Down River (Paperback)

Staff Pick Logo
Down River Cover Image
Usually Ships in 1-5 Days

Staff Reviews

Winner of the Edgar Award in 2007, Down River is my favorite John Hart novel. Set in John's native North Carolina, this is the story of Adam Chase, exiled from his home even though he was acquitted in a murder trial. Gone five years, he has come home. But to what end? Soon after his return, dead bodies start showing up. And Adam's troubled past seems to be catching up with him again. If you like Down River, John's new book - Redemption Road will be released in May 2016. - Brenda

— From 2015 Advent Picks


A powerful, heart-pounding thriller from the unparalleled New York Times bestselling and two-time Edgar Award-winning author of The Last Child and The King of Lies, Down River will haunt your thoughts long after the last page is turned.

Adam Chase has a violent streak, and for good reason. As a boy, he saw things no child should witness, suffered wounds that left him misunderstood--a fighter. Even grown, he remains dangerous and unpredictable, so that when he narrowly beats a murder charge, he's hounded out of town, exiled for a sin he did not commit. For five long years, he disappears. But now he's back, and no one knows why - not his family or the cops, not the enemies he left behind. But Adam has his reasons. Attacked within hours of his return, the tone of his homecoming is set. As bodies turn up and the town rises in anger, Adam again finds himself in the fight of his life, not just to prove his innocence, but to reclaim the only life he's ever wanted. Secrets build on secrets, emotions tear, and more than one person crosses the brink as Hart examines the lengths to which people will go for money, family, and revenge.
Praise for John Hart and Down River

" Hart] combines gripping plots with a wonderful gift for prose, making his books literary crowd-pleasers that appeal to the brain as well as the emotions. There are few books published that can legitimately be called "a must-read," but this is one of them." --Chicago Sun Times

"If you value Harper Lee, James Lee Burke, Truman Capote, and Michael Malone... it's time to add John Hart to your bookshelves." --Otto Penzler, The New York Sun

"An artist adding layers of paint ... Hart takes his time, snaring the reader with evocative storytelling and lush prose along with the usual quota of conflict and murder." --The Boston Globe

" A] complex, emotionally charged novel... Down River is a beautifully constructed story of personal redemption, family secrets, and murder.... A truly splendid novel with a deep emotional core." --Booklist (starred)

"The thrills come fast and furious." --Washington Post

"Nail-biting suspense." -Raleigh News and Observer

"Richly atmospheric... should settle once and for all the question of whether thrillers and mysteries can also be literature." -Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Falls squarely in the league of the best of Southern novels." --South Florida Sun Sentinel

About the Author

John Hart is the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Child and The King of Lies. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, he has also won the Barry Award and England's Steel Dagger Award for best thriller of the year. He was born and raised in North Carolina. For a time he practiced criminal defense law, but left to focus on his writing.

Praise For…

Praise for John Hart and Down River:

“This book should settle once and for all the question of whether thrillers and mysteries can also be literature.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“As in his Edgar-nominated debut, The King of Lies, Hart takes his time, snaring the reader with evocative storytelling and lush prose.” —Boston Globe

Down River falls squarely in the league of the best of Southern novels.” —South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“A sensitive rumination on the emotional force of family dynamics.” —Washington Post

“There are few books published that can legitimately be called a ‘must-read,’ but this is one of them.” –Chicago Sun-Times

“An engrossing, bittersweet reading experience that expertly evokes William Faulkner, John Grisham, and John Berendt.” —Mystery Scene

“If you value Harper Lee, James Lee Burke, Truman Capote, and Michael Malone… it’s time to add John Hart to your bookshelves.” —Otto Penzler, New York Sun

Down River is a beautifully constructed story of personal redemption, family secrets, and murder—a small-town epic…. A truly splendid novel with a deep emotional core.”  --Booklist (starred review)

“Hart’s sophomore effort surpasses his debut… this work is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler’s novels…. The writing is simply superb.” —Library Journal (starred review)

"Sometimes, early success can be a curse for a writer....That's definitely not the case with North Carolina's John Hart...With Down River…he's only gotten better." --Winston-Salem Journal

"Hart’s work invokes the spirit of the best of southern literature. Down River puts readers in the mind of topics explored by Thomas Wolfe, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner, with a contemporary vision and edge that is memorable and haunting. Hart is a deep and strong talent whose future offerings will be greatly anticipated and welcomed." –Book Reporter


Praise for John Hart and The Last Child:

“With his best novel yet, the Edgar Award-winning Hart (Down River) firmly cements his place alongside the greats of the genre.” –Library Journal (starred review)

“Hart spins an impressively layered tale of broken families and secrets that can kill.” –Publishers Weekly

“In his third novel, Edgar-winner Hart confronts murder, depravity, betrayal and the like, while still finding room for tenderness.” –Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Hart once again produces a novel that is elegant, haunting, and memorable. His characters are given an emotional depth that genre characters seldom have, and the graceful, evocative prose lifts his stories right out of their genre and into the realm of capital-L literature. A must-read for every variety of fiction reader.” –Booklist (starred review)

“John Hart's The Last Child is a rare accomplishment—a compelling, fast-paced thriller written with a masterful, literary touch. You'll feel this story as much in your heart as in your gut. And this reader is keeping his fingers crossed that we'll see much, much more of Detective Hunt in the near future.”  --Jeffery Deaver, author of The Bodies Left Behind

The Last Child is a beautifully written, gripping story that will have you staying up late, torn between a desire to know what happens and a reluctance to get to the book's end and break the spell. But don't worry: The characters will stay vividly alive in your imagination long after you've raced through the pages.” --Winston-Salem Journal

" brilliant in the art of misdirection…But his attention to language and tempo, his descriptions of settings and people, and his development of characters and their personal relationships all add a wonderful richness to his work. It is a richness that should make The Last Child a pleasure for any reader." --News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

“What begins as a thrilling mystery soon evolves into an astute character drama where the preservation of family is critical…Hart artfully employs the pattern of a whodunit to lead the reader down a twisted, thrilling path. What lies at the end, though, is wholly unexpected…With the deft characterization of any good work of literary fiction and the subtle, satisfying plotting of a favorite mystery, The Last Child brings readers deep into the pathos of a small North Carolina community. This page turner will stay in your mind long after you’ve read the final page.” --Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“The missing-child story has been done so often that it takes something extraordinary to make it rise above the commonplace. And that is what John Hart has accomplished in his third novel, The Last Child. In the end, this is a novel about blood—the blood of life and death, the blood of kin, the blood of the past. And Hart has again brought forth a mystery/thriller that surpasses the humdrum and rises to serious literature.” --Richmond Times Dispatch

“Hart's third novel, The Last Child, surpasses its superb predecessors. The Last Child's atmospheric, hard-boiled story allows Hart to delve into a town's sinister secrets with a complex tale of broken families, despair and hope.” –Florida Sun-Sentinel

“John Hart is already much praised, but his third and most complex psychological thriller is a risk which has paid off with that same unshakeable sense of discovery. The risk lay in the rarely attempted feat of writing a convincing child hero for adults. His success injects extra poignancy into an already compelling blend of southern gothic mock-epic, outright horror and dues-paying whodunnit. This one stays with you.” –The Daily Telegraph (UK)

“Be warned: the young hero of this compelling read will break your heart. The Last Child is one of those books that stays with readers long after the last page is turned.” –Calgary Herald (Canada)

“The young boy at the story’s center is a magnificent creation, Huck Finn channeled through Lord of the Flies…Hart is still far too young for The Last Child to be called a crowning achievement, but the novel's ambition, emotional breadth and maturity make it an early masterpiece in a career that continues to promise great things.” –Washington Post

“Many books strive to build complex mythologies into their tales. Hart, instead, ambitiously sets out to debunk the greatest mythology of all: childhood itself. A study in reverse literary engineering, his is a brilliant vision beautifully realized.” –Providence Journal

“If you haven't read John Hart, whose latest novel is The Last Child, you ought to.” –Mike Lupica, New York Daily News

“Johnny’s heartbreaking quest is described with great energy and sympathy.” –People Magazine

"Some of the most accomplished writing and page-turning reading this side of James Lee Burke. Add a cast of characters that would make Flannery O’Connor proud, and the result is remarkable." --Delta Magazine

“With hints of Salinger in the rebellious boy, and of Dickens in the cast of misfits and wounded men and women, it's a novel suffused with grief and poignancy. There may be echoes of Grisham, but this is more deeply felt than the master has managed for years. It grips you by the throat and never lets go.” --Geoffrey Wansell, Daily Mail (UK)

"John Hart established himself as a major literary talent with his first two novels: the critically acclaimed debut The King of Lies and the award-winning Down River. If he had never written another published word, he would be remembered for these. But his latest work is of such power that it threatens to eclipse the majesty of its older brothers. Hart writes as if he is channeling William Faulkner, or perhaps collaborating with the Cormac McCarthy of the Blood Meridian era….On the one hand, you’re afraid to turn the page; on the other, The Last Child is one of those rare books that you wish would go on forever, such is the power and the majesty of Hart’s storytelling." --Joe Hartlaub, Book Reporter

"Few novels succeed at blending genre with literary writing. Good mysteries aren’t necessarily well-written; good writing doesn’t always translate into acclaim. John Hart occupies a short list of authors capable of blending style and genre with riveting prose. This is an engrossing mystery/thriller set in the South, the prose being compared to luminaries such as Harper Lee and William Faulkner, but with today’s urgent voices, vices and victories.” --Mary McReynolds, The Oklahoman

"Edgar-winner Hart succinctly pulls together a terrifying, emotionally heartbreaking story that lays bare the extent of human emotions. Hart is an extraordinary storyteller, and his third novel, The Last Child, surpasses his superb first two." --Baltimore Sun

"The Last Child is John Hart's third novel and one that will earn his place in the ranks of America's truly great authors along with Mark Twain, Harper Lee, and Tennessee Williams."--Ginger Stratton, Reviewing The Evidence

"Edgar-winner John Hart is an extraordinary storyteller. Each of his three novels has depicted keen appraisals of human foibles with an emphasis on North Carolina history and a respect for the traditions of the Southern novel. But Hart has made each novel distinct, following no formula or similar style except for the superior quality of his prose. Hart's third novel, The Last Child, surpasses his superb first two….Hart succinctly pulls together a terrifying, emotionally heartbreaking story that lays bare the extent of human emotions." --Oline Cogdill, The Detroit Free Press

“Hart knows how sensitive boys feel and think behind those tough, smirking masks and with what ferocity they cling to their causes. Johnny is innocence and experience in perfect balance.” --Edward Morris, Bookpage

“Hart twists in surprises at every turn, taking the reader through a maze of woodland and swamp that hold centuries-old secrets. Young Johnny Merrimon is a tour de force, refusing to fall when cut to the core. The Last Child rides a bumpy road to redemption. The harsh truth in the final few pages will leave the reader breathless (it brought unexpected tears to my eyes). I haven't read a crime thriller this memorable since Grisham's A Time To Kill….Hart's keen sense of place and camouflaged emotions will break your heart.” --JC Patterson, Book It

Praise for John Hart and The King of Lies:

“Treat yourself to something new and truly out of the ordinary.” --Rocky Mountain News

“This is a first novel that lunges off the page, just grabs the reader by the throat and won't let go. In the legal-thriller genre, which increasingly features protagonists transparently designed to be wildly individualistic, Work Pickens earns his individualism. And Hart is a fine stylist, turning phrases with a panache that recalls Raymond Chandler…Readers will breathe in this fine novel like a breath of fresh air and, immediately after finishing it, wish for more.” -­Booklist (Starred)

“Hart's stunning debut, an exceptionally deep and complex mystery thriller, compares favorably to the best of Scott Turow…Few readers will be able to resist devouring this tour-de-force in one or two sittings—or clamoring for more John Hart.” --Publishers Weekly (Starred)

“This powerful debut literary thriller starts off slowly but builds momentum like a runaway train…The writing is beautiful and the story is gripping, but it is the character study of a damaged Southern lawyer that puts this debut novel on the must-read list.” --Library Journal (Starred)

“A rare, remarkable book, a marvel from the first page to the last. At times blunt and startling, at times full of grace and subtle wisdom, this novel is, without a doubt, one of the most compelling pieces of fiction I’ve ever read.” --Martin Clark, author of Plain Heathen Mischief

“A top-notch debut, Hart's prose is like Raymond Chandler's, angular and hard.” --Entertainment Weekly (Grade A)

“[An] ambitious debut thriller…a gripping performance.” --People Magazine

“A marriage of carefully crafted prose alongside have-to-keep-reading suspense.” —Denver Post

"“A masterful piece of writing.” —The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

“A gripping mystery/thriller and a fully fleshed, thoughtful work of literature.” —Winston Salem Journal

“The King of Lies moves and reads like a book on fire.” ---Pat Conroy

“John Hart’s debut… is that most engrossing of rarities, a well-plotted mystery novel that is written in a beautifully poetic style.” ---Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama

"Rookie of the Year.” --Bookpage

“The best thing about reading The King of Lies is watching the character of Work Pickens evolve…The real change happens inside the character of Work Pickens as he’s forced by external circumstances to take a hard look at his assumptions and values. An ambitious debut from a promising new novelist.” --Sheri Reynolds, author of The Rapture of Canaan

“A stunning debut; absolutely relentless. I dare you to read the first chapter of The King of Lies and not be hooked.” --Edgar Award-winning author Steve Hamilton, author of Ice Run

“A page turner to the end!” --Sally Brewster, President of Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

“If you want entertainment that will ensnare you, deprive you of sleep and have you button-holing your friends about its greatness, you won't be disappointed in unknown author John Hart's first book. Take note: When Hart is famous, you'll brag about reading The King of Lies before anyone had heard of him." --Peter Mergendahl,

“There hasn’t been a thriller as showily literate as The King of Lies…since Scott Turow came along.” –Janet Maslin of The New York Times

Product Details
ISBN: 9780312677381
ISBN-10: 0312677383
Publisher: Griffin
Publication Date: March 29th, 2011
Pages: 445
Language: English