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Down River Hardcover – October 2, 2007

333 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hart surpasses his bestselling debut, The King of Lies (2006), with his richly atmospheric second novel, which offers a tighter plot, more adroit pacing and less angst. Five years earlier, Adam Chase was arrested for murder, largely on the basis of his stepmother's sworn testimony against him. He was acquitted, but nearly everyone, including his father, still thinks he did it, and Adam's deep bitterness has kept him away from home ever since. Now, at the request of a childhood friend, he's back in Salisbury, N.C., where all the old demons still reside and new troubles await. The almost Shakespearean snarl of family ties is complicated by a very modern struggle between economic progress and love for the land, between haves and have-nots. Throughout, Hart expertly weaves his main theme: that by their freedom of choice, humans are capable of betrayal but also of forgiveness and redemption. This book should settle once and for all the question of whether thrillers and mysteries can also be literature. 150,000 first printing; 15-city author tour. (Oct.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

John Hart’s 2006 debut, The King of Lies (**** Selection Sept/Oct 2006), earned an Edgar nomination for Best First Novel. Most reviewers agree that his sophomore effort is a worthy successor. The plot moves energetically through interesting terrain: a southern county torn apart by the possibility of easy wealth, a family ruptured by suspicion, and a community that despises the book’s protagonist. The New York Times criticized Hart for overblown writing and stale imagery but grudgingly praised the story’s vigorous plot and feverish pace. With Down River, Hart garners comparisons to Raymond Chandler, John Grisham, and Scott Turow. This illustrious list should be recommendation enough for most readers.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312359314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312359317
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (333 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Hart is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, The King of Lies, Down River and The Last Child. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, John has also won the Barry Award and England's Steel Dagger Award for best thriller of the year. His books have been translated into twenty-nine languages and can be found in over fifty countries. A former criminal defense attorney, John has also worked as a banker, stockbroker, and apprentice helicopter mechanic. A husband and father of two, he spends his time in North Carolina and Virginia.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

228 of 236 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on October 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The words "Rowan County, North Carolina," evoke many memories for Danny Chase, the hero of John Hart's second literary thriller, Down River. Many of them are pleasant--for instance, the time he spent with childhood friend Danny Faith. But even the happy memories are colored by the events that drove him from Rowan five years before the events depicted in this novel, when he was almost convicted of a murder he didn't commit. Thus, his reluctance to return to his home town at the urgent behest of his friend Danny is understandable; but, his loyalty to his friend eventually outweighing his misgivings, he decides to honor his pal's request.

His mere appearance in Rowan stirs up old emotions and grudges as he encounters allies and enemies from the past, and things get even more complicated when he discovers that Danny has mysteriously vanished. After a member of his own family is attacked, Danny becomes a person of interest in the investigation. When townspeople start dying all around him, he's forced to unravel an intricate web of secrets to clear his name.

One of those rare writers who actually live up to the expectations created by the hyperbole of his jacket copy and publicity materials, Hart delivers a book that should satisfy thriller fans as well as those who appreciate a well written novel (not that the two are mutually exclusive, mind you). Through his carefully fashioned prose and sheer storytelling ability, Hart successfully updates the southern gothic, artfully trodding some of the same territory as notables such as Grisham, Berendt, and (dare I say?), Wolfe and Faulkner.
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129 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Newt Gingrich THE on October 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I thought John Hart had a remarkable beginning with The King of Lies, a book which captured me and kept me glued to the page as it wove together a southern baroque small town family oriented sense of fantasy, reality, and mystery in a way that is totally believable. However, he may have surpassed himself in Down River, a novel which I found impossible to put down and which carried the sins of the past into the crimes of the present and the pain of the future with a human, personal touch that was endlessly gripping. I cannot recommend it too highly if you are interested in the human condition, the complexity of people, or the nature of southern gothic traditions. I believe that John Hart is going to become a writer that many readers look forward to every year for his latest volume. This certainly builds on King of Lies and continues his development as a major fiction writer.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By L. Rogers on October 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...Mistakes usually leave that ripple, sometimes deep, sometime shallow, that flow outward in astonishing ways. If I could give this author 10 stars i would. His book is about a particular family, but I've been a member of a family with members that I saw in the pages of his book. Adam Chase leaves home under a cloud of suspicion, stays away five years and then comes back. People then begin to die, or are discovered to have died, people are hurt, memories that have been hidden rise to the surface and you, as as reader, keep turning the pages, faster and faster. The author writes with depth, with knowledge of how we hurt each other, and shows us tenderness, frustration and dispair. The book blurb says you will remember this story long after you've read the last lline, and that is a true statement. I couldn't recommend a book more. Good job, John Hart.
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58 of 66 people found the following review helpful By D. Kanigan VINE VOICE on January 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Adam Chase was erroneously arrested for murder five years previously principally due to his stepmother's testimony. He was released due to the jury's inability to find a motive. However, the small town, his Father, step-mother and many others turned on him during the arduous process and still believed that he was the killer. Chase left his family and his lover behind and vanished to NYC. After five years, he returns to his small southern town with a hope of finding his family, forgiveness and his relationship with his girl. Upon his return, he quickly gets entangled in a series of murders and he's again under suspicion.

The murder mystery kept me engaged throughout with many potential suspects and motives. The novel was a compelling and quick read albeit "light and fluffy." I found the plot, while unpredictable, also unbelievable in certain passages which impacted my rating of the novel. This book was an enjoyable page-turning romp.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on October 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
John Hart made a superb debut in 2006 with THE KING OF LIES, a novel that was by turns a mystery, a thriller and a psychological study. DOWN RIVER, his sophomore effort, is equally as impressive, assembling a cast of unforgettable characters in a story of passion, greed and deception.

DOWN RIVER returns to Rowan County, North Carolina, the situs of THE KING OF LIES. Hart's setting is more rural this time, though emotions run just as high and deceit runs just as deep. The book centers on Adam Chase, the son of an extremely wealthy landowner who refuses to sell the 1,400-acre family farm to developers, despite intense pressure from the community. Five years prior to the events in DOWN RIVER, Chase had been tried for and acquitted of the murder of a teenager in Rowan County, a death that many continue to hold him responsible for. Indeed, his own stepmother testified against him at the trial. Following his acquittal, Chase fled to New York, leaving behind his embittered father as well as Robin Alexander, the love of his life and one of his few steadfast supporters.

In the present, Chase has reluctantly come back to Rowan County at the cryptic request of boyhood friend Danny Faith. His return exacerbates the emotional maelstrom that surrounds his family. There are many, including the local sheriff, who feel that he is nothing but a murderer who escaped justice, and his presence merely increases the resentment that many already feel toward the steadfast refusal of Chase's father to sell the property. When another murder occurs in Chase's proximity, it seems as if he either brings a curse with him or he has killed --- again.
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