This is an excellent sequel to Bull Mountain, which was one of my favorite books of 2015. Again at the heart of the novel is Clayton Burroughs, the last surviving member of a notorious rural Georgia crime family, and the only member of the clan who ever tried to walk the straight and narrow.
Clayton became the sheriff of the county where his family's criminal empire was located on Bull Mountain. This led the rest of the family to ostracize him, and the events that concluded Bull Mountain left him, in many ways, a broken man. Now he lives for his wife and his small child, and for his job as sheriff.
But while Clayton would very much like to avoid any additional trouble, trouble will come looking for him. Sensing weakness in the remaining elements of the empire that Clayton's father had established, a rival gang is moving in on Bull Mountain, threatening Clayton, his family, and the peace he hoped he'd established there. After a particularly unfortunate incident, Clayton is pulled back into the life he'd hoped to escape and the bodies start falling left and right. In the end, as Clayton knows, family is everything, and in this case, the family that's most in danger is the only one that Clayton has left--his wife and his son. No matter what it takes, he'll stop at nothing to protect them.
This is a dark, violent, bloody book--"Hillbilly Noir" at its best. Panowich writes beautifully and brilliantly creates both the characters and the settings of this novel. The plot moves along at a breakneck pace, and once you're halfway through it, you'd better not have anything else planned for the rest of the day, because you won't be putting this book down until you've reached the explosive climax.
I was lucky enough to get a British edition of this book, which was released in 2017. It's just now coming out in an American edition and deserves a huge audience. While it certainly can be read as a stand-alone, do yourself a favor and read Bull Mountain first. It informs virtually everything that happens here and will give the the chance to read two really great books instead of one. You will thank me later.