Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Shifty’s Boys

by Chris Offutt

Army-CID-officer-cum-unofficial-PI Mick Hardin is up against unforeseen forces who will stop at nothing in this vividly atmospheric thriller from acclaimed novelist Chris Offutt

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date June 13, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6175-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date June 07, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5998-4
  • Dimensions 5.50" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date June 07, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5999-1
  • US List Price $27.00

Chris Offutt is a literary master across genres, and his most recent novel The Killing Hills was one of his most successful, earning him a new audience and earning praise from the likes of The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Crime Reads. His latest book, Shifty’s Boys, is a compelling, propulsive thriller of murder and mayhem in the hills of eastern Kentucky.

Mick Hardin is home on leave, recovering from an IED attack, when a body is found in the center of town. It’s Barney Kissick, the local heroin dealer, and the city police see it as an occupational hazard. But when Barney’s mother, Shifty, asks Mick to take a look, it seems there’s more to the killing than it seems. Mick should be rehabbing his leg, signing his divorce papers, and getting out of town—and most of all, staying out of the way of his sister Linda’s reelection as Sheriff—but he keeps on looking, and suddenly he’s getting shot at himself.

A dark, pacy crime novel about grief and revenge, and the surprises hidden below the surface, Shifty’s Boys is a tour de force that confirms Chris Offutt’s Mick Hardin as one of the most appealing new investigators in fiction.

Tags Literary

Praise for Shifty’s Boys:

Deadly Pleasures Pick for Best of Southern Noir 2022

“The writing is top-notch, shot through with menace and melancholy.”—Sarah Weinman, New York Times Book Review

“Righteous Kentucky noir with top notes of Daniel Woodrell and SA Cosby. I gulped it down, relishing the burn.”—Ian Rankin

“Rich in atmospherics and a master-class in the craft of crime fiction… Offutt has created a wildly compelling private eye series full of memorable characters, drawn with an observant eye and passion for local terrain.”—Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads

“Another excellent Mick Hardin thriller set in rural eastern Kentucky… Come for the thriller, by all means; it delivers nicely. But stay for, and linger in, the marvelous incidentals and atmospherics: arguments about mall names; lore about snakes and birds and mushrooms; descriptions of a local shade-tree tinkerer’s Slinky-like version of a perpetual motion machine. Terrific characters; taut suspense. Another winner from Offutt.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“This is country noir at its most powerful, combining cracking action with crystalline portraits of rough-hewn but savvy characters tragically forced to become ‘retribution killers’ to stop yet another cycle of violence.”—Bill Ott, Booklist, starred review

“Readers will appreciate the novel’s respectful portrayal of the contemporary South as they ride along with Mick on his fair-minded, almost spiritual quest to root out the truth. Fans of contemporary small-town mysteries will look forward to Offutt’s next.”—Publishers Weekly

“In elegant, economical prose, Shifty’s Boys is an accomplished addition to the ranks of country noir.”—Val McDermid, author of 1989

“With The Killing Hills and now Shifty’s Boys, Chris Offutt has launched a fantastic and compelling new crime novel series, and as a reader you may come to these books for the murders and the mysteries, rendered as they are with great page-turning style and thrilling action, but there’s even more at work here. These books are also about a place and its people, and the result is a vivid portrait infused with insight and wisdom, humanity and affection. I eagerly await the next Mick Hardin!”—Jonathan Ames, author of A Man Named Doll

Shifty’s Boys is a tale of vengeance that asks difficult questions about the nature and value of honor, every line delivered with the relentless efficiency of a wolf stripping meat from a bone. In Mick Hardin, Chris Offutt has created a complex, brooding hero, a man whose moral code was hewn from Kentucky hill-country rock. As his world turns darker and dirtier by the minute, once the brutal work is done, we are left with only a few words. More Mick, please.”—Christopher J. Yates, author of Grist Mill Road

“How can it be that after just two of Chris Offutt’s Mick Hardin novels I love a bunch of the characters like they were my own family? I’m not even from Kentucky. And how can it be that these books are as thrilling and funny as a great crime show yet still exhibit the scraped, lean vernacular sentences readers of Offutt’s short fiction have come to admire? Here’s hoping Hardin rides for a good long while.”—Jonathan Lethem

“Chris Offutt’s mastery of sense of place is still in full bloom… It’s a contemporary western, and in westerns primal feelings win out and revenge tastes of blood and loneliness.”—James OwenThe Times (UK)

Shifty’s Boys is an economical, richly imagined crime story . . . [A] rare rural noir thriller.”—Deadly Pleasures

“In just two relatively short novels, Chris Offutt has made me a dedicated fan of this series which I will eagerly read as each new episode comes out. Write faster, Chris.”—Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine

“Offutt has written a propulsive literary thriller with an intricate plot that tests Hardin’s mettle throughout the book. His characters are true to the area, and his keen eye for the local setting transports the reader to Appalachia. Let’s hope Offutt’s hills don’t change in his next Mick Hardin novel, so we can revisit Rocksalt, Kentucky, very soon.”—Wayne Catan, Chapter 16

“A riveting thrill ride.”—Deep South Magazine

“Offutt loves his characters enough to give them life. With them, we can grieve or laugh… Offutt’s novel is replete with details that brand the humanity pictured within as real, because you can’t make this stuff up.”—Cathy Downs, Reviewing the Evidence

“Offutt has really hit his stride in this second installment. I could not flip the pages fast enough.”—Vick Mickunas, Book Nook

“Everyman thriller with a slice of rural noir . . . Offutt skillfully [balances] visceral description, tight dialogue and rattling action into a breakneck-paced, utterly enthralling total package.”—Doug Johnstone, Big Issue (UK)

Praise for The Killing Hills:

“The fine dark art of the noir simile springs from the amoral beauty of the Icelandic sagas, flows forward in time through the savant, poetic solecisms of Raymond Chandler, and drains into the rich, black soil of Chris Offutt’s high holler novels . . . The Killing Hills is vividly evocative . . . A riveting, page-turning package.”—Literary Hub

“[A] work of rural noir whose characters’ singular codes lead to constant surprises.”—Wall Street Journal

“True page-turner.”—Caroline Leavitt, AARP (“5 Gripping New Thrillers”)

The Killing Hills is a potent mix of magnificent prose and uncompromising honesty. It has the resonance of a murder ballad and the deeply existential themes of an epic poem. Its voice will linger in your mind long after the final page is turned.”—S.A. Cosby, author of Blacktop Wasteland

“A story full of feuds, rivalries, and crimes hiding in plain sight, The Killing Hills is as poignant and powerful as they come.”CrimeReads

“If I had read this in 2021 when it came out, The Killing Hills would have been on my list of best mysteries that year.”—Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine

“Few writers today can boast of a body of work as wide-ranging and virtuosic as Offutt’s. His novels and short stories bend genres and upend expectations . . . In all of his work, Offutt combines literary artistry with narrative momentum. The Killing Hills is no exception: A taut, gripping thriller, it also draws us deep into the lives of its troubled characters with wit, compassion, and insight . . . The same knack for propulsion, characterization, and snappy dialogue that made Chris Offutt a natural for Hollywood are on ample display in The Killing Hills. The sentences and chapters are crisp and crackling, the mood and tone dark and ominous but not devoid of humor. Put simply, the man knows how to keep the pages turning . . . The result is a novel that, like fine Kentucky bourbon, goes down easy and leaves a long, lingering burn.”—Ed Tarkington, Chapter 16

“What matters is how Offutt tells the tale, and it is done masterfully. . . . He cares about people, even ones who are damned to make terrible decisions, and does not inflict a fatalistic vision of the world upon us. . . . The deck is stacked, but it’s in the nature of people to try anyway, damnation be damned. That’s what we have in The Killing Hills, and it makes for a very entertaining read that will stay with you. I look forward to returning to these hills, or if not, at least to whatever Chris Offutt writes next.”—​Vautrin

“Everyone should be reading Chris Offutt.”—Garth Greenwell

“Dark, but deeply humane. The love in this book is deep and powerful. And winsome twinkles shine through the blackness throughout, thanks in no small part to Offutt’s keen ear and eye.”—Smith Henderson, New York Times

“Offutt impressively inhabits this impoverished, fiercely private world without condescension or romance, fashioning a lean, atmospheric story that moves fluidly between the extremes of violence and love . . . Offutt is such a measured and unexcitable stylist that the story never wallows in the grotesque . . . [A] fine homage to a pocket of the country that’s as beautiful as it is prone to tragedy.”Wall Street Journal

“Offutt’s spare prose throws the life — and lives — of a tightly knit Eastern Kentucky community into sharp relief.”—Daneet Steffens, Boston Globe

“Offutt captures the nuances of those who call this part of eastern Kentucky home . . . Crisp dialogue, bits of humor, an evocative look at the region and a stalwart hero elevate The Killing Hills.”Oline H. Cogdill, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Praise for Country Dark:

“Chris Offutt’s work about mountain life earns high praise from other writers, and Country Dark, his return to fiction, is entirely welcome and a pleasure all around . . . . Offutt writes so well, with such deep knowledge of the language and people, that Country Dark is likely to be read straight through, no resting places.”—Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone

Country Dark is such a strong work, one hopes we won’t have to wait nearly as long for additional fiction from his pen . . . Offutt’s prose is sharp and the noir tone of the book never wavers. Even more importantly, his dialogue, shaped by the dialect of the region, rings true. Country Dark may read like a mythical epic, but its characters feel wholly real.”Cedar Rapids Gazette

“[Chris Offutt] writes so well and knows the people and places he writes about . . . [and] he has the ability to enter the minds of his characters. Country Dark is a heart-wrenching story of a man who is caught between violence and his love. It is the story of a man who knows how to use violence to protect his love and dignity. This is one of those stay-up-all-night novels we all yearn for.”Washington Book Review

“Like the late, great Larry Brown and the late, great William Gay, Chris Offutt delivers a hardscrabble, mythic South with a laconic voice that turns sly to describe the follies of Man . . . Country Dark is a smart, rich country noir.”—Stewart O’Nan, author of Henry, Himself

“If Tucker is a man of few words neither are there wasted words in Chris Offutt’s bang-bang second novel, Country Dark . . . [Offutt is] a refined, versatile writer, sometimes impish, always ecumenical, never snobbish . . . He scatters little halos of earthy metaphor … locates dark prophecy in shades of detail . . . [and] has a great ear for humorous rural chatter.”Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“There are very few things that are worth waiting for . . . Let us add new fiction from author Chris Offutt to that short list . . . Country Dark is exquisitely plotted and wonderfully told . . . This is one of those books that reminds us why we constantly read, which is the hope of discovering a work such as this that succeeds on all imaginable levels as well as a few unexpected ones.”Book Reporter

“It’s been nearly 20 years since Offutt’s Out of the Woods (1999), and his return to fiction will be celebrated by all readers of country noir . . . Tucker is a true existential hero, facing his circumscribed world directly and acting with unflinching determination. His story, like the work of Daniel Woodrell, is both heartrendingly painful and unsentimentally uplifting.”Booklist

“A lean, mean meditation on family, boundaries, and what a good man will do to protect the ones he loves. In this blood-and whiskey-soaked landscape, I’m reminded of both Faulkner and Steve Earle. A morality tale where grit and heart hold equal weight.”Ace Atkins, author of The Revelators

Country Dark is a taut, well-constructed novel easily consumed in one sitting.”Shelf Awareness

“Chris Offutt has crafted a whole new kind of book—steeped in elements of noir and rich cinematic devices—brimming with characters that are simultaneously realistic while also mythical in the best, bigger-than-real-life kind of way. Country Dark is a perfect balance of wonderful language and pulsing action. I couldn’t put it down.”Silas House, author of Southernmost

“I’ve waited nearly twenty years for another novel by Chris Offutt, and boy is Country Dark worth it! From its excellent title to its last page, this one will pull you in and immerse you in the lives of its myriad characters . . . Offutt is a terrific writer with impressive range.”—Thomas Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Country Dark is grim and funny and touching. It’s a crime story, a novel of backwoods manners, and a family saga. It’s many things at once, all of them great. Masterful descriptions of the natural world bump up against scenes of shocking violence, and you’re left in awe, wondering how the hell Chris Offutt managed to pull this book off.”Richard Lange, author of The Smack

“In Offutt’s first work of fiction since 1997’s The Good Brother, the award-winning author delivers a rich, compelling story of hardscrabble Kentucky mountain life while showing deep empathy for his careworn characters.”Library Journal (starred review)

“A Southern gothic story . . . Offutt has a fine ear for Kentucky-speak . . . that capture[s] the rhythms of rural conversation . . . Tucker is a knotty and complex character . . . A compelling and brooding read.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Offutt’s exceptional new novel (following his memoir My Father, the Pornographer) brings to light with gritty, heartfelt precision what one character, a social worker, calls the ‘two Kentuckys, east and west, dirt and blacktop.’ . . . Offutt’s prose cuts deep and sharp . . . An undeniable testament to the importance and clarity of Offutt’s voice in contemporary American literature.”Publishers Weekly

“[Offutt’s] bleak, savage depictions of rural down-and-outers combine the literary style of James Dickey with the noir chops of Daniel Woodrell. He has a well-deserved reputation as a writer’s writer. . . Tense and atmospheric, Country Dark is firmly rooted in time and place, with the verisimilitude expected from a writer who has made the shadowy hills of Kentucky his own.”BookPage

“In this, his seventh book, Offutt (Country Dark, 2018) captures the nuances of those who call this part of Eastern Kentucky home, their dislike of strangers, their resilience and their tendency to take the law into their own hands. His work is marked by crisp dialogue, bits of humor, an evocative look at the region and a stalwart hero.” —Oline H. Cogdill, Virginian-Pilot