cover image Hard Cash Valley

Hard Cash Valley

Brian Panowich. Minotaur, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-20692-3

Early in Panowich’s gritty, pull-no-punches third thriller set in Georgia’s McFalls County (after 2019’s Like Lions), two thugs corner Arnie Blackwell, who has just arrived in Jacksonville, Fla., with a suitcase full of cash, in Arnie’s motel room. One of the men accuses Arnie of having stolen a lot of money. When Arnie refuses to explain how he did it and who else was involved, the pair torture him to death. Georgia Bureau of Investigation consultant Dane Kirby flies to Florida to join the FBI in looking into Arnie’s murder. Dane is baffled about the motive, until he learns that the dead man was at the Slasher, the largest cockfighting tournament in the U.S., which was recently held in McFalls County. Arnie somehow managed to bet successfully on every fight in every round, an impossible feat akin to clearing out the MGM Grand “of every dollar in one night.” The violent search by Arnie’s killers doesn’t end with his death. The suspenseful plot is enhanced by Panowich’s gifts at making even walk-on characters memorable. Fans of Ace Atkins’s Quinn Colson series will be pleased. 75,000-copy announced first printing. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Assoc. (May)