Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Gripping Novel of Crime and Family from Brian Panowich

This is another excellent crime novel in which family ties are a critical theme. For several generations, the Burroughs family has controlled Bull Mountain in rural North Georgia. Their criminal empire was built first on moonshine and then graduated into weed and, finally, meth. The family's leader in each generation has been tough, brutal, amoral, and willing to do anything to protect the family and its enterprises. Murder is simply one of many tools for advancing and protecting the family's fortunes, and most Burroughs men will kill without giving it a second thought.

The exception is Clayton Burroughs, the youngest brother of the current generation, who has determined to take another path. Clayton has won election as sheriff in a small neighboring town and is attempting to carve out a life for himself and his wife, different from that of his brothers. Not surprisingly, there's no love lost between Clayton and his brothers, particularly Halford, the current leader of the clan. At one point, Halford tells his Clayton that he's the sheriff only because Halford allows him to be--not meaning that he could see Clayton defeated at the ballot box, but rather meaning that he simply hasn't given the order to have his little brother killed yet.

Into this combustible mix comes a rogue F.B.I. agent named Simon Holly who has an agenda of his own. The Burroughs have entered into an alliance with an outlaw Florida biker gang to run their product and their money back and forth between Florida and Georgia. Holly shows up in Clayton's office, claiming that he wants to shut down the biker gang and their network of illegal activities. This would impinge on the Burroughs family operation, and Holly wants Clayton to cooperate with the investigation. Clayton now finds himself trapped between the proverbial rock and the hardest of all spots, and there's simply no way that this can end well.

The story is told from shifting points of view, and Panowich writes beautifully. He creates a wonderful sense of place, and the reader can practically feel him- or herself climbing Bull Mountain and being sucked into the roiling catastrophe that is the Burroughs family. This is a great read that will keep you turning the pages well beyond your bedtime.

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