Iron House is John Hart’s fourth novel but I have to confess that I did not come onboard until his second one, Down River. That one is still my favorite of the three I have read to this point (and, in fact, it earned Hart his first Edgar Award for best novel in May 2008), but each successive novel has been instrumental in enhancing Hart’s well deserved fame and reputation for writing superb thrillers. In April 2010, The Lost Child turned his second and third novels into back-to-back winners of the Edgar for best novel, a truly remarkable achievement. Now, all the buzz is about Iron House, a book that many critics and Hart fans are calling his best ever.
Iron House offers the story of two brothers who were very lucky to survive their infancy, only to be thrust into a brutal orphanage setting that emotionally crippled one of them and caused the other to run for his life when he was just ten years old. Michael, just a little older than the brother he left behind, but physically and mentally much tougher than Julian, finds his way to New York and a life on the streets. From there, just in the nick of time, the boy is taken under the wing of a New York mob boss who comes to think of Michael as a son.
But now Michael wants out of the family business. The man he considers the only father he has ever had is dying, and Michael receives his blessing to leave the mob and begin a new life with the woman who is carrying his child. He knows, however, that it will not be that simple. Two people, the boss’s real son and the mob’s chief enforcer, are determined that Michael will not walk away cleanly and they are only waiting for the old man to die before they make their move. Michael’s choices are these: stay in the mob, use his money and connections to start a new life in some remote corner of the world, or kill his two enemies before they can do the same to him and his lover.
Only when Michael is briefly reunited with his long lost brother does he realize that this is just the tip of a very dirty iceberg.
John Hart does not write run-of-the-mill thrillers. He explores how his characters became the people they are and why they act the way they do. He spends as much time developing their inner lives and their relationships with other characters as he does moving his thrilling plots along. If there is such a thing as a “literary thriller,” Hart has to be considered one of the masters of the subgenre. Make no mistake about it, however - this rather dark book is filled with graphic violence, chaotic twists and turns, and scenes that will long stick in the minds of imaginative readers. It is not an easy book to forget, one that fans of psychological suspense most definitely should not miss.
Rated at: 5.0
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)