Like Lions: A Novel by Brian Panowich
Published by Minotaur Books
Publication date: April 30, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Suspense
On Monday I reviewed Brian Panowich’s explosive debut novel, Bull Mountain. Today I’m back with the sequel, Like Lions. Although they could be read as standalones, I feel like Bull Mountain is so strong you should read it first. And, if you’re going to do that, this review has some spoilers so you may want to take a pass and come back later.
Clayton Burroughs survived the shootout that almost ended his life, but there are remnants of both physical and psychological damage, causing him to lean on painkillers and booze. The death of his brother Halford, Bull Mountain’s drug lord has created a power vacuum and nature, like good fiction, abhor a vacuum. Beyond the valuable meth ring, there is also a long-standing rumor that the increasingly paranoid Halford buried millions somewhere on the Bull Mountain. It’s no surprise then, when three inept thieves from South Georgia try and take down a bar known to be under Burroughs protection, it ends in disaster for them. When they turn out to be part of a tweaked-out gang of meth heads, it’s the beginning of problems for everyone.
Because almost everyone in Bull Mountain is killed off, Panowich introduces a new cast in Like Lions. Interestingly enough, women seem to be more at the center of the action. If not in power, then at least pulling the strings behind the scenes. Standing in front, though, is Clayton’s wife, Kate. She closed Bull Mountain with a bang (literally) and now with a young child to protect has little patience for her husband’s problems. Lurking in the shadows is an outsider named Vanessa who seems to be part of the new generation of drug smugglers—converting dirty money to clean and staying as far away from the violence as possible. Except, she’s got a past of her own that she can’t run away from.
Once again, Panowich writes a tight, explosive story in Like Lions, but this time it seems as if he felt he needed to ratchet up the violence even further. Random, impetus shootings (which are rough enough), become scenes of torture and gruesome deaths. The more interesting psychological maneuverings that kept me fixated in Bull Mountain are largely missing. Like Lions comes down to hillbillies killing hillbillies and even though there’s a twist at the end, it’s not enough. I really hope Panowich has finished with this series because it feels played out and his writing is so good I’d like to see him turn to something new.