Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review of Redemption Road by John Hart (Hodder & Stoughton 2016)

Elizabeth Black is a tough cop living with a dark secret that draws her to over-protect vulnerable children.  When rescuing a young girl who has been abducted and raped by two black suspects she pumps 18 bullets into the pair, include joints and genitals.  Now she’s being pursued for excessive violence and torture of suspects.  Ex-cop Adrian Wall has been suffering torture at the hands of a prison warden and guards while serving 13 years for the death of a local woman.  He’s always pleaded innocence, but only a handful of people believe him, including Elizabeth.  On the day he’s released, Gideon – another of Elizabeth’s young charges and son of the murdered woman – seeks out Adrian with the intention of shooting him dead. Instead Gideon ends up in hospital. The following day another woman is found dead in the same place and laid out in the same way as the victim Adrian was convicted for.  Attention is quickly focused on the newly released convict, despite Elizabeth’s best efforts to intervene.  And not only does Adrian looked doomed, but it looks likely that she’ll also be heading for prison. 

There’s a heck of a lot going on in Redemption Road.  John Hart has interwoven two main storylines and their various subplots together to create a multi-layered tale.  The pacing is at a quick tempo, with barely a pause for breath, and there are multiple mini-cliffhanger moments that keep the pages turning. Indeed, the story is full of tension and to a certain degree is relentlessly grim – there are very few light moments in the book, in fact it is to a large extent a litany of people being fairly horrid to one another.  At a few points I had to put the book down and go and get some fresh air before inevitably being drawn back to wanting to find out what was going to happen next.  Amazingly, given how much plot is crammed into the 400 odd pages, the story does not feel forced or overly reliant on plot devices.  They’re there, of course, but storytelling is no nicely done that they don’t feel contrived or over-egged.  Perhaps inevitably given how many crime fiction books I’ve read I’d pegged the murderer fairly early in the tale and it was reasonably well telegraphed as to how the story would resolve.  The characterisation is very nicely done, with good interactions between the characters.  And the prose is expressive.  The result is a kind of literary redemption, serial killer tale with a hell of a lot more going on than the average literary tale. Grim but good.

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