Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Review: Descent by Tim Johnston

From Goodreads:
The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, a young family from the plains taking a last summer vacation before their daughter begins college. For eighteen-year-old Caitlin, the mountains loom as the ultimate test of her runner’s heart, while her parents hope that so much beauty, so much grandeur, will somehow repair a damaged marriage. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic, as suddenly this family find themselves living the kind of nightmare they’ve only read about in headlines or seen on TV.

As their world comes undone, the Courtlands are drawn into a vortex of dread and recrimination. Why weren’t they more careful? What has happened to their daughter? Is she alive? Will they ever know? Caitlin’s disappearance, all the more devastating for its mystery, is the beginning of the family’s harrowing journey down increasingly divergent and solitary paths until all that continues to bind them together are the questions they can never bring themselves to ask: At what point does a family stop searching? At what point will a girl stop fighting for her life?

Written with a precision that captures every emotion, every moment of fear, as each member of the family searches for answers, Descent is a perfectly crafted thriller that races like an avalanche toward its heart-pounding conclusion, and heralds the arrival of a master storyteller.
I'm really pleased with the quality of writing here - it's certainly a more literary version of the suspense/thriller genre.  Despite being billed as the next Gone Girl, I think the somewhat literary take is really the only similarity other than genre.  This has a more traditional plot line, although there is some ambiguity about the family history and reliability of each character.  The characterization itself isn't as compelling as the storyline, which is fast-paced and intriguing, although I did truly come to care about Caitlin and her fate.

Entertainment Value
I devoured this, despite the fact that it wasn't quite what I expected it to be based on reviews.  I couldn't put it down and found it an easy book to race through.  The chapters are the perfect length for fast reading and for keeping you up all night with "just one more chapter".  I'd be so interested to read more from this author in either another thriller in the same vein or in a more literary follow up telling what happens to the Courtlands after the book ends.  I feel like the blend of literature and thriller captured here means he could go either way in the future.

If you're a fan of fast-paced thrillers and heart-stopping suspense, this is a good one to read.  I couldn't put it down and thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience.  Just don't go into it expecting it to be like any other book - it stands on its own and falls closer to the traditional thriller genre than many reviews reflect.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

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