I’ve said it before here, but snobbishness about genre fiction is entirely misplaced. There are good and bad books in any genre (including literary fiction, just another genre), and the breadth within any single category is astonishing when you dig into it. So it is in my home turf of crime fiction, and this week’s books demonstrate this range in spades.
First up we have The Killing Hills by American Chris Offutt.
The author has previously published a mix of fiction and memoir, and this exhilarating slice of country noir clearly draws on real-life experience.
Set in the remote Appalachian hills of Kentucky where Offutt grew up, the story focuses on Mick Hardin, a combat veteran now working as an army CID agent, currently on leave back home.
Hardin’s sister Linda has recently become the local sheriff, and the murder of a woman on a remote hilltop is her first big case. More used to busting meth labs and petty family feuds, Linda enlists Hardin to help, not least because the local families still cling to misogynistic ideas and won’t readily talk to a woman sheriff.
There is a thriving sub-genre of country noir in America, and this is up there with the best of them. In Hardin, Offutt has created a complex central character, and the author’s close familiarity with his setting gives The Killing Hills a real twang of authenticity.