Cover Image: Shifty's Boys

Shifty's Boys

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Member Reviews

I loved the characters and the setting of this book. The plot was great.  I look forward to the next installment. 
Many thanks to Grove Atlantic and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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It's Chris Offutt, it's Mick Hardin and the dark contradictions of the commonwealth of Kentucky....

Mr Offutt is one of the best wordsmiths in the US today and I'll never get enough of his gorgeous prose and  bottomless imagination. 
It was simply fabulous! 

Many thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this fabulous novel!
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A story caught in the hills of Kentucky. Much Hardin is home recovering, ending his marriage and trying to stay under the wire, when a body of left I the center of town. His sister doesn’t want or need his help as she seeks re-election. But when Mick becomes the target, his mother suggests sitting still is not an option.
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BLURB: "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."

I absolutely loved this book! It's the exact type of crime/mystery novel I prefer... Fast paced, lean narrative, fully realized characters, not a lot of romantic "entanglements", thoughtful but not ponderous. The story doesn't get sidetracked - everything relates either to the ongoing situation or the characters' mindset(s); though not always in an obvious way. Sort of a thinking-person's action/adventure story.

Mick Hardin is home, on leave from the military, rehabilitating from an injury suffered in combat. He's getting bored, restless, strung-out on pain pills, and working on his sister's last nerve (she's running for re-election as county Sheriff). He gets a summons from an unexpected source: "Shifty", the matriarch of a Hillbilly family that Hardin's clashed with in the past. Her drug dealing son has turned up dead and she figures that since Hardin is more or less one of their own she can trust him to look into it (she definitely doesn't trust the local authorities). Hardin accepts as much to help himself out of his funk as anything else. He starts making progress in both himself and the investigation, and that's when it all starts to get real... and dangerous.

This is the second in a series, but since it's the first one I've read, indeed, the first thing I've ever read by this author, I can say with certainty that it works well as a stand-alone. At first I avoided this novel, the premise just sounded too generic - too standard formula - I was wrong. 

After reading this one I will be going back and reading the first, the author takes what sounds like a generic "country/hillbilly noir" set-up and opens it up as a window into how insular communities work in larger society; rural justice, drug culture, and especially from the perspective of someone who has gone out into the greater world and returned with a broader sense of what is and isn't possible. And all the while keeping it entertaining to the reader.

Rating: 5-stars. Highly recommended for all rural/country/hillbilly noir fans, as well as those who just plain enjoy a good crime fiction tale.
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I liked Offut’s earlier books but was not really moved by this one. Seemed formulaic hillbilly noir-never generated much suspense and was not very fast paced. Offut can write and knows his subject matter but this one just didnt have it. I will continue to read him though and suggest you do as well. And you may like this one.
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Mick Hardin is back home again this time though he is recovering from an IED explosion and knowing that he is taking too many pain pills. He can do something about the pills. He still must also either talk to his wife in sign the divorce papers or? Right, he has a lot on his mind. One night there is a body found in the middle of town a drug pusher’s body and people just chalk it up to that. But Barney’s mom who lives up in the hills and Mick knows of wants him to look into her son's death she does not think it was another druggie pushing their way in. Mick agrees and here the story takes you on a ride throughout the hills through their small town, to then eventually Detroit. This story all works and you the reader are surprised once you get to the end. The characters are all good and the story is wonderful and an excellent read.
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Shifty’s Boys by Chris Offutt
Mick Hardin #2

Excellent and a perfectly written second book in a wonderful series. I loved book one and loved this one two. 

What I liked: 
* Mick Hardin: Army CID officer, born and bred in the hills the story is set in, knows the culture, has strong feelings, interesting moral compass, injured and healing, there for those he cares about, intelligent, lethal, someone I would want on my side, intriguing, want to know more about him.
* Raymond Kissick: Oldest brother, ex-marine, home for brothers’ funerals, loving son, has secrets, intelligent, deadly, intriguing
* Linda Hardin: Mick’s sister, sheriff running for election, complex, hope to see more of her in the future
* Deputy Johnny Boy Tolliver: talker, detailed, good man and great supporting character
* Sandy: divorced, dispatcher, part of the community, wonder if she is a love interest or a passing moment in time for one of the characters
* The writing, pacing, setting, and plot
* That I was drawn in more and more as I read
* The way the clues were eked out to present the bigger picture
* Mick’s ability to find answers then keep safe those he cared for…mostly
* The shades of gray and how they played into the story
* That it was easy to dislike the bad guys
* It seemed believable and real
* Hoping that there will be a third book in the series

What I didn’t like: 
* Who and what I was meant not to like
* Knowing that there are crimes and criminals out there like the ones in this book

Did I enjoy this book? Yes
Would I read more in this series? Definitely

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the ARC – This is my honest review.

5 Stars
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"He'd regret it tomorrow when he wanted one, but the regrets were piled up like cordwood everywhere he looked." "Shifty's Boys" by Chris Offutt is a terrific read, fast paced with excellent AND funny characters. Mick is back home, managing a bum leg and sadness of his pending divorce. Living with his sister, who is running for sheriff, isn't much fun either. He tries to be useful ("Inactivity was his nemesis") and/or stay out of the way. I really liked Mick and how he handles himself, he's smart, observant and has a big heart. Well done, highly recommend. 

P.S. Thanks to #EdelweissPlus and #netgalley for the ARC.
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Mick can hardly get off his sister Linda's couch.  Between his leg injury and his depression over his impending divorce and other things, the Army CID officer has more or less stepped out of life.  And then Sifty Kissick asks for his help.  The matriarch of a Kentucky minor crime family, she's upset that no one is looking into the murder of her son Barney-seeing him only as a drug dealer.  Mick agrees to take the case and what he finds is a surprise to everyone.  This is a twisty, atmospheric novel that might well remind you of Justified. Linda,  who was appointed to be Sheriff, is now running for the job (love her campaign efforts).  Mick enlists a variety of people in his quest to find Barney's killer but this, unfortunately, doesn't bode well for all of them.  This one kept me guessing, with ups and downs and red herrings.  I was a huge fan of The Killing Hills but I think this is even better.  Don't worry if you missed that one-this will be fine as a standalone.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Great storytelling.  Highly recommend.
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"Death was a force of social leveling in the hills, a provider of intricate respect."

Shifty was my favorite character from the previous book in this series, "The Killing Hills."  Try as I might, I could not stop picturing her played by Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett, my favorite character from "Justified."

These are not women to be trifled with . . .

When one of Shifty's sons is murdered, the cops put it down as a "drug deal gone wrong." Mick Hardin suspects there was another reason, and is determined to find out what really happened. Getting the score from these tight-lipped hill people is a different story.

"Snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches shitting their britches."

It's really not necessary to have read the first book, but read it sometime, as you don't want to miss out.

Another fine, compelling tale by one of my very favorite authors.
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I had hoped for a sequel to “The Killing Hills” and I was not disappointed by this book. While this book can be read as a standalone, you will get a much clearer picture of Mick Hardin and his Kentucky home town if you read the prior book. Now Mick is almost recovered from wounds he received while serving as an Army CID agent. Shifty is the mother of three grown sons, including Barney, a drug dealer. When Barney is found murdered, the local police don’t seem to care much about solving the crime, so Shifty asks Mick to help. The character of Shifty is not fleshed out very much.  She could have used some backstory and only one of her sons played a significant role in the book. 

This author is very good at writing rural noir. There is a real sense of place. The only action occurs near the end of the book, but the characters, relationships and dialogue are what bring the story to life. It doesn’t seem like there will be another Nick Hardin book, but I’ll read the author’s next book anyway. 

I received free copies of this audiobook and ebook from the publisher.
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Chris Offutt introduced Mick Hardin, Army CID soldier home on leave, in The Killing Hills. Now, Mick Hardin is back in the hills of eastern Kentucky recovering from a leg wound in Shifty’s Boys. Once again, the bodies are stacking up as Mick works to find the murderer.

Offutt excels at characters, dialogue, and setting. He gives us local characters with all their entertaining quirkiness speaking in the cadence and colorful language of Appalachia. Offutt never wastes a moment to immerse us in the setting with keen observations of the natural beauty and wildlife of the area. 

Like melted butter on warm cornbread, a new book by Chris Offutt is always satisfyingly good.
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Another great book by Chris Offutt. This is the second book , following The Killing Hills. I have been a fan of Chris' since the beginning. He writes southern grit lit like nobody's business. You can tell he truly grew up in our area and knew the people. Appalachian stories are great if they are written by people who do their research or actually came from the Appalachian area. I hope he continues this story line. I love the characters and want to see how the protagonist grows.
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An Army CID expert gets injured in an explosion in Afghanistan. He returns home to recover, officially end his marriage and finds himself involved in the murders of Shifty's boys. He must live with his sister who is running for election for the office of sheriff in the small hometown in the Kentucky hills of Appalachia. The book is full of the dialogue of the area, norms of behavior, and crime. Shifty has one remaining son who returns home to comfort his mother and partners with the Army expert to solve the murders and enact revenge. 
The characters in this book were myriad and interesting and the plot was as well. If you can tolerate the dialogue, references to the norms of the area, military-style fighting, and sometimes overdone characterizations it is a pretty good book.  Thanks to #NetGalley#Shifty'sBoys for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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If you’ve been missing the TV series, Justified, Chris Offutt’s got you covered. This is the second book in this series (start with The Killing Hills). Could be read alone, but better in order. For fans of Brian Panowich, and SA Crosby.
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Shifty’s Boys by Chris Offutt picks up a bit after The Killing Hills and begins with the local taxi driver, Albin, finding a body. At first, he thinks he has found somebody passed out from drinking way too much. Has happened before in Rocksalt, Kentucky, so he is not very concerned as he sees the odd shape up against the fence in the parking lot of the local Western Auto. It is only when he gets out of the cab and walks towards the male figure, he realizes that it is not mud on the man’s clothes, but blood. 

Mick Harden is home on medical leave thanks to an IED attack that nearly killed him. It didn’t. Getting divorced, once he signs the paperwork, might kill him. The pain pill addiction he has might as well. Staying at his mom’s house, now owned by his sister, Linda Hardin, the sheriff, might also kill him. While she cares about him, they don’t get along that well in the best of times, With him home on medical leave and dealing with pain, grief, and trauma, and her running for election, these certainly are not the best of times.

He does not know it, but he really needs a project to do while he continues his painful rehab for his leg injury. Mick thinks too much and he needs something to do that will fully occupy his mind as he works to rehab the leg, wean himself off the painkillers, and deal with moving forward. 

That project will soon be investigating the death at Western Auto on behalf of Mrs. Kissick. It was her son, Barney, who was found dead. While Mick and Mrs. Kissick, also known as “Shifty,” have history and were not on very good terms the last time they spoke, she needs help. She wants Mick because she knows that his being a miliary cop will come in handy as the case is stagnated.

Local police know that drugs probably were involved, but beyond that, they have zero clues or any ideas as to what happened. Shifty knows full well that drugs might have been involved as that is the family business. She also knows that it was not a drug deal gone wrong, like the local police think, as Barney never did business in the city. They had a rule about that. 

The city cops figure a drug dealer got what he had coming and can’t be bothered to do much at all to find the killer or killers. Shifty is enraged, has money, and wants to hire Mick to find out who did it and why. She figures Mick, who grew up with her sons, will be able to do so. Mick agrees to poke around a little bit and soon figures out that there is a lot going on in Shifty’s Boys.

While this read does tie into the first book, The Killing Hills, this one easily could be read as a standalone. A complicated read full of interesting characters that are doing what they need to do survive, there is a lot of grey here in terms of morality and temporary alliances. As in the previous read, the author’s obvious love for the land and the people of the region comes through loud and clear. 

Like The Killing Hills, Shifty’s Boys is well worth your time. The book is currently scheduled to be released on June 7, 2022.

My reading copy came by way of a digital ARC from NetGalley.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2022
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This was a good book, I would consider it a country noir, in the backwoods of Kentucky. This is the second of a series and Mick Hardin, a CID with the military and on medical leave due to injuries from combat, is asked by the matriarch, Shifty, of a local prominent family to look into the death of her son, Barney, something she doesn't believe the police are doing a good enough job of.  Mick's sister is the Sheriff and she's currently running for re-election, something that she's putting more energy into than the investigation.  Mick soon discovers that although Barney was a low level drug dealer, he was found with baggies of heroin that contained a mark that was not his. Shifty confirms that Barney got involved in a deal where he took on a larger volume of drugs to sell to make a bigger payday, except he died before he could sell them and the guy that sold them, wants his money from Shift or else.  While investigating Mick ends up at an old mine, and is promptly run off.  This of course peaks his interest an he engages the assistance of a fellow military who attended Barney's funeral, they two of them uncover something much bigger than a drug deal gone back.  A highly entertaining read that I would recommend.  Thanks to #Netgalley and #Grove Press for the ARC.
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The MC is a former army investigator recuperating from physical and mental ailments in his Kentucky hills hometown.  He is in a bad place in his life when he is asked to look into the murder of a local drug dealer.  His sister the sheriff is ready to write it off as a drug war death but there is more going on.  Well-written and I enjoyed reading about events in a country setting I am wholly unfamiliar with.
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Shifty’s Boys is Offutt’s sequel to The Killing Hills and is a top-notch journey into country noir. Offutt perfectly captures the tucked-out-of-the-way society of Kentucky hill country and people’s both novels with authentic complex characters. CID Officer Mick Hardin is on a lengthy medical leave, still at home a year after the earlier novel. His sister Linda who lucked into the Sheriff’s job when the previous jobholder passed away and is now running for reelection in a county where few believed a woman could handle the job. Mick came home knowing that, with his being seldom home, his wife strayed. A year later, she now has a one year old and it isn’t Mick’s. He is sitting on the divorce papers, not knowing how to close the door on the last decade and a half of his married life. He’s shuffling around the old country where everyone knows everyone and, when the story opens he is asked by a backwoods matriarch to find out who killed her son. The official investigation isn’t going to go anywhere what with her boy being a drug dealer. Few tears are being shed for him. It’s an investigation that will lead Mick to a place he couldn’t have imagined and eventually have him questioning who he is and what he stands for. The novel though is about Mick, alone, adrift, neither belonging here or belonging there and, in the end, not knowing what good any of it was. Although the action doesn’t really pick up until later in the novel, the entire novel is compelling from start to finish.
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Shifty’s Boys is a follow-up novel to Chris Offutt’s previous novel, The Killing HIls, and picks up a year later after the ending of The Killing Hills.

Though Shifty’s Boys contains the same main characters as in The Killing Hills and refers back to previous events, it is not necessary to read The Killing Hills first, but reading it will enhance the story found in Shifty’s Boys.

Barney Kissick is a low-level heroin dealer in the mountains of Rocksalt, Kentucky and after he is found murdered in an abandoned parking lot, authorities of that jurisdiction appear determined to write his murder off as some sort of internecine turf war when a number of small baggies of heroin are found littered around Barney’s corpse.

Barney’s mother Shifty, the widowed matriarch to the Kissick family and mother to two other Kissick boys, is a stern, proud woman and more dangerous than a mere elder. Shifty is also with strong ties to the history and customs of the past, and after souring upon the lack of progress of the investigation into the murder of her son, requests Mick Hardin’s help in finding out who killed Barney and why. 

Mick Hardin, a criminal investigator with the United States Army and brother to county sheriff Linda Hardin, is back home recuperating after a combat zone injury and agrees to meet with Shifty and agrees to her request more so out of a sense of what is right than anything else.

Soon, Mick is learning more information about the murder leading him to believe the murder of Barney was not just a drug dealer on drug dealer murder and involves others even more capable and dangerous as Mick can be.

Offutt’s writing in Shifty’s Boys is remarkably smooth and engaging, with the pages of the novel turning with hardly any missteps.  His writing also continues to illustrate how many Southern writers are so capable of decorating their tales with descriptive regional environments of both the physical and cultural world.

Shifty’s Boys is highly recommended to readers that enjoy “rural noir” and the writing of authors such as Brian Panowich, David Joy, and Tom Franklin and is set to be published in June of 2022.

Shifty’s Boys was provided by Netgalley with the promise of a fair review.

This review was originally published at
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