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John Hart
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Down River
paperback
342 pages
The words "Rowan County, North Carolina," evoke many memories for Danny Chase, the hero of John Hart's second literary thriller, Down River. Many of them are pleasant--for instance, the time he spent with childhood friend Danny Faith. But even the happy memories are colored by the events that drove him from Rowan five years before the events depicted in this novel, when he was almost convicted of a murder he didn't commit. Thus, his reluctance to return to his home town at the urgent behest of his friend Danny is understandable; but, his loyalty to his friend eventually outweighing his misgivings, he decides to honor his pal's request.

His mere appearance in Rowan stirs up old emotions and grudges as he encounters allies and enemies from the past, and things get even more complicated when he discovers that Danny has mysteriously vanished. After a member of his own family is attacked, Danny becomes a person of interest in the investigation. When townspeople start dying all around him, he's forced to unravel an intricate web of secrets to clear his name.

One of those rare writers who actually live up to the expectations created by the hyperbole of his jacket copy and publicity materials, Hart delivers a book that should satisfy thriller fans as well as those who appreciate a well written novel (not that the two are mutually exclusive, mind you). Through his carefully fashioned prose and sheer storytelling ability, Hart successfully updates the southern gothic, artfully trodding some of the same territory as notables such as Grisham, Berendt, and (dare I say?), Wolfe and Faulkner.
9/10
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