Oct 13, 2011

Review: Iron House by John Hart

Two time Edgar Award winner John Hart released this, his fourth novel, in July and having read and loved his third book, THE LAST CHILD, published in 2009, my expectations were pretty high. Fortunately, he did not let this reader down. Keeping with his style, the story was filled with twists and turns and kept me on the edge of my seat.

About The Book:
(No spoilers)

Michael and his younger brother, Julian, knew nothing of their family. Basically, they didn't have one. Abandoned at a tender age, they were taken in by an orphanage named for the mountain where it was located.  Iron House Orphange for Boys had once been an asylum for the insane and still had dark reminders of those long ago days within it's walls.

The two brothers were extremely close and with Julian being the younger, weaker boy, Michael took the role of Julian's protector. Growing up in the orphanage among other discarded boys and juvenile delinquents, life was very hard and even dangerous, considering the lack of supervision at the orphanage. Most of the time Michael was there when his brother needed him but one night the older, tougher boys caught Julian alone and this time his brother wasn't there to save him. After the beating Julian snapped and by the time Michael found him it was too late.   Quick decisions had to be made. With his brother in shock, Michael grabbed the evidence and took off, taking the blame with him. He ran far away and ended up on the streets of New York until he was taken in by a man who he would later find out was once a street thug but had become the head of one of the most powerful crime families in the state. Through his teenage years he groomed Michael and with his natural skills and level-headedness, he became a valuable asset to the organization.

Now in his mid 30's and the old man dying, Michael dreams of a life away from crime. The old man gives him permission to leave and start a new life, but it isn't going to easy. The boss's son is against Michael leaving and vows to hunt him down.  But he also has information on Julian and threatens to kill him if Michael tries to leave. Also at risk is Elena, Michael's girlfriend, who knows nothing of his life in the mob...and who is carrying his baby.

In the following days, Michael and Elena's lives are turned upside down as they makes their way to North Carolina to the family that adopted Julian to make sure he is protected. He was adopted by a State Senator and his wife right after Michael ran away from the orphanage and from the looks of it on the outside, Julian has everything he needs, including protection. But looks can be very deceiving. Once he is able to get to the inside of Julian's heavily guarded adopted family, Michael realizes a whole new set of dangers...and questions, some of which lead him back to Iron House.

My Thoughts

I'll just get right to it and say that I loved this book. The synopsis I gave is just the tip of the iceberg to what is going on in this story. John Hart effectively and successfully develops a multi-layered story that takes you from one gripping aspect to the next. This is not just a story about two brothers and a life of crime. IRON HOUSE has many elements that are brought together seamlessly while keeping the reader in suspense the whole way through. This book has more action than his previous books which only makes the story even more suspenseful.

There are many colorful characters that add other dimensions to the story, but Michael, by far, is the main character and my favorite. Although he is a tough mob enforcer, he also has a tender side that is brought out beautifully.  I began cheering him on early in the book. There is not one slow or dull part within these pages. There is more than just one mystery to this novel. Just when you think you have all the answers, something happens to leave you with more questions. I was completely satisfied with the ending and, in fact, hated to see it end. As I was reading, I kept telling myself that this book would make a great movie! I could even see someone like Russell Crowe playing the lead part...OK, I digress....

Bottom line: if you haven't read John Hart's work, you are missing out on some thrilling fiction.  While I eagerly await his next book, I am definitely going to read his first two: THE KING OF LIES and DOWN RIVER. I have no doubt I will be equally impressed. Critics have compared his style of writing to Grisham, but in my opinion, Hart takes it to a whole new level and shouldn't be compared to Grisham at all. If you are unfamiliar with this author, I encourage you to visit his website to learn more about him and his books. You can even read the first chapter right from the website.

I would like to thank Chelsea Smialek at St. Martin's Press for my copy of this thrilling new book. It is definitely on my list of top books of 2011. If you do read it, you will soon see why John Hart is my favorite Southern Suspense writer.

Author: John Hart
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: July 2011
Pages: 432
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


  1. This is a favorite of a lot of people I know. I need to read it soon!

  2. I'm so glad you loved this! I love John Hart too. He's so different from the usual murder mystery!

  3. I feel very out-of-the loop here. I need to read at least one of his books especially after that glowing review!!

  4. A friend gave me her copy of Last Child and said it was a must read but sadly I haven't gotten to it yet. Your review has me anxious to give this author a try.

  5. Count me in the "out of the loop" group - I've never read any of his works either. Glad to see you liked this one so much, Lisa.

  6. I've been wanting to read this and after your enthusiasm I'm excited too :)


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