Darkness on the Edge of Town

Iron House: A Novel by John Hart (Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99, 432 pages)

This mystery/thriller is the fourth book from author John Hart (Down River, The King of Lies, The Last Child).   His tale is dense, personal and darkly portrayed using excellent character development.   Michael, the main character, has led a mysterious life at the margins of society as a mob killer.   His childhood traumas and challenges form the background of the mystery.   There is a Dickensian quality to the somber undercurrent that stems from Michael’s childhood years spent in a horrific orphanage called Iron House.   He has recently felt a yearning for an ordinary life far from the world he knows.   Girlfriend Elena is at the center of these new feelings.

“Where are we going?”

“North Carolina.”

“Why?”

“To find my brother.”

She blinked, still stunned.   “You killed them.”

Michael opened the door, took her by the hand.   “I’m trying to quit.”

As is often the case, the plotline is just inside the bounds of believability.   Yes, we’re familiar with the notion of East Coast crime syndicates and the brutality of gangs in general.   Yes, a story that involves the worst of the bad is bound to contain its fair share of blood and guts.   But, no, the quantity of gore provided by author Hart was not anticipated.

The leisurely pace of the early chapters gives way to an all-out race against evil to save the damsel in distress.   This book is highly reminiscent of another recently published work that features an orphanage/reform school.   The Bone Yard by the writing duo known as Jefferson Bass relies on forensics and anthropology, while Iron House gets its structure from the aberrant quirks of some truly psychotic folks.   The two books are vastly different in that the bulk of the body count in The Bone Yard stems from decades old acts of cruelty, whereas Iron House has a pile of fresh corpses.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “A rare accomplishment – a compelling, fast paced thriller written with a masterful, literary touch.”   Jeffrey Deaver

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