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by John Hart
St Martin's, February 2018
432 pages
ISBN: 1250012309

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

John Hart's latest, THE HUSH, defies categorization. While all of his previous books have been mystery thrillers, THE HUSH falls somewhere amongst historical mysteries, metaphysical treatises, and supernatural horror stories. It picks up Johnny Merrimon's story ten years after the end of Hart's 2009, THE LAST CHILD. For those who have read that first book, the background will provide additional depth to the reading of the current book, but THE HUSH can be read as a standalone with no loss of impact.

Johnny lives off-the-grid in a remote area called "the hush," an area that has a strong sense of the past remaining from the days when his grandfather owned and then freed slaves on that very land. He has a deep relationship with the land, particularly the swamp, feeling the trees and animals around him intimately. He takes his stewardship of the swamp and its surrounds seriously, and something in the swamp takes care of him in return. While Johnny sees his symbiotic relationship with his land as warm, caring, and essential, his boyhood friend turned lawyer, Jack, sees it as sinister. And the townspeople of Raven County agree with Jack.

When a trophy hunter with a bad history with Johnny goes missing and is then found dead in the swamp, the sheriff declares war on Johnny. Things go from bad to worse for both Johnny and the sheriff as the presence in the swamp protects Johnny and itself. We are filled in on the nature of that presence through dreams in which Johnny and a descendent of the freed slaves who lived in the swamp relive their ancestors' pasts. Hart places the reader in the minds of Johnny, Jack, and other main characters as well as providing glimpses of what it feels like to be a victim of the presence. He effectively transitions from past to present, making us feel the thinness of the temporal division. Suspension of disbelief is necessary, as events and Johnny's protector are unnatural, but the plot is logical within its own construct and the ending satisfying.

It will be interesting to see if this is a one-time departure toward the supernatural for Hart, or if it is a new interest he wants to explore. Either way, his writing is masterful and his books among the best.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, February 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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