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Redemption Road: A Novel Hardcover – May 3, 2016
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Photo Credit: Jon Lakey, Salisbury Post
Why I Write The South
By John Hart
I was 21 when I read The Prince Of Tides by the great Pat Conroy, and even now I remember it’s opening line. ‘My wound is geography.’ He was speaking of the South Carolina low country, of the waters and the marshes and all the living things that share that place. If you’ve read the book and remember its characters then you understand the power of those words. ‘My wound is geography. ..’
I’m a child of the South, and more specifically, a child of the river. Growing up in Rowan County, my family had 472 acres where the Yadkin spilled into the headwaters of High Rock Lake. It was a beautiful property, its borders unchanged since Cornwallis camped on it during the Revolutionary War. I’ve not stood on that land in three decades, but I remember the fields and woods like I’d walked them yesterday. I can close my eyes even now and feel the breeze that rose off the river. I remember the cattle, the deer, the stutter of quail and the smell of black snake on my hands. We lived in the city, but spent long days on the farm. We had horses and dirt bikes and outbuildings as old as the county, itself. For two miles our property followed the water. That meant coves and driftwood and arrowheads in the sand. For a boy like me it was paradise.
I think most every week of that land, of its pastures and streams and its wild and secret woods. It was a world unto itself, a forgotten nation with a population of me. My family was there, of course - the parents in the garden, the sisters on horseback – but most often I was by myself or with some friend from the city. We’d build forts in the hayloft and rafts beside the river. The old tenement shack was mounded with stored seed, and that was a playground no other boy ever had: a dozen dusty rooms and hills you could never climb. I knew every inch of that property, and I mean every single one. I knew where to watch for Copperhead and the best places to fish, where to pick fig and pear and blackberry, the fallen trees across the creeks, and which muddy spots would suck off your shoes. I caught catfish the size of my sister, bream by the hundreds and, once, a largemouth bass that must have weighed nine pounds. When I was older I hunted, but mostly for quail and dove and rabbit. I liked the deer too much to shoot, and even now let them roam unmolested on land I own in Virginia.
Life on the river was a special gift, and there was a song I learned early: the call of a fox in the night, of bullfrogs and owl and the blow of a startled deer. For a handful of years it was the rhythm of my childhood, to wake in the gray light and fall asleep with fireflies in the trees. And all the while there was the river, the slow, muddy brown and all the wonderful things it carried - not just the fish and the otter, but the blue-glass bottles, half-buried, the boaters and the fowl and the silver wood stacked everywhere the water bent. Childhood on the Yadkin was an adventure, and the river cut a channel right through me. I write about it in my books; it touches most every story. My second novel, Down River, is an unabashed testament to the river, and to the power of memory.
Yet, good things end. And though I blame no one for the sale of the farm – divorce happens, as does life - I ache for the place that was. The land was developed years ago, and in a way that hurts all the more for its thoughtless nature. It’s a junkyard now, and a trailer park littered with plywood additions and dead cars and dogs on short chains. This, too, shows up in my books, and speaks as well to the power of loss.
‘Geography is my wound.’
I can’t think of those early days on the river without feeling the changes time has wrought, not just on the land but on all of us. Things were simpler then. There was no Internet, and no such thing as a Play Station or a smart phone. Kids walked to school and played outside. The television had three channels. When the farm was sold, all that seemed to change. I know it didn’t happen on the same day or even in the same year, but it feels like it, looking back, like the ruination of that farm signaled an end to simplicity. Maybe there’s something to that. Maybe I just got older.
What I do know is that I’ve always aspired to have my own farm on a wide, slow river, to retrieve what I’d lost and to offer the same experience to my children. I never lost sight of that dream, and though it took a long time to achieve it, I’ve been fortunate enough to not only find the perfect property, but to buy it out of development, and thus protect it forever. I walk that land almost every day. I take my children there, and my wife. I lead my dogs through the fields and woods and think, ‘No development will happen here.’
There’s poetry in that, I think.
I no longer live in North Carolina, but I set my books there, and when I close my eyes its what I see: Salisbury and Rowan County, the people and the land and the long, forever river.
In Pat’s book there’s a second line after the first. ‘My wound is geography,’ he wrote. ‘It is also my anchorage, my port of call.’
He got that one right, too.
“People in publishing have always known that John Hart can flat-out write. His prose conjures comparisons with James Lee Burke in its sultry, melodious alchemy. With Redemption Road Hart has taken it to another level. The prologue is heart-wrenching and the chapters thereafter pull you in like matter to a black hole. Read this novel. And then go back and read all of his others. He’s that good.” ― David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"There’s no easier way to say it: Redemption Road is simply great writing." - Brad Meltzer, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
"John Hart writes like a poet, and I couldn’t put down this novel, an utterly riveting story of crime and its profound ripple effects on the human psyche. I have long been a fan of John Hart, but in Redemption Road, he has topped himself." -- Lisa Scottoline, New York Times Bestselling Author of Corrupted
“Big, bold, and impossible to put down, REDEMPTION ROAD had me from page one. John Hart is a master storyteller.” ― Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"In this stellar crime thriller, Edgar-winner Hart (Iron House) explores the human capacity for resilience and trust in the face of heartbreaking betrayal...Though Hart employs plot twists effectively, it’s his powerful, wounded but courageous lead whom readers will remember." - Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A heartbreaking tale of love and redemption, stepped in gothic tones and, ultimately, celebrating the triumph of the human spirit. Hart proves once again that great thriller writers can also be great novelists, and he’s one of the very best in both categories. The lyrical beauty of Hart’s writing contrasts beautifully with the sordid despair that roils his characters." ―Providence Journal on Redemption Road
"Enough characters, confrontations, secrets, and subplots to fill the stage of an opera house―and leave spectators from the orchestra to the balcony moved and misty-eyed. " - Kirkus Reviews
"A police officer with a tragic past, two children in peril, and a wrongly accused men - it all adds up to great story telling. REDEMPTION ROAD is a thriller with a Southern gothic touch. With his trademark strength and deep insight, John Hart rolls out another masterpiece. His first female protagonist is a flawed woman; but the reader never doubts the goodness of her heart. Plan to set aside a good chunk of time. You will have a hard time putting this book down before you reach the stunning conclusion." ― Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books
"John Hart loves the terrain where good people tough by nature or circumstance try to set things right while also rarely asking for help. Mix that with some very bad folks twisted by power and desire and you have the kind of riveting atmospheric story he's great at. Vivid characters determined to get to the bottom of things, breaking through their own reserve to join forces and protect the weak. Redemption Road is deeply engaging from beginning to end. This author has never disappointed me. I love the richness of his stories and the paths this characters chose to in fact achieve some kind of redemption for the powerless." ― Sheryl Cotleur, Cooperfield's Books
"Redemption Road is the best thriller I have read in the past 10 years. You have a damaged cop that refuses to help herself, an ex-cop leaving prison after serving time for a murder he didn't commit and a serial killer who is unknown in the town he has been preying upon for years. And that just starts the book! Thanks to John Hart's masterful writing and my not talking about anything else but his page-turning, electric novel, we have 22 preorders for a book that doesn't even have an ISBN yet!" ― Sally Brewster, Park Road Books
"In Redemption Road, John Hart has created the perfect combination of elements for any reader of thrillers―unending suspense, plot twists galore, in-depth and well drawn characters, and realistic and atmospheric settings. This is perfect for those who love John Grisham, Harlan Coben, Wiley Cash, and C. J. Box. Readers have waited five long years for a new book by Hart so librarians will want to buy plenty for both demand and for introducing to new readers." ― Robin Beerbower, EarlyWord.com Columnist
"Every new John Hart novel is a credit to the written word. Over five books, he has raised the bar for commercial fiction, deftly blending the tension, pacing, and suspense of the classic thriller with characters so richly drawn and prose so elegant that his stories are worthy of being called literature. After The Last Child and Iron House, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Hart's next offering. I was not disappointed. Redemption Road is a triumph." ― Corban Addison, internationally bestselling author of A Walk Across the Sun
"John Hart is the author of one of my all time favorite books, The King of Lies. His latest novel, Redemption Road, is a must read for anybody who loves an intelligent and totally gripping page turner. It is the one book that I recommend to all my friends this Summer." ― Markus Wilhelm
"He is a skilled writer who can plumb the minds of a wide range of characters while building tension with an intricate plot and revealing backstories...accomplished achievement." ― Library Journal
"Hart knows emotion; he also knows how to creatively spin a tale out of control yet be able to keep confusion at bay at all times. Readers will love the skill this man portrays bringing Redemption Road to life." ―Suspense Magazine
"Hart unwinds another complex plot, rich in backstory but driven by a propulsive main narrative...Hart plays brilliantly on the tradition of the southern gothic, but his grasp of character gives this novel―and all his works―the extra dimension that extends his audience well beyond adrenaline junkies.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A two-time Edgar winner and a writer who’s batting .1000 [1.000?] on New York Times best-sellers, Hart hasn’t lost his touch."" - Booklist, starred review
"Hart spins an intricately plotted crime story with plenty of twists and sharp turns...what’s truly satisfying is to see the characters discover their own truths―authentically, painfully, and at their own pace, the way it happens in real life. Hopefully it won’t be another five years until we see more from John Hart." - The Strand Magazine
"It has been a long time since I started a novel that from word one held me captive while it built slowly, inexorably, breathlessly to its heart-stopping finale...Ultimately,Redemption Road is about the power of loss, memory and place. It is a dazzling evocation of what Hart calls “the search for light in dark places.” - Open Letters Monthly
"REDEMPTION ROAD is as good as any of [Hart's] previous novels and in some cases even better. His grasp of plot is still phenomenal, his creation of characters is still amazing, and his way with words is still magnificently acute. In this book he writes with the same southern melancholia style of Conroy and McCullers, which is not an easy thing to do ... his story rings true. It possesses tremendous depth as it reveals the isolation a wounded heart can feel. It shows understanding in the emotions of rage and revenge. It shows the curative blessings of a redemptive soul. That is a lot to pack into a story but Hart has the heart and stamina to make it all work ...Stick out your thumb, flag him down and join him on this amazing journey. It will be the ride of a lifetime." ―Huffington Post
"John Hart's exquisite writing had me the moment I opened this book...Hart introduces a full cast of characters and manages to weave them together seamlessly. " - NJ Star Ledger
"The pages keep turning -- almost involuntarily -- until the end. Hart's writing is, at times, pure poetry. Yet at other times, the violence and cruelty he describes are almost too horrible to read. And that's probably the best way to describe this book -- a novel that has everything from torture and tortured people to beauty and what is the best in human nature. Hart manages to encompass it all. Beautifully." - Examiner.com
"There’s a magic in his work...Hart creates characters your heart bleeds for...thoroughly worth a slow, attentive read. Hart’s muscular prose is an editor’s dream, written not just in active voice but using verbs you feel in your viscera." - Raleigh News & Observer
"Hart ties the two plot threads in a gripping, believable story that doesn't rest until the last sentence...'Redemption Road' contains a more ambitious plot than Hart's previous novels, and he weaves this seemingly far-flung story with aplomb." - Assocated Press
"Hart once again has proved that he ranks among the best writers anywhere when it comes to literary and psychological thrillers, those novels that combine crime, suspense and searing glimpses into the human mind and soul." - Greensboro News & Record
"One of today’s finest thriller writers - certainly in the same league as David Baldacci, John Grisham, Frederick Forsyth and Lee Child. There are moments when Hart’s writing soars off the page with a lyricism that probably only James Lee Burke can match. Unforgettable." - Daily Mail (UK)
"John Hart is as near to perfect as any writer currently working. Redemption Road is conclusive evidence that Hart’s name belongs in the same breath as P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, masters of language and character who demonstrated again and again that mysteries and thrillers are not limited to plot-driven potboilers. They can be a beautiful art form, too, triggering emotions as strong as any inspired by music or poetry." - Chapter 16
"Edgar Award winning John Hart cements his status as one of America’s premier novelists, as well as mystery writers, in "Redemption Road," a beautifully rendered, heart wrenching tale that’s the perfect combination of brains and brawn...haunting in its base simplicity and riveting in its emotional angst, this is an extraordinary novel in which the human heart proves the most confounding mystery of all." - The Providence Journal
"With prose that runs the gamut between tough and lyrical, a page-turner plot that raises issues both timely and timeless and the talent to delve deeply into the psyches of the injured, Hart...again shines in a novel that examines our ability to rise above the destructive events in our lives ― or to surrender to our weaknesses. More than a crime novel, “Redemption Road” offers a volcano of unspeakable cruelty, corruption and sin ― but also a testament to saving love, courage and grace." - The Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Redemption Road returns Hart to his rightful place as one of the most literary of living crime writers; and one that illustrates the power of genre fiction when placed in the hands of a master story-teller." - Shotsmag (UK)
"Redemption Road is an achingly beautiful literary thriller powered by evocative prose and remarkable characters, a disturbing tale of wounded people scrabbling about in a world of secrets, betrayals, and tough choices." - New Zealand Herald
“Redemption Road by John Hart is a major work of creative writing that has few equals in recent fiction and stands alone in the crime fiction genre. It is a spectacular achievement and this year’s most satisfying read.” ―The Durango Telegraph
About the Author
- Publisher : Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition (May 3, 2016)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0312380364
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312380366
- Item Weight : 1.35 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.46 x 1.35 x 9.55 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #626,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The book opens with a police officer being investigated for killing two kidnappers while in the process of saving an 18 year old girl from days of horrible pain and torture. State police investigators feel something is not right with the story both Elizabeth (the police officer in question) and Channing (the kidnapping victim) are telling. Is there more to the story?
On top of that, a boy with a gun is seeking a man who has just been released from prison AND a body of a young woman has been found in a way that is reminiscent of an infamous previous crime. All this within a week in a smallish North Carolina town. Is it all somehow connected? Tensions grow and the plot thickens as Elizabeth tries to figure out what's going on while also protecting those who she loves.
WHAT I LOVED
Maybe there is something wrong with me but I love a good psychological thriller. This one has so many things I love about these books; complicated well developed characters, a creepy factor, lots of hidden agendas, several twists but not so many that it feels ridiculous. Loved all that.
I could relate to Elizabeth's instinct to protect children and loyalty to her friends.
The book was written with the exact amount of detail I need. I don't think thrillers play well with over blown descriptive phrases and I do not like it when the violence is described in every painful detail. John Hart gave me enough detail so I could picture the town, characters, action and understand the characters motivations without sounding like someone showing off their freshman comp 101 writing skills.
WHAT I DIDN'T LOVE
I tend not to love a 'falsely accused cop' story. I don't have a good reason other than personal preference.
There were times when Elizabeth annoyed me, often running off without thinking, you would think that as a police officer she would use more logic and be more aware of potential danger.
Good book. I'm going to look for other John Hart books and put them on my reading list.
Since his debut bestseller, THE KING OF LIES, reviewers around the world have praised the work of Hart, who was born and raised in the western, mountainous frequently poorer part of the state. Each of his novels has taken him higher on the New York Times Bestseller list as his fine literary writing; exciting plotting-- lots of twists and turns-- and evocative evocation of place have earned history's only consecutive Edgar Awards for Best Novel with DOWN RIVER and THE LAST CHILD.
This novel imagines a small, poor North Carolina town, nestled in the mountains, trying to deal with the fact that they have a serial killer in their midst. Meanwhile, after thirteen years in prison, a good cop wrongly found guilty walks free, while deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, a pretty young woman’s body cools in pale linen. A boy with a gun waits for the man who the boy believes killed his mother. A troubled young detective worries about the impact of brutal abuse on a young girl, confronts her own past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting.
Hart was born in Durham, North Carolina in 1965, to a young surgeon and French teacher who quit teaching to raise her children. He has won the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His novels have been translated into thirty languages, can be read in more than seventy countries. I have read each of his novels as released, loved them, and reviewed them all on their Amazon web sites. Really lucky that way: was introduced to Hart’s work shortly after having moved to coastal Wilmington, North Carolina. The local library then threw mystery weekends; the 2007 event tipped him as Rookie of the Year. I still have the bookmark that says so, if only I could figure out how to scan it and post it here. Saw Hart again at the 2015 Boucher.con convention for international mystery authors and fans, which was held that year in Raleigh, N.C. And I’ve every one of his books autographed. Long may he prosper and write, long may I be able to review his works and add them – autographed, of course, to my collections of the works of handsome young Southern authors.
Top reviews from other countries
The Writing: Hart uses great prose and can create a great sense of place. However in this one I think he tried too hard in places. Descriptions like a "hard minute" left me wondering what he meant, which disturbed the flow.
The Characters: All miserable. OK I admit Hart usually has miserable people but it's too much. Everything is dark. I found the protagonist unlikable and her situation unbelievable. She is raped along with another girl (who, though 18, is referred to as a child frequently) and allegedly shoots the perps. However she is then treated like a pariah by the towns folk and her colleagues. I also found it hard to believe that the lawyer would be called Crybaby. He cried during one court case and had been labelled ever since - even by the protagonist.
The Plot: There are a couple of intertwined main plots - the serial murders and the persecution of Adrian Wall. The latter at times felt a bit like Shawshank with hidden millions motivating the crooks. Though How they knew, I am unclear. The serial murders seemed to grow nicely but then the villain (I won't spoil it) comes out of the blue and the whole thing is over just as quickly. A bit of a twist but without build up or satisfying denouement.
Overall: I don't think Hart plotted the story well enough to keep the reader entertained and guessing. There are long sections when very little happens and tension wasn't built up for the climax. Hart is such a good writer normally - and a lot of effort went into this - but this was a great disappointment and I'm unlikely to try another of his books in the future.
One of the best books I have read in quite a while, though not for the faint hearted.
Took another chance on this one even though it was expensive for Kindle.
It never stops coming , with a complicated plot and finely drawn characters.
I won't give the plot away , read the jacket!
Highly recommended .