05 January 2015

Review: Descent by Tim Johnston

Descent by Tim JohnstonSometimes a book draws you in so thoroughly you lose yourself in its world. That's the way Tim Johnston's Descent was for me. What follows is a very mildly spoilery review (I reveal only what I need to in order to be able to talk about the novel at all).

The basic plot is simple: While on a family vacation, eighteen-year-old Caitlin takes an early morning run up a Colorado mountain accompanied by her younger, bicycle-riding brother. Only the boy, Sean, returns--in the back of an ambulance, battered and broken after an accident. His sister is nowhere to be found, presumed abducted.

How long do parents wait for the return of their daughter? At what point, if ever, can they return home and attempt to pick up the pieces of their lives? For Grant and Angela Courtland, the answer may be never. In the aftermath of that horrific July day, each remaining member of the family deals with his or her loss differently, unable to find a way to heal without certain knowledge of Caitlin's fate.

Johnston is a master storyteller, equally at home with conveying the emotional landscape of his characters as he is in carefully crafting the tempo of the action scenes. Grant's devastation, Sean's lack of direction, and Angela's retreat hit us hard. Their family bond has been shattered, scattering them onto separate paths, and their reactions are understandable and heart wrenching.

But it's in the building of tension--the taut lines of uneasiness, of horror, of oh-my-god--that Johnston excels. He made me do something that I've never done before when reading a book: At one point, not only did I shout No! out loud but I actually had to put the book down and pace around for a few minutes because I could not bear to read what was coming next. Brilliant, real, absolutely amazing writing.

Quick take: Tim Johnston's Descent is a complex psychological novel, studded with precisely balanced action. Do not miss it.

Published by Workman / Algonquin Books, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781616203047
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


(Diane) bookchickdi 1/5/15, 7:48 AM  

Oh boy, I have to read this one. I have heard lots of good things about it.

Sarah's Book Shelves 1/5/15, 7:52 AM  

I read the first lines of your review, but stopped reading because I'm planning to read this one and want to go in more blind! But, glad to hear you found it engrossing.

OnDBookshelf 1/5/15, 9:41 AM  

Looking forward to this one, I've already heard lots of great buzz for it.

Kay 1/5/15, 10:20 AM  

I saw this book recently somewhere and the cover intrigued me. Kind of put it on my list mentally. Now, yes, it will be going on my "pick it up" list for sure. Thanks for the nudge!

Belle Wong 1/5/15, 11:03 AM  

This sounds like an intense read. The only time I've shouted "No!" out loud while reading a novel was when I was listening to The Martian.

Heidi’sbooks 1/5/15, 11:27 AM  

Oh wow. That sounds good. Is it gruesome/nightmare inducing?

Beth F 1/5/15, 11:38 AM  

@Heidi -- not nightmare inducing but very tense at times.

Unknown 1/5/15, 11:53 AM  

You've written a brilliant review. I didn't love this books as much as you, but I agree it's a very intense read.

Literary Feline 1/5/15, 4:15 PM  

I love books that can pull me in so completely. This sounds like such a great read. I will have to add this one to my wish list.

bermudaonion 1/5/15, 4:39 PM  

Boy does that sound good. I can't imagine trying to leave a place where your child was lost.

Tina 1/5/15, 9:29 PM  

Sounds like an intense and riveting book. I immediately thought about the Natalee Holloway case in Aruba, how can you leave? What a nightmare situation.

Michelle 1/5/15, 10:28 PM  

Definitely an intense read. I closed the book and just had to sit and collect my thoughts for a few minutes. So well-written too.

Jillian 1/6/15, 1:45 AM  

Sounds like an awesome mysterious thriller! I love those.

Xe Sands 1/6/15, 5:03 PM  

Gracious - I bet we said, "No!" and stopped reading for a bit at the exact same place :) I had some serious moments of that while prepping this. One of the most satisfying projects to have worked on...his storytelling is exceptional and the writing is just gorgeous, not something I would usually say about a thriller/suspense novel!

Leslie @ This is the Refrain 1/6/15, 7:49 PM  

I really really liked this one! I'm excited to see the reviews coming out about it. I think it's a book that offers a lot to talk about, whether you liked it or not.

Heather 1/7/15, 8:34 AM  

this sounds good. I have sent a copy of your review to my librarian asking that they order a copy. Thanks.

Daryl 1/7/15, 8:38 AM  

sounds like a book i might need to read the ending of before i can read it all or i get too crazy with worry … i too have been known to yell NO and pace …

Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) 1/7/15, 9:04 AM  

You've convinced me! This sounds like just the book I need to get the year started! (I've been in somewhat of a slump regarding choosing my next read) Thanks!

Melinda 1/8/15, 10:02 AM  

I love psychological novels. This one might be the read for me. Nice review.

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