by Hart, John

A tale set in the world of The Last Child finds Johnny Merrimon struggling to avoid notoriety by moving into the wilderness 10 years after the events that transformed his life and hometown, a decision that his longtime friend, Jack, fears is subjecting Johnny to malevolent forces.

JOHN HART is the author of several New York Times bestsellers, The King of Lies, Down River, The Last Child, Iron House, and Redemption Road. The only author in history to win the Edgar Award for Best Novel consecutively, John has also won the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller's Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His novels have been translated into thirty languages and can be found in more than seventy countries.

*Starred Review* Hart's career continues on its ever-upward trajectory: five books, five NYT best-sellers, two Edgars, and steadily growing critical acclaim. Those first five titles were all stand-alone thrillers, but this time Hart changes directions, offering a sequel to The Last Child (2009), in which 13-year-old Johnny Merrimon tracked the pedophile who abducted his sister. It's 10 years later now, and Johnny is living off the grid, in a cabin deep in the mysterious Hush Arbor, 6,000 acres of North Carolina swamp that Johnny inherited via a slave freed by one of Johnny's ancestors. Trouble is stalking Johnny, however, both from inside the arbor, where his nightmares and blackouts are increasing, and from without, in the form of back taxes and a suit challenging his right to the property. Johnny's oldest friend, Jack Cross, now a lawyer, is attempting to defend Johnny's interests, but the prospects are dim for success. A relatively straightforward premise so far-until Hush Arbor itself emerges as the story's most powerful character, and the novel embraces the horror elements that have been clamoring for attention all along.It can be jarring when a seemingly realistic novel suddenly jumps into full supernatural mode, but Hart handles the transition seamlessly. He has always worked on the edges of southern gothic, so his genre-bending leap seems less dramatic than it might otherwise. Moreover, his vivid evocation of Hush Arbor and the ghosts it shelters, extending back to slavery, carries a Faulknerian density that makes the idea of the past coming alive deep in a swamp feel not only believable but also inevitable. Hart makes it six for six here, and behind this uncanny string of success is a rare ability to combine the most propulsive of popular fiction with beguilingly rich characters (Johnny is the black-sheep first cousin to Quentin Compson). HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The track record is enough on its own, but this time the idea of a sequel to a popular previous novel will have Hart's fans squirming in anticipation. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Evil deeds from the past haunt the present in a darkly bewitched Southern swamp.Hart's ambitious, uneven, but ultimately provocative thriller initially seems set up along conventional narrative lines. In particular, the tale's opening events suggest a legal thriller centered on two characters, Johnny Merrimon and Jack Cross, returning from the author's earlier book The Last Child (2009). Now 23, Johnny faces losing the Hush, the 6,000 acre, half swamp, half dry land expanse in Raven County, North Carolina, that he'd inherited five years ago. Cree Freemantle, a young woman whose ancestors lived on the parcel for hundreds of years, is challenging his right to the property. The impecunious Johnny, who lives on his land, needs legal help he can't afford. His old friend Jack, who works at a law firm, tries but fails to arrange pro bono counsel. Wealthy William Boyd, who's offered Johnny $30 million for the land, wants Jack's firm to help him persuade Johnny to sell, offering them a lucrative deal to handle any work on the lawsuit over the land's ownership. But then Boyd is the victim of a gruesome, mysterious death in the Hush, and Johnny becomes a suspect in the case. Hart now goes after more than a story of pursuit. From the outset, his characters express a sense that the Hush is a strange place occupied by unseen, perhaps even ghostly forces. Alas, the many references to secrets and strange occurrences in the place may tire more than they intrigue the reader, who will readily agree when, near the end, a character muses that "There is no normal in the Hush. There is only story and magic." Hart links the magic of the place to fact, flashing back to vividly written depictions of the arrival of slaves in the Colonies. At the expense of characterization—Johnny, in particular, never emerges as a fully drawn protagonist, and secondary characters verge on stereotypes—Hart vigorously renders this tragic history and its aftermath as a nightmare o f violent, supernatural forces. After spinning its wheels in its first half, Hart's novel becomes a chilling tale that's hard to shake. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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