Title: Like Lions: A Novel by Brian Panowich
Genre: Small Town and Rural Fiction, Police Procedurals, Crime Thrillers
Publisher: Minotaur Books
- ASIN: B07J4WBB81
Print Length: 293 pages
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Like Lions
Clayton Burroughs is a small-town Georgia sheriff, a new father, and, improbably, the heir apparent of Bull Mountain’s most notorious criminal family.
As he tries to juggle fatherhood, his job and his recovery from being shot in the confrontation that killed his two criminally-inclined brothers last year, he’s doing all he can just to survive. Yet after years of carefully toeing the line between his life in law enforcement and his family, he finally has to make a choice.
When a rival organization makes a first foray into Burroughs territory, leaving a trail of bodies and a whiff of fear in its wake, Clayton is pulled back into the life he so desperately wants to leave behind. Revenge is a powerful force, and the vacuum left by his brothers’ deaths has left them all vulnerable. With his wife and child in danger, and the way of life in Bull Mountain under siege for everyone, Clayton will need to find a way to bury the bloody legacy of his past once and for all.
Well, phooey, a new author to me and this a sequel to Bull Mountain (2015) before it, prize-winning graphic grit-lit. So I can’t gauge whether this is better or as good as the first. I will say, however, that I read as a standalone and, believe me, you have no problem picking up very quickly on just who these hillbilly, backwoods, and heinous people can be. (N.B. Skip if you don’t want a personal aside: One time when my motorcycle buddy, Noni, and I were riding through West Virginia we stopped at a large pull-out area to scour maps for directions thinking we might be lost. The narrow, darkened two-lane road, often broken out by heavy summer rains just seemed to go through this tree and vine-covered valley forever. The area was eerily quiet, no sounds–deserted. We peered through the grime-covered window into the barn and got the creeps. Noni said to me, “Do you want to be someone’s barefoot mama?” I said “NO!” and flipping the face shield of my flip-up helmet down we jumped back on our bikes and took off. There are some mountains and hollers out there that simply do NOT invite visitors. Ever heard of the Hatfields and McCoys?)
It didn’t take me long in this book to get those same prickly apprehensive vibes and the tension stayed elevated throughout the narrative which begins with a chilling and compelling prologue hook.
Clayton Burroughs, county sheriff of this small north Georgia location, is still recovering from the major, near-death injuries of a year ago. But his family and the legacy left by his father and brothers is never far under the tumultuous crime-ridden surface. It’s Burroughs territory and they reined heavily until that confrontation. Their deaths and his lack of desire to take over the helm of the dynasty has begun to open the door for new and even darker gangs or clans and the paths forged by his recently deceased brother, Hal. Clayton and his wife, Kate, have been struggling to keep their marriage together despite his slow recovery, pain, and guilt-ridden attitude.
Oh. My. God. You don’t even want to have to stop for gas here. There are forces unseen and powerful building a dreadful foreboding of the war to come. These factions play for keeps and when moonshine took a back seat to the drug trade, millions of dollars, as well as the territory, went up for grabs. Ever played around in the mountains over forest service roads only to confront a big-assed pickup truck with a gun rack in the rear window? (We have.) And that’s your sign.
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you numb, was truer to the point.”
“He was a cereal-box preacher–all sugar and tooth decay, dressed up to look wholesome and good for you.”
“Pride will kill you faster than a bullet.”
This is a gritty, southern lit, hick lit, hillbilly noir or whatever you want to call it and I’ll warn you, it’s rude, crude, and socially unaccepted. From the language to the graphic scenes, it surpasses “Breaking Bad” for pulling no punches. The characters are raw, open, and vicious. Scary real. Kate is wonderful, strong, decent. She loves her man. But the man is damaged and he’s drinking. He has a number of “family” who will cover his back–well, most that–because this is also a story of loyalty and betrayal. His office gal slash dispatcher, Cricket, is a great support character, and he has a number of them “on his side.” The characters have names like Scabby Mike and Nails McKenna, JoJo and Coot Viner. You’d expect that…
As for the fun they were throwing at Coot for his Tracker, I have to say they are a great little car (cheap-Jeep) for climbing those northern Georgia hills–or off-road into the deserts of Arizona!
The conflict and turmoil have you reeling from the punches and flipping pages, unsure what will happen next, except that it is probably not something good. The plot moves with gathering speed until the climax and then like a pebble in a pond, the rivulets begin to slow. Wow, is this guy a storyteller or what?
And then, BAM! just when you think everyone is safe, the epilogue. NOOO!
I can’t stand it–I may have to part with my milk money and get Bull Mountain. I received this ebook download from the publisher and NetGalley and totally, absolutely, irrefutably found it electrifying; it’s a train wreck, a shock of a book that you can’t put down. Totally recommended for all you thriller fans; deep, dark, noir fans. Do you have the stomach for it?
The Author: *Brian Panowich feels a bit strange writing about himself in the third person but he will do his best. Brian started out as a firefighter that wrote stories and morphed into a writer that fights fire. He has written three novels, a boatload of short stories, and maintains a monthly column called Scattered & Covered for Augusta Magazine. He lives in East Georgia with four children who are more beautiful and more talented than anyone else’s. He also might be biased.
Brian’s first novel, BULL MOUNTAIN, topped the best thriller list on Apple iBooks, placed in the top twenty best books on Amazon, and went on to win the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel, as well as the Southern Book Prize for Best Mystery. The book was also nominated for the Barry Award, the Anthony Award, The Georgia Townsend Book Prize, and was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. BULL MOUNTAIN was also selected for the coveted BOOKS ALL GEORGIANS SHOULD READ list by the Georgia Center of the Book, and has been the recipient of several foreign press awards. Brian’s latest novel, LIKE LIONS, isn’t due out until April, but Daniel Woodrell and CJ Box really liked it, so Brian is pretty happy. Oh, and YEAR OF THE ROOSTER will be out next year. (2020)
Brian Panowich burst onto the crime fiction scene in 2015, winning awards and accolades from readers and critics alike for his smoldering debut, Bull Mountain. Now with Like Lions, he cements his place as one of the outstanding new voices in crime fiction.
Note: That Tracker was ours. ©2019 V Williams