Monday, 28 March 2016

Book Review: REDEMPTION ROAD by John Hart

Redemption Road

Redemption Road
Author: John Hart
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Read: March 2016
Expected publication: 3 May 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Over 2 million copies of his books in print. The first and only author to win back-to-back Edgars for Best Novel. Every book a New York Times bestseller.

Now after five years, John Hart is back with a stunning literary thriller.


A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother.

A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting.

After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free. But for how long?

And deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, the unthinkable has just happened…

This is a town on the brink. This is a road with no mercy.

Since his debut bestseller, The King of Lies, reviewers across the country have heaped praise on John Hart, comparing his writing to that of Pat Conroy, Cormac McCarthy and Scott Turow. With each novel Hart has climbed higher on the New York Times Bestseller list, with his last two books - The Last Child and Iron House - landing squarely in the top ten. His masterful writing and assured evocation of place have won readers around the world and earned history's only consecutive Edgar Awards for Best Novel.

After five years, John Hart returns with Redemption Road, his most powerful story yet.

My thoughts:

Elizabeth Black is a tough cop with the permanent scars of abuse she suffered as a teenager still buried inside her. Her own traumatic past has made her an advocate for abused and suffering children, which has gotten her into trouble more than once. This time it almost costs her her own life when she sets out to free a teenage girl, Channing, from the hands of her abductors. Two bad men die a violent death in the process, and unless Elizabeth is able to justify the killings, she may face losing the job she loves and a murder charge. Her partner knows that there is more to the story than she lets out, so why is she so reluctant to defend herself?

In the meantime one of her other charges, 14-year-old Gideon Strange, steals his father’s gun and sets out to kill the man who has been charged with the savage murder of his mother Julia. He is due to be released today after serving 13 years in prison, a sentence which can never make up for destroying Gideon’s family and turning his father into a hopeless drunk. The prisoner’s name is Adrian Wall, an ex-cop who saved Elizabeth’s life once a long time ago. Maybe this is why she feels a strange kind of allegiance to him even after all that has happened since. Or perhaps it is because she has never really believed that he is guilty of Julia’s murder. Then another woman is killed in the same manner Julia was all those years ago, and everyone is convinced that Adrian is the perpetrator once again. With Elizabeth’s world collapsing around her, she must set out to fight for justice – for herself, for the children she has come to care for so deeply, and for the truth to come out. If Adrian is indeed innocent, the real killer is still out there, and nobody is looking for him. But in this fight there are a lot of players who will do everything to hide the truth and she cannot trust anyone, even those nearest and dearest to her.

I read a lot of mystery and suspense and it is rare that a thriller captures me totally and utterly from page one and has me spellbound until the very last page. I loved John Hart’s “The Last Child” (it is one of my all time favourites), and this book was no exception. Somehow Hart’s voice – graphic, tough and brutally honest – works well for me. Saying that, this book is not for the faint hearted. It contains some very dark scenes of depravity, torture, abuse and betrayal, and a lot of collateral damage. Most of the main protagonists are damaged in some deep fundamental way, which makes me wonder how the human mind could move on from this and whether people would ever be able to lead a normal life afterwards. Whilst some of the more unsavoury characters are victims of circumstance, others are so depraved that they will haunt your worst nightmares. Caught up in amongst all this are the innocent victims. Will justice be served? Is killing justified, if bad men are killed and other lives saved?  This novel will throw up all these questions and more, challenging the reader to find their own moral compass – which is not always black and white, right or wrong.

But the underlying message for me – as the title states so aptly – was about redemption, about doing the right thing and finding out the truth, no matter what the cost. In the words of seasoned lawyer “Crybaby” Jones:

“Then let me tell you a thing I’ve learned in my eighty-nine years. This house, the friends and the memories – I’d trade it for a chance to do what that young woman just did: a noble act, freely undertaken. How many of us have such a chance? And how many the courage to take it?”

Some people in the novel will have the courage, others will betray those nearest and dearest to them for personal gain. Nobody can be trusted – and Elizabeth must find out the hard way.

Redemption Road is a complex, well-constructed and suspenseful thriller with several plot lines converging into one breath-taking and brutal finale. Whilst some of my suspicions were justified and came true, there were still plenty of surprises in store. As intended, the end had me reeling in horror and revulsion as the depth of betrayal was revealed – but no spoilers here! I loved Redemption Road and cannot wait to read more from this author. Very highly recommended. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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