Hard Cash Valley

Minotaur: St. Martin’s. May 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781250206923. $26.99. M [thriller bisac code]
In this delectable rural noir by Panowich (Like Lions), set in the hills of McFalls County, GA, ex-fire investigator and current Georgia Bureau of Investigation freelancer Dane Kirby gets called in to a murder investigation that quickly connects to a Filipino crime lord, an illegal cockfighting ring, and the disappearance of a child who has an uncanny connection with birds. As Dane’s wife and daughter were killed in a Fourth of July accident, a tragedy looms over him. Panowich’s prose is languid and easygoing as a back-county road as a stoic Dane, alongside FBI agent Roselita Velasquez, confronts the local crime lords who have a longstanding presence in the area—and with him. Well-developed side characters from crime vicitms to fellow FBI agents fill in the corners of the author’s world. A rote shootout at the story’s end mars an otherwise excellent novel.
VERDICT Good rural mysteries excel at showing how both the land and the law that governs it are deeply personal, and Panowich knows the residents of the Georgia foothills down to his bones. Perfect for fans of Attica Locke or Laura McHugh. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/19.]
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