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Code of the Hills

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Member Reviews

Good mystery set in rural Kentucky. Well written and a surprise ending. I really like this author's books. He's a good writer and writes about the area like he's from there.

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Good story with a thrilling plot, and interesting characters. A new author to me I found this to be an engrossing read. Will recommend this page turner to friends!!

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Chris Offutt is back with the third book in his excellent Mick Hardin series. Mick has now retired from the army and is returning to his home town of Rocksalt, Kentucky. His plan is a quick visit, then a trip to Corsica for an indefinite stay with a friend he met while in the military. He arrives in Rocksalt just as a murder occurs. His sister Linda, the sheriff, and her deputy begin investigating this when another murder is discovered. Then Linda is shot and everything changes. Mick becomes deputy to Johnny Boy Tolliver to solve all of these crimes.

Mick Hardin is a great character. He reacts and thinks like a man with this double pronged background: Appalachian hill country combined with military battlefield and CID. His loyalties and skill sets are vast, varied and very interesting to read about. He keeps everything moving and thinks on the run, often literally.

If you’re looking for an action/mystery/crime novel with great atmosphere then pick up Chris Offutt’s Mick Hardin series. Code of the Hills can be read as a stand-alone, but why miss the prior two books. As for me, I need to read the second one, Shifty’s Boy’s but have already read The Killing Hills. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Grove Press and NetGalley for an eARC of this book. My review is my own.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Press for the Earc of this!

This was such a great book and I really enjoyed this latest installment of the Mick Hardin novels. Returning to the hills of Kentucky is something I weirdly enjoyed - this rural/southern noir series has me glued to the pages!

Highly recommend this series and this book!

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I enjoyed the other book from this author and was not disappointed with this either. Mick has come home after twenty years in the Army to the place he grew up in to have his sister who is the local sheriff shot and then takes over for her. Along with Johnny Boy Tolliver the deputy, they take over the investigation. A good story that is not over the top at all just a really good book with really good characters with a storyline that is easy to follow. The people are what you would expect and by the time you get to the end, you are surprised it is over. A really good book.

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Publlished by Grove Press on June 13, 2023

“The country’s gone to hell since Johnny Cash died,” observes one of the characters in Code of the Hills. His complaint is that chain stores don’t sell baling wire. How that relates to Johnny Cash is something that only hill people understand.

Linda Hardin is a sheriff in Eastern Kentucky. Johnny Boy Tolliver is her deputy. Linda is investigating the death of Pete Lowe. Pete’s body was found in his home, dead from a bullet to the head. Before he was killed, Pete hid his best fighting rooster with a friend. The friend was living in a chicken coop — a fancy one — for reasons that only a hill person could understand.

Linda’s brother Mick recently returned home after serving his twenty years in the Army. He was a criminal investigator during most of those years. He plans to live in France for a while because he expects to feel out of place wherever he goes so why not France? By virtue of hanging around his sister for a few days, Mick gets sucked into the investigation of Lowe’s murder. While he’s helping Tolliver, the investigation leads him to another body. Almost immediately, a third body turns up and his sister takes a bullet.

Deputized by the deputy who is now the acting sheriff, Mick is uncertain about returning to law enforcement in the civilian world. He identifies a couple of criminals but finds their motives to be righteous and is reluctant to arrest them “for things he’d do himself.” Arresting them would be contrary to the code of the hills. Tolliver eventually confronts a similar choice between following the code and following the law.

Military life left Mick with little discretion. He followed orders and let someone up the chain of command make decisions. Civilian life empowers him to do what’s right. Having responsibility puts Mick in uncomfortable positions that add depth to the story.

Code of the Hills is filled with colorful descriptions of a life that will be unfamiliar to most readers. A woman cuts the testicles out of a boar after urging a bystander to distract the boar by beating it with an axe handle if it comes untied during the operation. I can understand why the boar might become upset at the woman’s decision to save herself a veterinarian’s bill.

The plot isn’t burdened with complexity. For that reason, it moves quickly. Mick doesn’t back away from fights but this isn’t a tough guy novel. He’s a decent guy who is making a transition in life and doing the best he can to find a new direction. He treats people well, even when they might want to kill him. Linda is also likeable. She doesn’t understand why she likes men. “Men were morons who abused women and killed each other.” Maybe she doesn’t like them at all but just gets lonely. Strong characterization and an atmospheric, fast-moving story make Code of the Hills a good beach read for crime novel fans.


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"Humans are the only animal that kills in reprisal. Been doing it since the beginning of time. What that means is, we're all descended from revenge killers. It's in us deep. We're a vengeful bunch."

In the rural hills of Kentucky, everyone either knows everyone else or is related to them through blood or marriage. Yet, there are so many secrets . . .

"The hills were like a slipknot---the more you struggled, the tighter they held."

While investigating a murder, Sheriff Linda is injured, and put temporarily out of commission. Lucky for her, brother Mick is visiting, able, and willing to reluctantly resume the role of deputy to wrap up the case.

Though not as compelling as the first two books, this is not a bad entry in the series.

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This is the third book in the series featuring Nick Hardin, a military officer who keeps coming back to his Kentucky hometown. His sister Linda is sheriff, and the pattern established by the first book requires Nick to become involved in police business. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, “The Killing Hills” and hoped that the series would continue. Now, I hope that the series ends here.

The code of the Kentucky hills consists of a continuous circle of revenge, accompanied by letting people get away with murder. This philosophy is so completely repellent that by the end of the book, I hated Hardin. This book is practically a cozy. Yes, there are a lot of murders, but it doesn’t have the rural noir feel. The murderers are all so very nice - until oops someone winds up shot to death. Whoever wrote the blurb clearly did not read the book. No way is this “blistering”. The author can do much better than this, but I guess the money to be made in writing a series is too tempting. I suggest that you read “Country Dark” or “The Killing Hills” instead of this book. 3.5 stars

I received free copies of the ebook and audiobook from the publisher.

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The king of grit lit strikes again! Offutt is the master of Southern dialect that no proper Junior Leaguer would acknowledge, and his stories give a gritty and very real view of mountain life.

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Code of the Hills by Chris Offutt
Mick Hardin #3

Stepping back into the Kentucky hill country with Mick, two years after he left, sees him drawn away from his retirement plans to once again deal with local crimes and solve murders. Great addition to the series!

What I liked:
* Mick Hardin: * retired Army CID officer, born and bred in the hills the story is set in, knows the culture, has an interesting moral compass, protective, puzzle solver, intelligent, lethal, someone I would want on my side, a bit of a loner, finds peace in the woods, a good man
* Linda Hardin: town sheriff, Mick’s sister, intelligent, professional, a bit of a loner, good leader, injured on the job in this book, wondering what her storyline will look like in the future
* Sandra: police dispatcher, divorced, seems to see Mick for who and what he is, might still be a potential love interest for Mick in the future
* Raymond: ex-marine, in relationship with JC, helps with JC’s taco truck business, an equal to Mick in many ways though more capable of maintaining a relationship
* Johnny Boy: deputy sheriff, map collector, talkative, wouldn’t mind being in a relationship, methodical, intelligent, has much to ponder
* How the community values and expectations play such a big part in the stories in this series
* The descriptions of the area and how they played a part in the story
* Police procedural aspects of the story, where they led, and how the various cases were tied up and dealt with by the end of the book
* Wondering what favors will be called in by Flowers and Shorty that Mick will one day need to repay
* Thinking about what will happen next in the series

What I didn’t like:
* Who and what I was meant not to like
* The idea of revenge and how family feuds never actually end if one person is always needing to have their death avenged

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

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

4-5 Stars

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“Offutt’s acclaimed crime series, Mick Hardin is tested like never before as familial allegiances and old wounds collide, threatening to destroy everything he loves.”

I’m always a little worried when I read a murder mystery writer for the first time.

Is it going to be too gory?
Am I going to figure it out in the second chapter?
Can I jump into the middle of a series, or am I going to be lost?

This book was thoroughly enjoyable. The characters and storyline were both great, but the low-key MVP was the setting. I don’t know much about Appalachia, but I really enjoyed getting to know it through Mick’s character.

My only side-eye was that I don’t know how I feel about Mick’s brand of justice. It’s the kind that the heart wants – and perhaps the Code of the Hills requires – but the SJW in me knows it can/will/has been used and abused in the past. It makes me very nervous.

I will definitely be looking into this author’s back catalogue.


Thanks to NetGalley, Grove Atlantic, and Dreamscape Media for this ARC.

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Mick has finally retired from the Army and he's set to live on Corsica but first he's back in Rocksalt-and now he can't leave. His sister Linda is the sheriff and she, along with her deputy Johnny Boy, find themselves with a mess of a murder case involving a man who worked at the speedway and raised chickens. And then Linda is shot when she goes out on a domestic violence case. Johnny Boy becomes acting sheriff and he deputizes Mick, who knows more about investigating than the others will ever learn. He's angry, he's worried about his sister, and he's going to use all his old sources to find both Linda's attacker and the answer to the murders. I like this series a lot for the atmospherics and for the characters- not just the main three but also Mama Shifty, Ray Ray, Sandra, and the rest. And that Mick sees shades of grey that others don't and is willing to blur the margins without subverting anything. You might not agree with all of his decisions here but you will understand them. This is thoughtful and thought provoking. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. Terrific read and I'm curious about where this will go next. Oh- and I'll never look at a chameleon the same way.

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I'm enjoying the Mick Hardin series and this latest installment may be the best yet. Offutt's dialogue is wonderful. As an Appalachian I appreciate his portrayal of the area. Can't wait for the next in the series!!

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Mick Hardin has retired from the military and returned to his hometown of Rocksalt, Kentucky, where his sister is the county sheriff. She and her deputy, Johnny Boy Tolliver, are investigating the murder of the local car mechanic, Pete Lowe. When she is seriously injured in the line of duty, Johnny Boy temporarily becomes sheriff and deputizes Mick, who had been a CID investigator.

These books set in the Kentucky hills just keep getting better and better. I enjoy the rural setting and the characters, who are often quite humorous in their ways and manners. It's interesting to see how 'the code of the hills' plays out in the story, giving a twist to the concept of justice and the rule of law. I'll be looking forward to many more of these books so please keep on writing them, Chris Offutt!

I received an arc of this novel from thee author and publisher via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.

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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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