Review: Down River

Down River - John Hart

I didn’t have any great expectations for this mystery novel. It’s been on my “to read soon” list for several months, but I kept passing it over in favor of other books. I guess there just wasn’t anything about it that caught my attention and, every time I skimmed through the reviews, they seemed really mixed.


I’m glad I finally decided to read it because I was very pleasantly surprised. The writing grabbed me right from the start and I quickly became caught up in the story.   The general backstory is that the main character, Adam, was accused of murder five years ago but acquitted. After his acquittal, he had a falling out with his family and he hasn’t been back to his home in North Carolina for five years. The story begins with Adam coming back home for the first time since those events. Not surprisingly, bad things start happening again and Adam finds himself caught up in more police investigations.


The book is written in the first person from Adam’s perspective. I liked his character. I thought sometimes he made things harder for himself than they needed to be, but he wasn’t stupid and I thought his actions were believable. I never felt like the author was making him do stupid stuff just for the sake of creating problems to be solved, which is something I really hate. I liked several of the other characters also. I did get a little annoyed with the completely non-objective law enforcement characters, though.


I thought I’d figured out “whodunit” early on in the story, and I was pretty darn convinced. When I read a mystery my opinion usually changes as new info is revealed, but this time I didn’t waver. All of the new information seemed to fit pretty well with the explanation I’d already developed in my head. Then the main character learned something and started to put the pieces together about who the real killer was and my reaction was, “What?! Ooooh….. riiiiight.” The real guilty party had never even crossed my mind, although in retrospect it should have. I think I was being overly influenced by a small side story in a fantasy book I recently read, The Briar King.


I wouldn’t call this a super “twisty” book, but it did have layers and there wasn’t just a single, straight-forward plot thread. There were also mysteries related to Adam’s family, and I was much closer to the mark with my guesses on those. I thought everything was wrapped up pretty well and I wasn’t left with any burning questions at the end of the book. The ending was a little open-ended, but not in a bad way. I felt like I knew where things would go next, and it was a direction I was satisfied with, but I didn’t really feel the need to see it written out.