Lately, nothing makes publishers drool more than the description “literate thriller.” While I’ve spent many a page-turning night with James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Jeffrey Deaver, I don’t exactly shout their praises from the rooftops. Imagine if you could take those page-turning plots and hang some real, believable characters on them, then you’d have a meal instead of just dessert.
Enter Tim Johnston’s Descent.
Descent has much in common with Lauren Grodstein’s A Friend of the Family (which makes sense since they’re both published by the mighty Algonquin Books) in that both are literary dramas about families under duress, but they read with the breathless pace of a straight up thriller. There are dark colors in Descent to be sure, but Johnston has a grasp of family and personal dynamics which elevates the material. He fleshes characters with the deft touch of a master, and nothing which happens to them feels cheap or unearned. This is a fine novel, and it has Gotta to spare.
So meet the Courtlands (or wait until December and meet them in paperback) but fair warning; until you learn how it all turns out, you won’t be doing much of anything else.