First published in 2016
My rating: 3 out of 5
Image from Goodreads
The Short Of It:
This gritty North Carolina crime thriller didn't live up to the hype. The plot was over-the-top and the writing was not nearly as good as I expected from reviews. This one was just ok for me.
The Long Of It:
I'd been craving a good mystery and I was excited to dive into Hart's dark crime thriller set in an unnamed North Carolina town, which features three different -- equally horrific -- subplots brought together by our protagonist, thirty-something detective Elizabeth Black. On top of that we pile Liz's disturbing past and a damaging and well-kept secret, which become important parts of the story.
Poor Detective Black seems to have the shittiest luck imaginable, and Hart tests readers' belief about just how many things can go wrong for one person (and not just where Liz is concerned; what are the odds of the same person being abducted twice by two completely different criminals?!). And I felt like there was too much going on -- a serial killer, a secret learned in prison, a secret from childhood, a despicable prison warden, rape, drugs, suicide, adultery, torture, kidnapping, embezzlement, religious zealotry, corrupt cops, more murder. And after wading through all that, the bad guy was the person I pegged from the beginning. Liz was an ok main character -- definitely a strong, intelligent woman -- but some of her decisions just didn't make sense, and she was so intense and rash that it was hard to relate to her.
From glancing at some reviews, I was expecting the book to be super well-written, but I actually found Hart's prose to be rather irksome. The sentences were at times choppy and odd with strange word choices. There were way, way too many commas. And Hart constantly reused the same phrases. I was ready to throw the book across the room if I read about "state cops" one more time.
Hart's thriller was a bit of a slow-starter, but eventually I was cruising through the pages to find out what happened and how all the various atrocities were resolved. And I did fall in love with one of the minor characters, an elderly and kindhearted firecracker of a lawyer named Faircloth Jones. As well, I definitely found the North Carolina setting -- woods, lakes, old farmhouses, small struggling towns -- refreshing. But as far as contemporary murder mysteries go, I found this one to be unexceptional and not worthy of the buildup it received.