threw her down a nearby hillside like she was a bag of trash.


Sheriff Linda Hardin wants Mick to act as an unofficial investigator. He has the skills thanks to being ARMY CID. He is good at his job. He also knows the people of Eldridge County better than she does. Here it matters who your kinfolk is and who you know. Mick Hardin knows a lot of people as well as how to navigate the land where addresses and roads are not always marked. The good Sherriff is well aware that folks will talk to her brother when they never would say a word to her or any other cop. The work might also force him to lay off the booze and address the marital problem at hand.


Many folks prove her assessment correct as Mick starts investigating while dealing with his own demons and personal problems in The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt.


Written in a sparse style in terms of dialogue and description, the author keeps sentences short while painting a vivid and intense picture of the land and its people. Some authors have the talent to clearly appreciate the land and its people. Tricia Fields does with the Big Bend region of Texas. Steven F. Havill does with southeastern New Mexico. Chris Offutt clearly does with Eastern Kentucky.


Part mystery and part crime fiction read, things get complicated and yet are simple as everything boils down to the concept of betrayal. Perceived or actual, the idea of betrayal drives nearly everything in this complex and very enjoyable read.


The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt is a bit different than most such books you will read. It is also highly recommended.





My reading copy came from my childhood library that looks radically different these days, the Audelia Branch, of the Dallas Public Library System. Then again, so do I.



Kevin R. Tipple ©2021

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