Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Down River by John Hart

One of my favorite bookstores is located in Blue Hills, Maine. Not only do they have an excellent selection of books,  but they are located in what appears to be an old house--no fluorescent lights and long aisles.

Downstairs a small nook with a number of well-stocked shelves contains their mystery selection. Despite the small size I always find a number of intriguing  mysteries --many new to me.

John Hart, well-known to many a mystery aficionado, was someone I discovered. I tend to read mysteries during the summer.

Down River by John Hart

While the New York Times review found that Hart had a " furiously overwrought voice", I disagreed with their hyperbolic description. They did own that his tale was  not dull.

John Hart is a storyteller and spins a fast paced tale. Adam Smith, the protagonist, had been tried for murder five years prior to his return to his family home in North Carolina. After  his acquittal he leaves for New York City. His stepmother had wanted him gone and most of the townspeople harbor doubts about his innocence.

Only after his long-time friend, Danny Faith, contacts him does he return. Danny is the one person who has always trusted in Adam's innocence.

The story is peopled by an interesting set of characters: Robin a past lover, is now a policewoman; Grace, a young woman who was brought to the farm as a baby and cared for by a man who worked for his father as a caretaker on the farm.

In some ways the characters who people the novel are like the eccentric or broken characters we might find in a Southern Gothic novel. They are bigger than life and may be metaphors for a larger view of the story. Adam is the prodigal son and the fight to save the farm and the land from the developers of a nuclear plant pits townspeople against one another.

Hart captures he regional flavor of the setting, the complexities of secrets and the corrosive effects of unmoderated self-interest.

My interest never flagged.

1 comment:

  1. I've never read this author, but a lady I used to work with recommended him to me several times. I need to read something of his!