It was obvious with the publication of John Hart's first novel, The King of Lies, that a new master writer had arrived on the scene. This totally enjoyable book was followed by Down River and The Last Child, both of which equaled the enjoyment of the first. Now comes Hart's latest, Iron House, and it is a novel to be savored. It fills up your brain and is delicious to read.
This book however shows a new side of John Hart. It is intense to the nth degree and the brutality in the story will cause the weak of stomach to fall by the wayside and the faint of heart to have to take a break. Still the horror and the evilness shown in the story are necessary for the total picture Hart wishes to paint.
The book focuses on a man named Michael. He is part of a "Mafia" type family, not by birth but through an adoption of sorts. As the story begins Michael has found love with a woman named Elena. She and Michael are going to be parents so he has decided to leave the "family" business and carve out a more respectable life for his future wife and child. Before this can be done there are a series of deaths that lead to Michael and Elena fleeing to the mountains of North Carolina. There he hopes to learn more about his brother Julian.
Michael and Julian had been raised as orphans at the Iron Mountain Home for Boys. It was a place with Dickensian overtones of hardship and brutality. Michael had protected Julian for as long as he could but the day arrived when he had to leave him behind. Now Michael returns to learn Julian had been adopted by a Senator and his wife. The adoptive mother, Abigail, wanted to adopt both boys but Michael had left by the time she arrived on the scene.
Hart explores a myriad of relationships and situations in this story and with each level being exposed the story becomes more and more complex. Hart, however, can handle complexities. He has such a firm grip on his story that the most unbelievable aspects become logical, and the most extreme characters become understandable. Not acceptable, but understandable.
There is such a beauty to Hart's writing. His choice of words to describe a character's emotions or actions is a study in writing effectively. His ability to create a complex and convoluted plot evidences a skill few writers ever possess. He is a master of the game of writing novels and has been this way since his very first effort.
There are few writers on the scene today who even come close to matching Hart's talent. It seems to just get bigger and bigger. Who knows what power his next novel will have? Still even if he completely stopped writing with this one he would have made an indelible mark on the literary scene.
Iron House is published by St Martin's Press. It contains 421 pages and sells for $25.99.