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Michael L Miller
The Hip Shot
When Skeeter Ellington doesn’t show up for happy hour one Friday afternoon, his drinking buddies fear something is wrong. Skeeter never misses Friday happy hour. Besides, there’s little else to do in Preston but drink beer, go fishing, grow pot, or play golf. His buddies Boot, Perch, and Mervin know they must do something. Across town, Hazel Owens struggles to keep a music studio above water, and now her significant other, Dr. Carol Baxley, isn’t responding to texts or calls. When a murdered woman is found early one morning in a car at the Urgent Care where Carol works, Hazel’s worry turns into dread. Sgt. Barbara Lowrie of the Preston police, a strong-willed Lumbee Indian who has overcome much to climb the ranks, throws herself into the case. She finds a tangled web of hatred, misogyny, and possible criminal collusion within the force. Is the murdered woman connected to Carol Baxley? Are the disappearances of Skeeter and Carol connected? And who is the threatening stranger in town she’s heard about?
At the heart of Miller’s debut thriller is a lifelong friendship among four men–and the urgent question just how far would you go to help someone you care about who is in need? Mervin Hayes and his friends Perch, Boot, and Skeeter grew up together in the southern town of Preston, South Carolina. As men in their sixties, these one-time good-‘ol-boys now spend their time golfing and enjoying a beer, but their lives get flipped upside down when Skeeter goes missing. To add to the mystery, he isn’t the only one in town unaccounted for. Carol, a local physician, has also vanished. It’s up to Mervin and his friends to get to reveal the dark truths behind all the Southern charm.

The case is engaging, told in crisp, voice-drive prose. Miller invests much energy into his characters, letting them visit and ruminate, always with rich attention to backgrounds, individual voices, and golf games. Readers looking for a swift thriller rather than a chance to get to know Miller’s people may find such intricate detail–covering why Mervin drifted from the church over his life, or his favorite songs back in the day–slows the pace, but the portrait of stripmalls, country clubs, and crime are evocative and revealing, especially about changing mores. The diverse cast includes strong women such as Sergeant Barbara Lowrie, a member of the Lumbee Indigenous tribe, and Hazel Owens, a former punk musician and Carol’s lover; the depiction of the lead hero, Mervin, isn’t always flattering.

Miller dives into the complex “yin and yang” of the South by offering insight into the geographical beauty and southern charm of an easygoing atmosphere in contrast to the historical racism, social unrest, and political tension. There are thrilling moments of suspense and fascinating twists. Readers looking for a Southern mystery with a dash of danger will enjoy this thriller.

Takeaway: Fans of Southern mysteries revolving around life-long friendships will find enjoyment in this enticing thriller.

Great for fans of: Karin Slaughter, J.W. Becton.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A