Never Turn Back
by Swann, Christopher

Years after his struggling parents are murdered in a house invasion, a successful teacher struggles to keep a deathbed promise to care for his brilliant but troubled sister, before false accusations trigger a reckoning with the past.

Christopher Swann is a graduate of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia. He earned a B.A. in English from Washington and Lee University, an M.A. in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University. He lives with his wife and two sons in Atlanta, where he is the English department chair at Holy Innocents' Episcopal School. Shadow of the Lions, published in 2017 by Algonquin, was his debut novel.

*Starred Review* This second literary thriller from Swann, following the critically acclaimed Shadow of the Lions (2017), is an extraordinarily compulsive read. Ethan Faulkner, age 13, and his younger sister, Susannah, 10, are shot in a home invasion and are left irreparably damaged emotionally by the event, which also leaves their parents dead. They cannot adjust to living with their Uncle Gavin, whose criminal associations exacerbate their troubled psyches. Susannah eventually steals the uncle's car and spends years as a drifter, armed only with what Ethan calls her "PhD in manipulation." Ethan, on the other hand, gets a solid education and establishes a successful teaching career. He carries some resentment against his sister for thwarting his attempt to save their father's life and is somewhat unsettled when she shows up just as he is developing a romantic relationship with a fellow teacher. Things slowly become even more unsettled, and then his life suddenly spirals out of control when he becomes the prime suspect in a brutal murder. He turns to his uncle for help and sets off on a dangerous path to find the men who have shattered his life a second time. Swann's writing packs a huge emotional wallop and delivers a breathtaking ending that will surprise most readers. Recommended for fans of domestic suspense, southern literary fiction, and powerful tales of retribution. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Swann presents a greased-lightning take on the hellish fury of a woman scorned. If he thought about labels, Ethan Faulkner would probably call himself a survivor. As a child, he survived a home invasion that left both his parents dead and his older sister, Susannah, hospitalized with relatively minor wounds himself. He survived an apprenticeship to bar owner Gavin Lester, the uncle who took in Suze and him, that gave him and his friend Frankie Gutierrez, the son of Gavin‚??s business partner, some dark glimpses into Gavin‚??s side hustle and sent Frankie to prison. Now that he‚??s teaching English at Georgia‚??s Archer School, the closest he comes to adventure is a one-night stand at an academic conference‚?"until his pickup, stunning Marisa Devereaux, turns up as a long-term substitute for Betsy Bales, Ethan‚??s very pregnant co-teacher, and throws herself at him again and again in increasingly inappropriate times and places. The sex is great, but the boundary issues are seriously worrying‚?"Marisa‚??s out-of-the-blue claim, ‚??I know who killed your parents,‚?Ě strikes Ethan dumb‚?"and when Marisa crosses one line too many and Ethan ends their affair, she vows revenge. In no time at all she‚??s used the wonders of social media to menace Ethan‚??s teaching job and drive both Suze and one of Ethan‚??s students to suicide attempts. Can things possibly get any worse? Let us count the ways: Swann shows impressive virtuosity in varying the pitches Marisa and eventually the Atlanta police throw at the lover who spurned her. Even if you‚??ve seen this all before, Swann makes it a wild, compelling ride from beginning to end. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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