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Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Killing Hills

by Chris Offutt

Acclaimed literary author Chris Offutt now delivers a breakout novel — The Killing Hills, a literary crime novel set in the Kentucky hills in which an Army CID agent on leave ends up investigating a murder and setting the secretive holler clans on edge

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date June 15, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5841-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date June 07, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5987-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date June 15, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5842-0
  • US List Price $26.00

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.

Tags Literary

Praise for The Killing Hills:

Summer Reading List 2021, Deep South Magazine

“True page-turner.”—Caroline Leavitt, AARP

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

“[The Killing Hills has] deftly plotted short chapters, fast-moving story line, minimal characterizations and strong regional atmosphere.”—Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times Book Review 

“This is not your typical murder mystery . . . A pleasure to read . . .  Offutt’s gift for nature writing imbues his tale with a rich sense of majesty that provides a sharp counterpoint to the tragedies that unfold.”—Suzanne Van Atten, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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.”—Lorraine W. Shanley, bookreporter.com

“Chris Offutt’s novel The Killing Hills is a work of brilliant Southern noir.”Largehearted Boy

“Loyalty and betrayal slide back and forth in this tightly plotted, immaculately paced novel . . . The Killing Hills probes the darkness in both land and families, along with the limits of forgiveness. It’s not just a fine and unforgettable crime novel. It’s a heartbreak and a bond.”—New York Journal of Books

“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.”—South Florida Sun Sentinel

“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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Acclaimed Kentucky writer Offutt [delivers] another fine example of what might be called holler noir . . . In place of plot convolutions, Offutt offers those of Appalachian folkways. The result is a fast-paced, satisfying read. Rural crime fiction that kicks like a mule.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Offutt superbly blends classic country noir and character study, [with] both great sadness and understated humor.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Quite aside from being one of our finest storytellers, in his first crime novel Chris Offutt reminds us as always of how much we’ve pushed away from us—the natural world, kindness, community—and that the time will come when we reach again and it’s no longer there for the asking.”—James Sallis

“Chris Offutt’s The Killing Hills is a tense, thoroughly engaging read exposing a Kentucky hill country peppered with deceptive decency, deflecting manners and deadly trip wires all just waiting to snag the Army CID boots of Offutt’s formidable hero, Mick Hardin. A relentless story crafted with elegance, empathy and propulsive suspense.”—Stephen Mack Jones, author of the August Snow series

Praise for Chris Offutt:

“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

“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

“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

“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