Book Review - Iron House by John Hart
My first exposure to John Hart comes through his latest novel Iron House. His publisher contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in reading and reviewing the novel, and the premise of a Mafia enforcer trying to leave the business sounded intriguing. In this case, I made a good choice, as Iron House ended up being one of those books I couldn't put down. Its dark and graphic nature hooked me quickly, and there were enough twists to keep me guessing as to how it was going to play out in the end.
Michael is a Mafia hitman who decides he's had enough of the business. He's met a woman who he loves and who is pregnant with his child, and the head of the family has given his blessing to leave without retribution. But the father is dying, and his son doesn't see the situation in the same light. He resents the relationship that Michael and his father had, and he's determined to keep Michael in the business or see him dead. He'll stoop to any level to apply pressure to get his way, and that includes threatening Michael's brother, Julian. Wrong move...
Michael and Julian were raised in an orphanage called Iron House. While Michael was tough and was not to be messed with, his brother was the target of brutal bullying by others in the orphanage. Michael was the only refuge that Julian had, and Michael was determined to keep his weaker brother safe. But Julian cracks after an attack and kills one of the tormenters in self-defense. To protect his brother, Michael stages the scene to look like he killed the kid himself, and then takes off into the woods to flee the police and start his life on the streets. His street-tough ways are what brought him to the attention of the Mafia leader and eventually made him a trusted insider.
Michael needs to rely upon all his smarts (and skills as a killer) to protect the ones he loves, while trying to unravel what happened at Iron House so many years ago, and why those events matter so much now...
This is not a novel I'd recommend to someone who gets offended or queasy at graphic violence. The main character who hunts down Michael is definitely missing a few normalacy genes, and he has no qualms with using pain and suffering to get the information he wants. The passages and images Hart evokes of Iron House are indeed dark, reminding me of photographs of abandoned and decrepit mental hospitals. On the other hand, Hart's characters are interesting, with a number of layers making them who they are and driving the decisions they make. Mix in a heavy dose of mental instability, and I was never quite sure if what I was reading was the entire picture. Usually it wasn't. :)
Since this is a stand-alone novel in terms of characters and stories, you can dive in here and not miss anything from his earlier writings. I'm sure I'll be headed back to pick them up, regardless. If they're anywhere as good as Iron House, Hart will end up being an author I need to read as soon as something new comes out.
Obtained From: Publisher