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Down River

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  6,176 ratings  ·  814 reviews
Everything that shaped him happened near that river.



Now its banks are filled with lies and greed, shame, and murder.



John Hart's debut, The King of Lies, was compelling and lyrical, with Janet Maslin of The New York Times declaring, "There hasn t been a thriller as showily literate since Scott Turow came along."



Now, in Down River, Hart makes a scorching return to Rowan C...more
Paperback, 386 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Minotaur Books (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Erin
No. No, no, no. Overwrought, overly dramatic, just...too much. I read the first 100 pages, was irritated, then read the last 20 pages and felt like i did ok with skipping the rest.

The main character is accused of killing a young man 10 years ago and is totally sold out by his stepmother. His father doesn't back him and he can't figure out why. He leaves without a word to anyone, goes to NY, leaves his detective lover behind (who is VERY ANGRY THAT HE LEFT) and then comes back (don't know why) to...more
Jonah
I’m officially a John Hart fan. He’s got me hooked.

I got Hart’s novel The Last Child as a birthday gift last October and pounded through it, enjoying it immensely (see previous review). When looking for a book as a gift for my dad earlier this April, I stumbled across The King of Lies and purchased it for him, and soon thereafter, I picked up Down River, my thought process being that we’d read our books and then swap. Both of us were done with our respective novels in less than three days! That...more
Beth
Mar 20, 2008 Beth rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like John Grisham
Recommended to Beth by: amazon.com
I bought this book because it was an Amazon.com recommendation and received very good reviews from Amazon readers. It goes to show that you should take reviews with a grain of salt and ask questions such as, "what other books did you think were as great as this one?" If the answer includes John Grisham, then tread carefully.

While John Hart is a better overall writer than Grisham, I can only describe this book as 'grishom-esque', i.e., a pre-screenplay.

Southern gothic in a predictable pedestria...more
Michael
May 25, 2009 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of southern literature, family relationships, John Steinbeck fans.
Recommended to Michael by: Saw reviews in various publications when nominated for the Edgar
Adam Case returns to his home town in Rowan County, North Carolina five years after being found not guilty of murder. One of the reasons for leaving home was that the main prosecution witness against him was his step mother. He was also saddened because his father didn't take his side.

Adam's former girlfriend, Robin Alexander is now a detective on the local police department and still cares for him.
No sooner has Adam arrived in town then he is beaten by Zeb Faith and two others. The message is c...more
Skip
Down River's protagonist, Adam Chase, returns to his southern home after a five year exile, following his an acquittal of murder charges. Adam and his family are pariahs: his father, a wealthy farmer with substantial land holdings is resisting the power company's attempt to acquire land to build a plant. This novel centers around Adam's family and their friendships. I enjoyed the novel and the tension as bodies continue to pile up, with many thinking Adam is the culprit. I think the comparisons...more
Stephanie
Won the Edgar, huh?
I agree with the review that said it was like a movie starring Ashley Judd. Totally, right on, absolutely. Much of his language is really nice, and there are some terrific characterizations, but it really seemed like he just worked so damn hard at making it Southern, rather than having it flow like it should.

but, it killed an evening when I couldn't sleep, so I added a star for that.

If I still worked in a public library I would recommend it to mystery fans but I wouldn't RAVE...more
Sally Pearce
This was an excellent book! I liked The King of Lies, but this far surpassed it. The King of Lies was wordy and not tightly writtn. Hart really worked on tightening up his writing and did a great job on this one! I can't wait for the third book.

I absolutely could not put this down. The suspense started at the beginning and continued through the whole book, not ever letting up.

Read this one!
Kathleen
Aug 17, 2008 Kathleen rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathleen by: Robin Lenowitz
Shelves: book-club
This gets two stars instead of one only because I was entertained for the short term. It only took me two days to finish it, and it was entertaining. Like a movie, starring Ashley Judd, that I might watch on tv someday a few years after it hits the theaters....
Shelli
I would give this 2.5 stars. It was ok and parts were good. But overall it wasn't great. The characters were just ok and each had a zillion problems to the point of ridiculousness. It was a bit hard to determine "who done it" since so many of them were screwed up! Big build ups of all these issues and then the character would fizzle out. When you finally figure out the killer….it's a let-down. Once again this author was formulaic and just tried to put too much into the story instead of building...more
Laura
I have created a new shelf b/c of this book. My central response after finishing it is a clear "Ugh!"

This book, if the cover can be believed (has propaganda reached the level now where even book covers of fictional novels sport blatant lies?), won an Edgar Award. I believe this only if it won in the category of "Standard Red-blooded Privileged White American Male Makes Attempt At Literature." Or in the category of "Literature For Upper-Class Men Of Conservative Patriarchal Western Cultures."

I w...more
Bill
I really enjoyed King of Lies a lot, and was under the impression that Hart gets better with each novel.

I lasted 84 pages before giving up in exasperation. I'll use some spoiler tags even though they occur early and are pretty minor:
(view spoiler)...more
Eric
This is the second book I've read by John Hart and its probably better than "the king of lies". This author knows so well how to develop his characters and his descriptive analysis of each scene puts the reader immersed into the scene. This is the saga of a young man aquitted of murder in his town and the results and the discoveries he makes when he returns five years later. Mind boggling. Could not put this book down until I was finished. The 325 pages could not have been written better. Amen.
Mike
I thought this book was absolutely wonderful. It was a nice paced mystery involving family relationships that was similar to Mystic River for me. I admit that the boring cover turned me away from it for awhile but that is why one should not judge a book by it's cover, of course! I will definitely read more of John Hart and look forward to THE KING OF LIES and his new release THE LAST CHILD.

Michelle
Ooof, I felt like the author was trying just a little too much. He was close to being good sometimes, and then he would throw in some line that made me cringe a little. I know he also had a lot of drama going on with his main character, and that required a lot of other characters to keep the drama going, but I think he was juggling a few too many. Maybe we could have cut out a few of the bad guys, like maybe the judge? And I understand Jamie and Dolf were serving purposes as red herrings, but th...more
Fran
I'm going to give this one 4 stars even though I just started it... just discovered this author, have never read from him before.... so far, the story has intrigued me from the first page.... going to relax tonight and read some more...
finished the story today, great read... loved his writing style... going to pick up another one of his stories (Sam's Club had the soft covers at 6 & change... )
Erika
I fell down the rabbit hole. I didn't want to eat or work or sleep. The characters were real and raw. I fell in love with this book until the very end when I predicted the ending but thought I was wrong. That was the one flaw for me, but otherwise I loved it.
Diane Ferbrache
Don't you just love it when you discover a new author -- or at least one you hadn't read before? I picked up Hart's book at Sam's Club before I left for a trip. It seemed like a good 'airplane read' and one I could later share with my mother-in-law. It was!!!

Adam Chase is returning home to North Carolina after an exile of 5 years. He is returning to a town and family that thinks he got away with murder. He had been accused of killing a friend, his stepmother testified against him, but the eviden...more
Jim Thomsen
Well-written, smartly paced, literary without being showoffy, "Down River" is a majestically moody mystery novel.

I won't say it doesn't deserve the praise that's been heaped upon it, but I will say that the Southern-gothic atmosphere of the story began to feel as humid and oppressive as its setting. Everybody's so dreary and unhappy, so hypersensitive, so sweat-soaked in requisite misery and stifled secrets, so full of feelings and entitlement, that I lost my ability to sympathize — let alone e...more
Linda
I enjoyed this book more than Hart's first novel, King of Lies. This book was well written and the killer is one you would least expect. As Adam Chase returns to Rowan County, he does so at the request of a boyhood friend. When he was wrongfully accused of murder and was found innocent by the jury, everyone said family money had got him off. He left for New York and vowed never to return. But when he was asked to by a friend, he did. Now his friend is nowhere to be found. Tempers are short in th...more
Orest Stelmach
A rich man's son, who left town five years ago after being acquitted of a murder he didn't commit, returns home to North Carolina to reclaim his former life.

Adam Chase is not your typical rich boy. He suffered a singular childhood trauma and later was falsely accused of a crime he didn't commit. He's smart enough to move to New York City, get a job, and fend for himself, but wiling to ball his fists and start fighting as soon as he returns home. The story unfolds through Adam's eyes in a first p...more
Wayne Sourwine
The belief that blood is thicker than water clouds the decision-making of a North Carolina man and his family. Acquitted of murder and kicked off the family farm five years ago, young Adam Chase returns to his hometown to clear the air and winds up solving a crime in which the cops are no longer interested and in the process discovers why he and his family are so screwed up. Why won't he hand over a crucial piece of evidence that would lead to the identification of a killer? Because before he go...more
Georgia
I read this book in 2009 and thought it was pretty good. Once you start you are immediately immersed into the story. Adam Chase is called home by a friend. Things are happening in his home town. Adam had left because he had been on trial but was considered "Not Guilty. For the past 5 years he has been living in NYC. Going back home to N. Carolina, he is once again a suspect of murder. Bodies surface, dark secrets come to light about his mother's death and the rest of his family. Looses pace midw...more
Corey Preston
A tighter mystery than "The Last Child"-- more believably close-knit suspects, legitimate evil motives aplenty. But it lacked a single, great character. Whereas "Child" gives us this remarkable 13-year-old, and all the compelling troubled souls who latch onto his orbit, the "Down River" gives us a wooden, silly "hothead" whose hotheadedness only flares up when it's needed by the narrative.
But still, a very well-executed little thriller...
J.D.
It's not perfect; Adam Chase is so bitter and angry that he's nearly unlikable, and he does the old "run stupidly headlong into danger" bit so often that you just want to shake him. Some of the dialogue had me going "come on, nobody talks like that." But the book's plot definitely keeps you from putting it down. It kept me up way past my bedtime, and really, what more can you ask for in a mystery? Definitely recommended.
Scott Burton
A mystery, set in the south, this was John Hart’s first full-length published novel. What a debut! All I can say is, un-put-downable! I think I read it in a single day—it is not long. And, being a northerner, transplanted to the enticing south for many years, I have to say I found the characters true to life. I keep my eyes open for any new work by John Hart.
Martha Matthews
Another passed-along library book from my mom. (I feel like I have to explain why I'm reading all this s***.) Writing unfavorable reviews makes me feel guilty on some level, I think because I am criticizing something that I couldn't do myself. Reading this one, however, made me feel like writing a commercially successful novel wouldn't be too far beyond my reach.
Victoria
I enjoyed this one much more than his first book, The King of Lies. It had a surprising plot, solid characters and terrific writing. It was definitely an absorbing, fast read. I will be keeping an eye out for any future works of his, especially if his books keep getting better and better like this! Hart is definitely a writer to watch out for!
Jim A
My first book by this author and I was pleasantly surprised. Thinking about other authors I have read in order to make a comparison, Pat Conroy comes to mind. Dark family secrets and violence reminds me of Prince of Tides.

I will definitely add John Hart to my list of preferred authors.
Pam
Dec 24, 2007 Pam rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like TV movies?
Boy, am I out of step or what? All of the 21 reviews at Amazon give it 5 stars. I barely made it through the first few chapters. It reads like a made-for-TV movie, which if it was on TV, I'd turn off. Huge disappointment, especially since the buzz was so positive.
Chuck
Another grim, dark tale about a dysfunctional family living on the Yadkin
River in North Carolina. Violence and murder runs amok. I didn't like this author's style; staccato, choppy, verbose and he makes his characters do stupid things.
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I was born in Durham, North Carolina in 1965, the son of a young surgeon and French teacher who quit teaching to raise her children. Eventually, I moved to Rowan County, where THE KING OF LIES and DOWN RIVER are both set, and on which the fictional Raven County is loosely based. My favorite memory of childhood is a five hundred acre farm that has since fallen to the sweeping tide of development th...more
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“I'd been awake for thirty-six hours and driving for ten. Restless weeks, sleepless nights, and the decision stole into me like a thief. I never planned to go back to North Carolina- I'd buried it- but I blinked and found my hands on the wheel, Manhattan a sinking island to the north. I wore a week-old beard and three day denim, felt stretched by an edginess that bordered on pain, but no one here would fail to recognize me. That's what home was all about, for good or bad.” 0 likes
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