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Redemption Road


Redemption Road

John Hart puts his readers squarely in the zone. Pick up one of his novels and start reading. After a few pages, you will be immersed in his world, the one that exists within the covers and deep within the binding. Hart is a rare breed of an author, one who has been both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, and with good reason. As a result, the five long years that have passed since the publication of IRON HOUSE have been excruciating for his readers. I would have to go back quite a way to recall a book in the mystery/thriller genre that has been more anticipated than his newly published REDEMPTION ROAD. I am happy to report that it is more than worth the wait.

"REDEMPTION ROAD is ultimately a conundrum, in the limited respect that Hart establishes a measured pace that nonetheless moves quickly, even as one cannot read it fast enough."

REDEMPTION ROAD commences with a kidnapping but begins, if you will, 13 years before, when a highly respected police officer named Adrian Wall was tried and convicted of a murder and sentenced to the hardest of hard time. It puts one in the mind of Karin Slaughter here, Cormac McCarthy there, and maybe even a bit of Sherwood Anderson and Charles Dickens, yet is shot through with Hart’s own unique style. Wall’s inexplicable early release in present time sets a number of events in motion. A boy on the cusp of adolescence commences a grim journey for revenge; a driven police detective named Elizabeth Black prepares for his homecoming, even as she is being investigated for her actions during a rescue that resulted in the deaths of two drug dealers; and a killer prepares for yet another murder to coincide with Wall’s release.

With respect to the latter, Wall has hardly been released for 24 hours before he is a suspect in a second murder identical to the one for which he was originally convicted. Black, then and now, is one of the few who believe in Wall’s innocence, even as he is pursued by law enforcement and the warden who oversaw his incarceration and participated in the seemingly inexplicable torture to which he was subjected. Then, as improbable as it may seem, things become worse for everyone involved, particularly Black and Wall.

As the book progresses, Hart toys with what the reader knows and doesn’t know, gently but constantly shifting the walls of his ingeniously constructed creation while providing enough mystery and darkly fascinating characters to fill three books, and doing it all without ever losing any of the gossamer threads of storyline that arise out of the rural North Carolina town he has created. The result is a bleak and evil wonder, beautifully and wondrously told, and all the more horrifying for it.

REDEMPTION ROAD is ultimately a conundrum, in the limited respect that Hart establishes a measured pace that nonetheless moves quickly, even as one cannot read it fast enough. He raises mysteries and resolves them throughout the novel, eschewing a “Scooby Doo” wrap-up in favor of a style that resolves one question while raising another, even as he ratchets up the suspense quotient so high that the book’s last half is almost excruciating to read, but in the best possible way. If you are unfamiliar with Hart’s work, his latest will make a fan --- and a believer --- out of you.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 6, 2016

Redemption Road
by John Hart

  • Publication Date: May 16, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250132118
  • ISBN-13: 9781250132116