Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Redemption Road

At over 400 pages, Redemption Road by John Hart is a literary thriller that reads like a much smaller book as the pages fly by in the reader’s need to embrace a wide cast of vivid and compelling characters and unlock the tale's multiple mysteries. It is an utterly riveting and gripping multi-layered story, beautifully written, where nothing on the page is filler but instead every word serves a purpose.

From the publisher: "Imagine: A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother. A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting. After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free as deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, a body cools in pale lining. This is a town on the brink. This is Redemption Road."

I loved Redemption Road. This is my first John Hart novel, but it definitely won't be my last. A crime thriller with an emotionally charged plot perfectly paced, dealing with a murder mystery and the always volatile subjects of police corruption and prison abuse. The story is so well-constructed and characters so fleshed out that you feel an incredible sense of familiarity with each; the more you learned about each, the more you wanted to know. Relying on multiple points of view, the plot and parallel subplot develop at a relentless, yet very deliberate pace. With tension, suspense, and intricately woven truths and secrets that are slowly and meticulously revealed, Hart has constructed with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel and the prose and beauty of a poet, a moving tale about real people who are nuanced, complex and unforgettable.

While the mysteries were relatively predictable, it was the characters that kept me joyfully reading for they were truly memorable in their depth. Like the real world, the good and bad guys aren't easily identified, no white and black hats. Flawed, conflicted, with a history; saved yet lost, loyal yet treacherous, innocent yet corrupted. Using light and shade, Hart has created characters that feel incredibly authentic. Central to the story are Elizabeth, feisty yet emotionally wounded, she’s a good cop accused of the excessive force shooting (18 bullets) of two men caught raping and torturing a young girl, who is left fighting for both her future and her freedom; Adrian, an ex-cop and ex-con struggling for his soul and very sanity; and Channing, a girl trying to piece herself back together after the most soul-altering of experiences. Each is on their own path to redemption, without even knowing it. The amazing thing is that in each wildly different character the reader can find a palpable piece of humanity with which to connect and empathize - one's desperation, the other's fear, love, hate, and/or bravery.

The book's jacket touts John Hart as the one and only author to win back-to-back Edgars (the most prestigious awards in the mystery genre) for best novel. If Redemption Road is any indication of his talent, then it's no surprise why. Redemption Road is quite apropos a story of redemption (duh) that speaks to the strength and resilience of the human spirit to face its demons and overcome, emerging battered and scarred but triumphant.