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