Cover Image: Code of the Hills

Code of the Hills

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Member Reviews

I was hooked from the moment I started this book. Although this was the third book in the Mick Hardin series, this was the first one Tread and I was able to pick-up without feeling like was lost. I plan to read the first 2 and any future additions to the series too.
Plenty of mystery and intrigue with a dose of small town connections in the "hills."
I received this book in exchange for my honest review from NetGalley.
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This was a good book, it's the third in the Mick Hardin series, I have also read the other two, though I think you could read as a standalone.  Mick is out of the military after putting in 20 years, most as a CID investigator, and is looking forward to retiring in France. His CID background comes in handy when he returns home and his sister, Linda, who is the Sheriff, tells him of the killing of a local mechanic. Not long after, Linda is at the house of someone she wants to talk to about the murder, when gun shots erupt inside, she is shot and as a result, Mick is deputized to help with the investigations.  Mick is a patient and thorough investigator, he looks at something and sees things that others have missed, usually leading to a step forward in the investigation.  His investigation also takes him out of Kentucky to Detroit where he meets with some less than desirables and puts his life in peril to get another lead.  I really enjoyed this book and this series and I would recommend, especially if you like hard headed investigators who do things their own way.  Thanks to #Netgally and #Grove Press for the ARC.  All opinions are my own.
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This was a very laid back mystery. Not what I expected, but then I also didn’t know this was the 3rd installment in a series. I really liked the main character and I liked how the author wrote about the elements of the cultures they were in. Some nice humor thrown in there to keep me giggling throughout the book too. It was an enjoyable read but I think I will re read this one again in order with the series!
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I am officially Mick Hardin obsessed. I can't get over how much I love these books. I don't know if there are plans for more in the series but I certainly hope so because Chris Offutt is on to something good here. 

This book didn't have me quite as engrossed as Shifty's Boys, but I loved it all the same. It had some of the most crazy, laugh-out-loud yet surprisingly realistic scenarios. Like the other two books in the series, it contained so many little Appalachian nuggets that were pure gold, like the cock fighting and rattlesnake culture in this one. In this book it was good to learn more about Johnny Boy and see his character development. I also appreciated the extended time in Detroit, as well as Mick's quest to find Linda's shooter. 

These books are becoming such a fast favorite for me and I can't wait to read more!
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Mick Hardin returns to the hills of Kentucky. He is tested and must decide what he is willing to do to protect family. As the evidence mounts up he must make uncomfortable decisions and be prepared to live with the consequences!
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This was a pale imitation of Offutt’s first book, which I really enjoyed. There was no mystery to solve; we just follow Mick around as he tries to discover who shot his sister. I still enjoyed Mick’s details about nature, but I wanted more of a plot to go with the interesting details.
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Keep them coming please........

I cannot testify about the veracity of Offutt's Appalachia because I lack personal experience,  but I can testify that his Appalachia comes to life in his books.  It becomes a character, a sort of blanket that nestles the story and is high lighted through each character.  So although the Appalachian is a laconic, solitary soul, we catch him or her in her many nuances.
We see Mick going on a sort of redemption spree, a sort of penance tour. After all his warmongering tours and murderous chases, it was now time for compassion.  This is the third book in Mick Hardin's series and I feel as if Mick has reached a safe spot, a pinnacle in a holler close to his heart.  I finished the book feeling well and anxious to get more as I want to read more about these people.  We cannot leave Mick, Johnny Boy, Sandra, Ray-Ray, Linda all on their lonesome.  Let us keep them company Mr Offut.    

An ARC gently provided by author/publisher via Netgalley
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As requested, I am holding this review below till the publication date


As Code Of The Hills: A Mick Hardin Novel begins, it has been two years since the events of Shifty’s Boys (Mick Hardin #2) and Mick Hardin has retired from the Army. 39 years old now, he has come home to Rocksalt, Kentucky, and back to his sister’s house for a few days. He plans to move to France and has a place lined up for the next six months. There is not a lot of reason for him to stay in Kentucky as the only family he has, Linda, is the sheriff and they are not that close.

But, that plan does not survive first contact.

A legendary local mechanic, Pete Lowe, is dead. Pete was known as a cranky genius on the dirt tack circuit. As good as he was with engines, he was the opposite with people. It is not long before Mick, with nothing to do and far too many memories and regrets, gets pulled into helping investigate his murder. 

As has happened before, things get violent quick after Mick Hardin is involved.

The third book in the series that began with The Killing Hills is a complex and interesting read that builds on the solid foundation of the first two books. The final fifty pages or so in Code Of The Hills: A Mick Hardin Novel significantly surprised this reader. One is left to wonder what the future holds for Mick Hardin. One hopes we find out soon as these reads keep getting better and better. 

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

Kevin R. Tipple ©2023
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Code of the Hills by Chris Offutt brings Mick Hardin back to the hills of eastern Kentucky after he retires from the Army. His visit is supposed to be brief, but when Mick arrives, the dead bodies do too. Has a shady business venture with some poisonous poultry pushed people to homicide? To help his sister, the county sheriff, Mick is determined to find out.

Offutt brings back our favorite characters in this third installment of the Mick Hardin series. It is a welcome familiarity to once again ride the country roads and sit on a porch watching the birds. The people Mick encounters are as illogically logical as ever in their interpretation of common sense. They are quirky, endearing, and sometimes frightening. The plot moves along at a pace just above the speed limit with enough turns to keep readers guessing who is responsible. What lines will Mick cross to follow his own moral compass and the code of the hills? Highly recommended, this book is just a whole lot of fun to read.
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Third book in the series is a welcome addition as Mick Hardin makes, what he thinks, is a quick stop at home in Kentucky. But  Kentucky has other ideas, and soon things get out of hand and Mick is in the middle of a mess working with his sheriff sister and taking over for her when she’s laid up. Twists and turns abound.
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In Code of the Hills by Chris Offutt, Offutt returns to the mountains and rural area of Rocksalt, Kentucky in the third novel featuring Mick Hardin and those in his orbit. 

Code of the Hills picks up two years after the second Mick Hardin novel, Shifty’s Boys.  Mick has just retired from the US Army as a felony investigator focusing on violent crimes and as a trainer of new investigators.  After his previous Rocksalt stay ended with an abrupt departure, he has returned to his home state of Kentucky for a short visit before heading off to France for an extended stay.

His sister Linda is still sheriff and upon his arrival, he finds her office has just opened an investigation into the murder of a local mechanic.

Soon, due to actions beyond his control and with his sister sidelined due to a work-related injury, Mick’s departure plans are put on pause. He is soon made a temporary deputy to assist in the investigation of additional committed crimes, which may or may not be related to the original killing.

While Mick struggles with a desire to always keep moving forward and a quirk of being unable to stay in one place for too long, he is also burdened with the knowledge of the importance of one’s own roots and history and the hollow feelings of what it means to neglect such ties.

As Mick and others move forward on the investigations, Mick finds himself seeking information from others away from the hills of Kentucky, which includes making Faustian bargains with men as dangerous as he and ones that may come back to haunt him later.

Mick also discovers, as the title of the novel suggests, justice comes in different forms and that includes the code of the hills, which may be different than laws made by humans.

As with his other novels and writing, Offutt’s writing is so smooth, flawless, and devoid of wasteful wordiness and equal to that of so many of the exceptional Southern writers of today. 

Code of the Hills is highly recommended to fans of rural/country noir, with readers being encouraged to seek out his other books.  It is also suggested readers read his Mick Hardin novels in order due to each novel continuing the further development of previously introduced characters.

Code of the Hills is set for a June 2023 release. Netgalley provided an ARC upon the promise of a fair review.

This review was originally published at
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I love Offutt's work. I have read all his books to date. Been a fan from way back. I am also from KY, and he writes the characters and place just like home. 
I enjoy this series very much. The characters make the story. I hope he continues to write them. Would love a much longer book.
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Code of the Hills is the third in the Chris Offutt "Killing Hills" series and if you've read the first two books you know what to expect from this one. It's a much more laid back mystery novel than most, taking place in the hills of Kentucky. What I love about this series is that everything seems more relaxed. The locations described are not dirty and dangerous, they're natural landscapes and small towns. The people take time to discuss more mundane aspects of life even as serious problems surround them. It makes for really easy and enjoyable reading. The crimes are the same as mysteries set in more common locations like the big cities, but the motivations might be a little different and the people have their own moral code. Everyone involved acts in a way you could understand, there's no true "bad guys."
If you haven't read this series before I wouldn't recommend starting with this one. It could be done, but I think it would be better to start from the beginning. This is the series to bring on vacation or on a long flight.
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Mick Hardin has retired from the Army after putting in his twenty years and is ready for the civilian life, the first part of which he plans to spend in Corsica. Before that though, he goes home to the little town of Rocksalt, in the hills of Kentucky, to say goodbye to his younger sister, Linda, who is the sheriff there. Mick meets Linda in her office and comes to know of the murder of Peter Lowe, a skilled-but-cranky car mechanic, who was shot dead in his home where he lived alone. The next day, as Mick drives around visiting old places and catching up with people, Johnny Boy Tolliver – Mick’s friend and the sheriff’s deputy – drags him along on a house call to resolve a dispute between a father and his son. Unexpectedly, their talk with the son throws up a clue into the Lowe murder, and the pair drives to the place of an unsavoury character named Hack Darvis, only to find him, too, shot dead in a similar manner. Simultaneously, Linda reaches the house of Lowe’s nearest neighbour, Leo Gowan, where she hears a commotion and a gunshot before someone shoots her in the leg and gets away in a hurry.

Rocksalt, a fairly peaceful town so far, suddenly has three murdered men and a shot sheriff, and Johnny Boy now must take up the near-impossible responsibility of solving it all. Fortunately for him, Mick, with years of experience investigating heinous crimes with the Army CID, is available and willing to work the cases. Mick's probe gets him in contact with several oddball characters – including a deadly Detroit mob boss – and, as he gets close to solving the crimes, he must make the difficult choice between upholding the law and letting the code of the hills, which puts justice before law, prevail.

Chris Offutt’s Code of the Hills is a delightful read, filled with zany characters and immersive descriptions of the hills of Kentucky. Mick Hardin is someone you would want on your side: strong, resourceful, and utterly reliable, with a solid moral core. Each of the remaining characters, irrespective of their role, is distinctive and exceptionally entertaining. Offutt’s descriptions of the hilly landscape down to each rut on the roads, the trees and plants and flowers, and the animals and birds and insects, are vividly detailed. The intricate plot keeps moving at a fast clip upon unpredictable paths akin to those on the rugged hills, keeping the reader in its hold. The multiple sub-plots are given appropriate space to develop and come together plausibly towards the end. I haven’t read Offutt’s any other work, but I am eager to read the previous ones, especially Shifty’s Boys, after meeting Raymond Kissick and his mother – Mama Shifty.

Code of the Hills is an enthralling ride that is not to be missed by fans of crime fiction and anybody who loves the hills, and I am thankful to Grove Atlantic for the Digital Review Copy through NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for an advance copy of Code of the Hills, the third novel to feature former army CID investigator Mick Hardin, set in the hills of Kentucky.

Mick has done his 20 years in the army and has retired. He returns to Rocksalt to bid farewell to his sister before going to Corsica. His sister, Linda, is the sheriff and is currently investigating two murders that she believes may be linked until she gets hurt. Once again Mick is deputised to clear up the investigation.

I thoroughly enjoyed Code of the Hills, which is another fun read that explores life in rural America. It is told from various law enforcement points of view, Linda, her deputy Johnny Boy and Mick as they try to piece together what has happened, although what has happened is not what is presented as the solution. This solution fits more of a natural than a legal justice, following the code of the hills, highly implausible but audacious and satisfying.

The culture of the region plays a large part in the novel with its customs, allegiances and even its layout. It’s so far removed from my cosy urban environment that I find it both exotic and slightly unfathomable. People live up dirt roads in dilapidated housing and are prepared to see off all comers with guns, one even lives in a chicken coop! Family is close and there are feuds and vendettas and a lot of crime.

This is not a long novel and that means that there is a stream of developments, folksy wisdom and eccentric characters. It has charm and humour, but also a very good crime story. I foresaw nothing, so I was constantly surprised by the turns events took and loved the neat solution to all the troubles - its audacity made me laugh.

Code of the Hills is a good read that I have no hesitation in recommending.
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Code of the Hills - Chris Offutt.
The Killing Hills was one of the highlights of 2021.  A standalone thriller with an existential atmosphere about it that felt at times like a French nouvelle vague movie.  A stunning novel that stood out from the pack.  It was so good that I was taken by surprise when a sequel showed up last year – Shifty’s Boys was quite different from the first book but full of rich detail and minutiae, pure Southern rural at its best.  
They say everything comes in threes and yet again quite unexpectedly I was lucky enough to get a revue copy of a new novel in the series which will be released in June by Grove Atlantic. 
Mick Hardin has retired after 20 years as an Army investigator and arrives back in the hills of Kentucky where his sister Linda is the Sheriff.  Something happens that throws Mick into the heart of a murder investigation. His search for the truth becomes unorthodox, startling and leads to a shocking conclusion.
This one is different again from the second novel and in my opinion the best so far.  It isn’t just the setting that makes this a unique series.  It’s beautifully written, full of homespun philosophy and wisdom that will amuse and educate.  It‘s a story full of excitement, fascinating characters more Kentucky than fried chicken so strong you can almost touch them and questions of morality as Mick Hardin pushes aside his inner struggle and tries to follow the code of the hills.
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Mick Hardin left his old Kentucky home 20yrs ago after high school. Got out of the hills by joining the Army. Did his 20 and is retiring from his service as a military police investigator. His plan is to retire to Corsica and live with an Army buddy. But first, he feels the need to head home first before completely turning his back on Kentucky.

His sister Linda and he have an OK if not close relationship. She sort of followed in his footsteps by becoming the county sheriff leading a small staff of subordinates, mainly her primary, if still green, deputy Johnny Boy Tolliver.

Pete Lowe is/was a local resident. ‘Was’ because he went and got himself killed. In a small town like Rocksalt, KY, when someone gets killed, everybody knows who did it and why. Not this time. Linda and Johnny Boy start with what few clues they can find, and Mick goes along for the ride.

Most every clue is at the end of some long, curvy, dirt road that creeps deep and up into the Kentucky hills. First ‘break’ is when a local calls up wanting the sheriff to evict a squatter who’s taken up residence in his hen house. Linda would also have to evict the squatter’s wife but she already up and left. Can't imagine why. Guy is sharing the hen house with a bunch of hens and a couple roosters, one of which really isn’t native to the area.

Another guy, a local legend when it comes to dirt track car engines, also turns up dead. When Linda starts trying to shake a few limbs, she ends up getting shot in leg. Pretty bad wound, too. She’ll be ok, but she’s out of any primary investigation that would put her on her feet. So Johnny Boy is now the acting sheriff and temporarily deputizes Mick.

This rather dark tale of the KY hollers and hills takes a number of turns and Offutt deftly directs our attention in multiple directions between Rocksalt and Detroit involving drugs to liquor to money laundering to extortion and even cock fighting before finally leading Mick to the source of the murderous goings on.

Offutt isn’t new to us as we have favorably reviewed two earlier books, Country Dark and The Killing Hills. Personally, I like Country Dark the best. But don’t let that turn one away from this or his other books. Offutt knows how to deal up country/redneck/hick noir with the best of ‘em. If that kind of story trips your trigger, you'll need to make sure you run down anything by Chris Offutt.

Thanks to NetGalley for access to an advance reader copy.

Release date: June 13, 2023


East Coast Don
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The was a great read, and a step in a different direction for me.  Coming from the NYC metro area this book was a real cultural treat.  He did a wonderful job unpacking, visually, the intricacies of Mountain Country.   It is a masterpiece in detailing the daily lives of those in the mountain, and how much family means to them.  The characters are perfectly pitched and resolute in their heritage and commitment to their way of life.  I enjoyed Mick’s character more because the many nuances that makes up Mick are almost too hard to forget.  He’s been through pretty much everything.  He has served the country in the armed forces, experienced tremendous loss and hurt, and he came home and continued serving others.  He has a one-of-a-kind wisdom which guides him through the complex twists and turns in the Hills.  The plot was fast moving, but slow enough for one to absorb all the details with visual comprehension.  The multiple murders made the story very complex and full of thriller. Also, just when you thought you figured it out, the story shifts and you’re once again on the path to figuring it out.  This was a wonderfully well written novel, and it helped me to become a fan of the author moving forward.  Thx NetGalley for allowing me the privilege of reviewing this wonderful novel.
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Chris Offutt is back to Kentucky hills. Or more like Mick, his ex-Army protagonist is back. It’s been two years since his last adventure and Mick is now officially retired, so he gets back to the only place he thinks of as home and immediately gets involved in some murder business.
By now Offutt has established something of a formula for his protagonist. There’s never a lot of time, so his involvement always is immediate and he never stays away for long. And then there’s all the backwoodsy, backwatery hills business. Apparently with a code of their own. Which makes for their very own brand of justice among other things.
Offutt is a one trick pony, but he’s really mastered that trick. His writing is really good, which brings me back to his books time and again. Now his trickery is even more limited since instead of standalones, he’s focusing on a series. Cue in repetition, recycling of similar scenes, plots, attitudes, etc. Probably more lucrative and certainly easier to write, but considerably less interesting for more demanding audiences. 
And yet, it’s fun in its own way and Mick is a solidly likable guy. Maybe too much so, since Offutt has made him into something like a knight errant, all too good and too noble. Also, conspicuously free with his money and his prospects. Generosity so off the charts, it may not even be in the code, but Mick’s own.
Personally, backwoodsy backwatery setitngs don’t do much for me. Kentucky or otherwise. Offutt renders it very well, but it gets tiresome after a while. Appalachian Neo-Noir or whatever this is has got to be a matter of acquired taste. Like moonshine, country music, and all manner of hillbilly delights. But if one must read about it, Offutt is a good go-to author. The man can write. It’s just that every time I finish his book, I wish he’d stretch those muscles and written something new. Set any other place. Just for kicks.
Anyway, an entertaining, reasonably quick read. Thanks Netgalley.
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The Code of The Hills by Chris Offutt(Mick Hardin #3)- Enjoyable Country Noir, following a series. Mick Hardin has just retired from the Army, where he was an investigator. He arrives home in Kentucky "hill country", and before he can get settled, his sister, the local Sheriff, is shot, and Mick immediately goes into action. Lots of confrontations and intrigue happen in a back-woods way. Offutt gets the country part down pat. I can testify to that. Mick is sworn in as a deputy, but a lot of what he does to get results might be considered illegal. He bends the rules when he feels he needs to and that could come back on him. The pace is comfortable and relentless at the same time. I recommend this book. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
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