©2007 John Hart; (P)2007 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC
"Richly atmospheric....This book should settle once and for all the question of whether thrillers and mysteries can also be literature." (Publishers Weekly)
If I heard that phrase once, I heard it 50 times in this book. Based on the (mostly) glowing reviews, I really thought I was in for a treat- but it lost me about a third of the way through.
I want to give other's a true impression of what I got out of this book--even though I appear to me in the minority side of the isle so far.
Yes, it's a decent story with a lot of characters and situations- but it does seem the book would have been better if some of the situations were developed further, and given us a more in depth feel for the people. As some other's have said --I really never came to care about any of them.
Far from all of the characters being "strong southern men and women"- most of them were weak, cowardly, bullies, and liars. Secrets and personal motivations come out almost as afterthoughts.
The main character, Adam, is a decent person who wants to do the right thing, but he just didn't ring true to me. His love interest, Robin (a local cop) comes across as flighty and unstable. How many times was she going to lead Adam along to gain information from him for the police investigation --and then say "gee I'm sorry- but I'm a cop first. He forgives her, and then it goes on to happen again (much like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.)
One last thing- did anyone think they were listening to a poor imitation of Will Patton reading a James Lee Burke novel? At times I got the impression that Hart had tried to copy Burke's natural grasp of meaningful prose-- or may it was just me.
Hart is a relatively new author, and I admit this is the first book I have listened to by him. I'm not sure I will give another one a try or not--certainly a lot of people seem to enjoy him.
Down River is a finalist in my personal "World's Dumbest Book" compeitition. There is not one believeable character in it, the plot is little more than an amalgamation of obvious misdirections from the author. Just pick the least likely outcome in every situation and you will know what will happen next. The narrator runs around the book bossing everyone around and beating people up, making dopey choices that are positioned as coming from some saintly moral high ground. Amazingly, all the characters generally follow his orders as he pursues his ridiculous "investigation" untils it lands on its deliberately unlikely conclusion. I'd have to ruin the plot for you to shoot this book up any further. Just thought my fellow audible friends needed a little counterpoint to the inexplicable pile of 5 star reviews this stinker has gotten.
Narrator is fine.
I listen to a lot of audiobooks, and this is probably the best one I've ever listened to.
DOWN RIVER is a very compelling crime drama, with great writing, dialogue and character depth. A tightly paced thriller, but one that thoroughly explores tragic family and personal relationships. Like a Southern soap opera, but don't let that scare you. Superb narration by Scott Sowers, he does a great job with all the character voices.
Try this one, you won't regret it. I loved it, and thought it well worth the money.
Now that I have read this, a genuine five-star book narrated by a five-star narrator, I feel bad about those five-star ratings I gave several other books in the same genre.
I love plots like this: tight, intricate, and credible. There are no dead-ends or red herrings. Everything that happens happens for a reason, and Hart unfolds the reasons with tight narration and dialog. There is a mystery here that runs deep in Adam Chase's family's past, with secret relationships and hidden motives. As the tale was spun I felt several times that I had it figured out, but I didn't, not until the end. More clever readers than I probably will see what's coming - my wife always does - but I was continually surprised and greatly entertained.
The characters are all the strong southern men and women that actually do populate large parts of North Carolina. The way they're portrayed by Hart reminded me of works about the Scots-Irish in the South, particularly Jim Webb's "Born Fighting". The characters' qualities are brought out by Hart's artistry, aided hugely by Scott Sowers' rendition. I've listened to a lot of Scott's narrations before, and this to me was his best ever. He's a Virginian himself, and he slips into North Carolina speech naturally. No drawling, just the accent and clear enunciation of the Piedmont.
This book was my fourth pick made by looking through Audible's list of Edgar winners. It's turning out that even-numbered picks were successes, odd-numbered ones not so much. My aim was to discover new mystery and suspense authors and gorge on their works. Sadly, Hart's output to-date is only four books. But what a rich feast it's turning out to be!
On a level with Scott Turow? You bet.
No! The story had too many negative events and outcomes.
No. This family was toooo disfunctional to continue the story.
Purchased this book because of a good rating but don't agree with that opinion.
List of favorite books: Woodcutter - Reginald Hill, Consent to Kill, First Deadly Sin - Lawrence Sanders, Sniper Elite - Scott McEwen
When I see awards for a book. I assume that there is some substance to it. The book is long drawn out with scenerios that are hard to believe. By the end of the book - I didn't even care who did it. Scott Sowers has a good voice - But not a great narrator. Maybe he'll get better? I don't like writing bad reviews. I love to listen and read. I wanted this book to be good because I read some reviews for his other book - But I don't think I can get it now.
Retired former magazine editor who is working harder than ever as Mr. Dad to his 14-year-old daughter.
I came close to giving this book five stars but decided not to because of the absence of a character you could feel good about. Try as I might, I couldn't make myself like Adam. The author combined the elements of an intriguing tragedy with mystery and kept me involved for the entire read. Well worth a credit.
Dept Q, Harry Hole... where are you?
This is one of the few mysteries that kept me guessing till the end. It is a tragic tale of a wealthy, unforgiving family. I found myself lost in it, but not pleasantly, there is nothing pleasant about this family. That is my only reason for giving it 4stars rather than 5. I admit i like to fall in love with the characters and this story feels too much like real family.
One surprise is that i did fall in love with the setting. It is set in the small town of Salisbury, NC which most travelers on I 85 know because it has the only Starbucks between Greensboro and Charlotte. Yet Salisbury is the home of one the largest grocery chains, Food Lion, and Cheerwine, a hugely popular soft drink in the Carolinas. I believe the author is the stepson of one of the wealthier families there. I say all this because I am guilty of knowing little or nothing about this historical gem not 45 miles from my door. Having read this novel, I plan to learn more and experience more of Salisbury.
The author obviously has a great deal of knowledge of the local police and sheriff departments procedures as well as the politics and geography of the city. This gives the story a reality I've rarely experienced.
A final note regarding the author's talent of building characters. He does a masterful job of having each character actually act his or her age. For example, the hero is a tough, smart 28 year old, but totally as self absorbed and immature as most are today. His mentor is in his early 60's, not as smart, but wise and forgiving. It's a great contrast revealed in multiple characters throughout the story.
So it's a yes! Well worth your time.
My difficulty was that I simply did not connect with the primary character, Adam Chase, enough to care about his situation. I appreciated how he was grappling with some of his family issues, but I never really found him overall that interesting. Nor did care too much about his predicament. Could be me. Other characters were drawn with fairly bold lines, not much nuance to any of them. I'm sure that was intentional, almost requisite for this plot to work. But again I failed to connect with any of them. So I did not feel much anticipation regarding the overall resolution of many of their conflicts. The plot was somewhat interesting but not gripping or demanding. The strength of the story was Adam's efforts at dealing with issues involving his mother and father and family. The author handles this very well and demonstrates a clear understanding of human nature and family motivations.
I hadn't read anything by John Hart before, but I'm glad I downloaded this book. His charater's personalities were strong and interesting. The interactions he wrote about couldn't have been more on. The storyline was interesting and believable. I truly enjoyed listening to this book. I am going back to read his first book and look forward to more from him.
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