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Like Lions

Review

Like Lions

I have been waiting for the return of Brian Panowich to the bookshelves. LIKE LIONS, his sophomore effort, demonstrates that the pause between this worthy effort and his debut, BULL MOUNTAIN, has been worth it. It is as dark and brooding a slice of rural noir that one is likely to encounter this year, an engrossing read that is impossible to digest quickly enough.

LIKE LIONS picks up some months after the conclusion of BULL MOUNTAIN, with the repercussions from the events of that work echoing through to the present day. Clayton Burroughs remains the sheriff of Waymore Valley Township, Georgia, but continues to feel the aftereffects of the injuries that he sustained in the brutal encounter with his family. Here we find him self-medicating to ill effect, as he neglects his law enforcement duties as well as his familial obligations to his wife and son. When the attempted robbery of a local bar ends badly for the doers, Clayton’s decision to administer a bit of rough justice on one of the survivors goes unintentionally off the rails. It does not help matters when he lets a local teenager slide on a legal infringement, leading to a tragedy that haunts him long after it occurs.

"...a dark and violent ride that will make your hair stand on end in spots as Panowich slowly and inexorably ratchets up the suspense quotient to 11."

However, Clayton’s major difficulties arise as a result of the actions of his dead father, a criminal kingpin in the area who was rumored to have left an ill-gotten fortune hidden somewhere near the mountain. He is also troubled by the return to the area of a former flame of his wife (there is still a live flicker or two going), as well as a proposition from a drug runner who wants to continue a business-as-usual arrangement transporting drugs through Clayton’s county. He is badly bent physically and emotionally but still struggles to maintain a moral core, which in turn puts him at odds with old acquaintances and adversaries of his father, who now bear a grudge against him for killing one of their own. Revenge takes all the participants to some unexpected and fatal places, and not everyone who is present throughout the book’s first half is left standing at the end.

LIKE LIONS, as with BULL MOUNTAIN, is complete in itself, but a question (or two) is left hanging at the conclusion. It does resolve one issue that is more or less unstated; some will see it coming and may even predict the outcome. Even if that is the case, this novel is a dark and violent ride that will make your hair stand on end in spots as Panowich slowly and inexorably ratchets up the suspense quotient to 11. He does this without sacrificing plot or character development.

With regard to the latter, Panowich has the rare ability to make each character, even the most minor ones, well-defined and unforgettable. Anyone reading either BULL MOUNTAIN or LIKE LIONS will look forward to seeing more of them, and their creator, in the future. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait quite so long next time.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 17, 2019

Like Lions
by Brian Panowich

  • Publication Date: April 30, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250206944
  • ISBN-13: 9781250206947