By Brian Panowich
Dane Kirby is a man with a burdened soul. He’s haunted by grief over the death of his wife Gwen and daughter Joy a dozen years ago. He’s struggling to have a relationship with his girlfriend Misty. And he’s trying to come to terms with the results of lab tests that put an unexpected shadow on his life.
He’s called away from a fishing trip by McFalls County Sheriff Ellis Darby, who has the murder of a well-liked mountain man on his hands. It turns out the prime suspect, Ned Lemon, a childhood friend of Dane’s, specifically asked that the sheriff get Dane there.
Before he can get a handle on the situation, his boss at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, calls to inform him that August O’Barr, the FBI’s assistant director of law enforcement, wants him in Jacksonville, FL, immediately. A helicopter is arriving to collect him.
Dane soon finds himself at the scene of a violent murder. Arnie Blackwell, the recent winner of $1.2 million at an illegal cock-fighting competition in north Georgia, has been found beaten, eviscerated and set on fire in an airport motel room. By the time the FBI arrived, the money was gone.
O’Barr’s theory, supported by Dane, is that after Blackwell won every contest in the competition — a feat that had never been done and probably could only have happened by cheating — the losers (probably members of the Filipino mafia) came to take their money back.
Soon word comes that Blackwell’s dealer, Bobby Turo, and seven other people have been killed.
But one person is unaccounted for: Blackwell’s young brother, William, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. William may hold the key to Blackwell’s incredible win at the cockfights. If so, he could wanted by his brother’s killers.
Dane’s investigation takes him back to where he started from and into remote Hard Cash Valley, where the cock-fighting competition was held.
This is a twisted story of killers and corruption, con men and outlaw families running entire communities. Dane is an interesting character, as are his ghostly wife, his friend Ned Lemon and the oddly savant William Blackwell. But Dane’s FBI colleagues are ham-fisted, arrogant and hardly better than the bad guys they pursue.
This is a book for people who enjoy thrillers and don’t mind gory violence.
HARD CASH VALLEY is part of author Brian Panowich’s Bull Mountain series.
The first book, BULL MOUNTAIN, is about the outlaw Burroughs family that has run moonshine, pot and meth over six states from their home in north Georgia for generations. Clayton Burroughs has sought distance from his family’s legacy by becoming sheriff in a neighboring community. But he’s faced with impossible choices with a federal agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms shows up in Clayton’s office with a plan to shut down the family’s operations on Bull Mountain.
The second book, LIKE LIONS, forces Clayton to decide where his loyalties lie. The Burroughs family is threatened by a rival organization trying to take their territory. Clayton’s two brothers have been killed and he is considered the heir-apparent. But with a wife and child to protect, Clayton has to find a way to put his bloody past to rest once and for all.
About the Author: Brian Panowich
Once an Augusta, GA, firefighter, Brian Panowich won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel for BULL MOUNTAIN and the Southern Book Prize for Best Mystery.
The Georgia Center of the Book added BULL MOUNTAIN to the list of Books All Georgians Should read. In 2015, ITV Studios optioned the book for adaptation into a TV series.
LIKE LIONS earned him The Georgia Author of the Year Award for best mystery. HARD CASH MOUNTAIN (2020) was named one of the top 10 best crime novels of the year by the New York Times.
Panowich was raised as an Army brat in Europe before moving to East Georgia. He is married and has four children.