Thank you to Minotaur books for sending me a free copy of Hard Cash Valley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Dane Kirby is a broken man and no stranger to tragedy. As a life-long resident and ex-arson investigator for McFalls County, Dane has lived his life in one of the most chaotic and crime-ridden regions of the south. When he gets called in to consult on a brutal murder in a Jacksonville, Florida, motel room, he and his FBI counterpart, Special Agent Roselita Velasquez, begin an investigation that leads them back to the criminal circles of his own backyard.
Arnie Blackwell’s murder in Jacksonville is only the beginning – and Dane and Roselita seem to be one step behind. For someone is hacking a bloody trail throughout the Southeast looking for Arnie’s younger brother, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who possesses an unusual skill with numbers that could make a lot of money and that has already gotten a lot of people killed—and has even more of the deadliest people alive willing to do anything it takes to exploit him.
As Dane joins in the hunt to find the boy, it swiftly becomes a race against the clock that has Dane entangled in a web of secrets involving everyone from the Filipino Mafia to distrusting federal agents to some of hardest southern outlaws he’s ever known.
This book is rather hard for me to review for personal preference reasons and I am going to have to bring in Panowich’s previous two books as comparison points. (Note: Panowich does have some other sci-fi and satirical titles out there but I am referring to his two most recent books in this review and books that, in my opinion put him on the map) Let’s start with Bull Mountain. A slow burn for sure, this gritty novel was like nothing I had ever read before with it’s raw and unabashed characters and southern gothic setting. I read that book five years ago and still think about it! Last year, Panowich released Like Lions, the sequel to Bull Mountain and it blew me away. It was much faster paced than it’s predecessor and is one of those kind of books that have you ignoring all adult responsibilities so that you can continue devouring the pages. I highly recommend both books.
Now onto Hard Cash Valley. While this book is still set in northern Georgia and a few characters from the first two books are very briefly mentioned, this book is not a sequel. It’s more of a crime fiction story involving a gambling ring, Filipino mobsters, FBI agents and a dirty investigation. The main character Dane was my favorite part of the novel, Panowich has a talent for writing vulnerable yet tough-as-nails characters that really get under your skin. And this novel was well planned out and was a very entertaining read.
As I mentioned, I have some personal preferences to mention in regard to Hard Cash Valley. I have come to know Panowich as a southern gothic author, and going into this book, that is what I was expecting. Unfortunately I don’t feel like I got what I was looking for. This novel is crime fiction, very good crime fiction at that, but I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed that Hard Cash Valley took a turn away from Panowich’s previous work.
So overall, this is another solid novel from a very good author. Rating it by itself, I would have to say 4/5 stars. But in comparing it to his previous novels, my personal opinion is 3/5 stars. It feels like maybe this novel was a little rushed, and considering there was a four year gap between Bull Mountain and Like Lions, yet only one year between Like Lions and Hard Cash Valley, this may be the case.