Rating: 5 (or more) stars
John Hart’s novels are beautiful, which might seem a strange adjective because of their subject matter. He writes about prison, murder, child abuse, and other ugly topics. Yet as he does so brilliantly in “Redemption Road, Hart’s novels are filled with the ultimate beauty of the human spirit. When all around is filled with hate and poison, there are those who can rise above the morass, and show forgiveness, love and understanding.
In “Redemption Road,” the story begins with a serial murderer. The plot lines revolve around a serial murderer; an ex-con cop who was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and who carries a secret he suffered through hell to keep; a young cop who believes in the ex-con (who is half in love with him); and a motherless child who has lived through a life of neglect. There are many other characters: an unforgiving preacher; an evil, corrupt prison warden and his henchmen; a girl who was raped and tortured before being rescued; drug dealers and those who rely on drug dealers; cops who have secrets of their own to keep and people to protect; and a charming and brilliant octogenarian attorney.
Elizabeth Black was a brand-new cop when Julia Strange was murdered by a serial killer. Unbelievably, the town’s hero, a cop named Adrain Wall was convicted of the murder. The evidence appeared irrefutable. Now he’s getting out of prison, and Elizabeth — in her heart of hearts — doesn’t believe he is guilty. What he is now is tortured, with strange scars running all over his body. He is gentle and kind, but he has a streak of anger waiting to be sparked. There are the prison guards who follow him. There is Gideon, Julia Strange’s son, who was raised by his alcoholic father, by Elizabeth, and by Elizabeth’s father. Her father is a man of God whose rigid moral code and beliefs become more and more clear as the story progresses.
In spite of the numerous characters, Hart does a brilliant job keeping them all separate and distinct. And in spite of the numerous plot lines, Hart’s genius is that he keeps them all equally important and equally fascinating. The pages keep turning — almost involuntarily — until the end. Hart’s writing is, at times, pure poetry. Yet at other times, the violence and cruelty he describes are almost too horrible to read. And that’s probably the best way to describe this book — a novel that has everything from torture and tortured people to beauty and what is the best in human nature. Hart manages to encompass it all. Beautifully.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by St. Martin’s Press, the publisher, for review purposes.