Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Iron House by John Hart Review

Iron HouseIron House by John Hart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An old man is dying.

When the old man is dead they will come for him.

And they will come for her, to make him hurt.

John Hart has written three New York Times bestsellers and won an unprecedented two back-to-back Edgar Awards. Now he delivers his fourth novel—a gut-wrenching, heart-stopping thriller no reader will soon forget.


At the Iron Mountain Home for Boys, there was nothing but time. Time to burn and time to kill, time for two young orphans to learn that life isn’t won without a fight. Julian survives only because his older brother, Michael, is fearless and fiercely protective. When tensions boil over and a boy is brutally killed, there is only one sacrifice left for Michael to make: He flees the orphanage and takes the blame with him.


For two decades, Michael has been an enforcer in New York’s world of organized crime, a prince of the streets so widely feared he rarely has to kill anymore. But the life he’s fought to build unravels when he meets Elena, a beautiful innocent who teaches him the meaning and power of love. He wants a fresh start with her, the chance to start a family like the one he and Julian never had. But someone else is holding the strings. And escape is not that easy. . . .


The mob boss who gave Michael his blessing to begin anew is dying, and his son is intent on making Michael pay for his betrayal. Determined to protect the ones he loves, Michael spirits Elena—who knows nothing of his past crimes, or the peril he’s laid at her door— back to North Carolina, to the place he was born and the brother he lost so long ago. There, he will encounter a whole new level of danger, a thicket of deceit and violence that leads inexorably to the one place he’s been running from his whole life: Iron House.

My take: That was just plain old clever, excellent writing. How could you sympathize with Michael, a cold blooded murderer? Because he wants out and is ready to leave his past behind him. But he has a whole past he has tried very hard to completely forget. His roots are much, much more sad than he ever imagined.

I wondered how the author could possibly connect Michael's past and pitiful childhood with his mob activity. Okay, so Stevan and Jimmy don't want Michael to quit. Michael is good at his job. His job is killing, by the way. But now he's fallen in love and is ready to settle down into a respectable life with a family. Problem is, the only way out is by death.

Meanwhile, there is a brother that was adopted from the awful orphanage at the age of 9. Michael was not so lucky as circumstances escalated and he had to leave very quickly. Julien, the younger brother is a wee bit unbalanced. Okay, he's completely psychotic at times which brings me to my one irritation about this book. Just to clarify, it is very well written, pacing is perfect, characters are well developed, story is cohesive. What bugged me is the way the story lumped two distinct psychotic personalities into one; schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder. There are multiple problems with this scenario. First, they are distinctly different. Schizophrenia, as indicated in the book is largely organic. The disease manifests itself by little voices inside a person's head. These are not necessarily violent voices. These are the homeless folks you see talking to themselves on the streets of cities.

Multiple Personality Disorder no longer exists. The new diagnosis is Dissociative Identity Disorder. Rarely does a distinct personality manifest itself but when it does, it is not because of schizophrenia. This is not an organic disorder but caused by extreme trauma, usually from childhood. The child can not deal with the event dissociates. This is what the actual diagnosis should have been in the book. Not schizophrenia.

Besides that little pet peeve, the book was a solidly written story. The characters were engaging and each distinct in their own ways. The story did come full circle and cohesively tied together. I ended up liking every single character except, of course, Jimmy. Stevan I didn't hate. The senator was a necessary evil. Michael, the assassin, is very human, although much too cool under pressure. He's like the Fonzie of New York.

Violence - Extreme
Language - Strong
Dialogue - Moderate
Thrill factor - Extreme

Solid 4.5 star read.

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