Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
So after commercial and critical acclaim for his writing, including the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and back-to-back MWA Edgar Awards; John Hart returns after a five year absence with his fifth novel. Has the wait been worth it? Without hesitation, Redemption Road returns Hart to his rightful place as one of the most literary, of living crime writers; and one that illustrates the power of genre fiction when placed in the hands of a master story-teller.
Hart’s Redemption Road layers a complex series of events, such as our current concerns on gun control and police shootings, the changing face of justice, family, and pushes them through a Southern Gothic Prism; revealing a stunning story, that unfurls slowly with the precision of a craftsman to a startling and compassionate dénouement, that left me staring at the wall in contemplative silence.
Weaving a complex plot with memorable characters which are painted into the narrative in a lyrical style we have a tale of two North Carolina cops, Elizabeth Black and Adrian Wall, both caught on the wrong side of shooting incidents. Black rescued a teenager from the clutches of two men holding her captive with sexual assault on their mind. The problem being that Black and the teenager, Channing Shore are white; while the two captors are Black, and what with Channing coming from what we term ‘white privilege’; did Elizabeth Black use excessive force in her rescue, for her weapon was discharged eighteen times? The press naturally have a bonanza with the conflicting opinions of “hero” or “angel of death”.
Wall on the other had has been released on parole after serving over a decade in prison, following the murder of Julia Strange. A ritual killing that Wall had always protested his innocence over. On the day of his parole, Wall finds himself on the wrong side of a gun-barrel held by a teenager, Gideon; the son of the woman that Wall had been charged with murdering.
Elizabeth Black, the younger Channing Shore and Gideon Strange share fractured relationships with their families and this theme, when written with an American Southern flavour becomes an important framing device for what follows, as does Black’s own feelings for fellow Cop Adrian Wall. Add to that another woman murdered, the effect alcohol has on family, police corruption and the dangers of surviving the penitentiary – and you have a complex but compassionate view of life and death in the Carolinas’ – Terrific to see John Hart back after so long radio silence, and I trust he has space on his mantelpiece, for I would speculate without hesitation that Redemption Road will feature heavily in next year’s major crime fiction awards.