We've all been hearing about John Hart for a couple of years now, primarily because of his award-winning book "The Last Child", published back in May 2009. I actually have that very book (signed and bought from my ALL silent auction) but have yet to read it. I think the take-away from this author is...difficult topics, great writing, edge-of-the-seat action, above the fray in a sea of mediocre thrillers.
Then this book began to make a splash. It caught my eye in the latest edition of Bookmarks. It has been on SIBA's lists since its release. And Jill said I had to read it. I must obey the Jill. I was thrilled when Jill hooked me up with Joe Brosnan from St. Martin's Press, who provided a beautiful hardback copy of the book for my reading and reviewing pleasure.
Synopsis: Julian and Michael were orphaned at a very young age, and grew up in Iron House, a hellhole of an orphanage where sociopathic youths run wild. Julian, being the weaker of the two brothers, was tortured daily until one day he kills one of his assailants. Michael takes the fall and runs away. Julian is adopted by a rich senator and his wife, and Michael is taken in by a powerful mob family to become a powerful enforcer.
At middle age, Michael has decided he wants out of the business. His girlfriend is pregnant, and the crime boss, Michael's beloved father-figure, is on his death bed. Once the boss dies, the rest of the organization is not willing to let Michael go. He knows way too much, and they also suspect Michael has access to the boss's millions. Suddenly, the lives of all of Michael's loved ones, even his brother, is at risk, and Michael must do all that he can to protect them.
Back at the senator's mansion, Julian, now an international author, has had a mental breakdown, and dead bodies are being recovered from a large lake on the property. Michael and Julian's adoptive mother Abigail are resolved to help Julian recover, divert the cops, and thwart the murderous mobsters. In the process, they discover long-buried secrets about their pasts that have the potential to implode all of their lives.
My thoughts: My apologies, but that synopsis is a bit longer than I normally provide. It is just that there was a whole heck of alot going on in this book...enough material and plot threads to write two or three books. The combination of the threat of the mob, dead bodies at the Senator's house, and secrets of the past, all blended to be a very hefty read.
I loved the characterization in the story. These were not your admirable protagonists, mind you. Michael was a stone cold killer. But he longed to be a father, and he loved his little brother. Abigail came from a nefarious background and would lie, cheat or kill to protect her son. But you had to admire their fierce commitment to family. They were tough and fearless. The bad guys were awful...some of the most sadistic son-of-a-bitches you would ever meet on paper. Blood and body parts are flying, my friends. Don't eat before you read.
I did take issue with all the dialogue. None of it worked for me. Conversations between the characters were very stilted and strange. I found myself constantly shaking my head and saying "people just don't TALK like this!". There was so much more to the plot, though, than the talking, so I just focused on the action and the inherent emotion and tuned out when any of the characters had two-way conversation.
Despite all the frantic activity in the story, and all the death and destruction, it still took me a week and a half to read (and I was on vacation with time on my hands) which I don't entirely understand. Was it the violence? The weird dialogue? The abundance of significant plot threads? While I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, it wasn't one that grabbed me by the hair and demanded to be read every second of the day. But as I turned the last page, I declared it to be ultimately satisfying.
4 out of 5 stars