Descent by Tim Johnston

It's been a busy week, what with skiing houseguests last weekend and the imminent arrival of new guests for a Sundance-packed weekend, and I have no time for reading. I'm busy and tired and defeated by the Salt Lake inversion air and I have no energy for reading.

So why was I still awake, seemingly against my will, far past my bedtime the last three nights, reading

Descent held me captive far past the responsible hour, horrified and compelled by a family's descent (into hell, into self-destruction, into fear, into uncertainty, down mountains, through survival) after the abduction of their 18 year old track-star daughter.

I've seen other readers who have felt that the writing is a bit overwrought. I saw, here and there, why others may have difficulty but I enjoyed the majority of what I read (I didn't like how he referred to the girl's brother as "the boy" far more than he did the character's given name, Sean, as it reminded me of The Alchemist and felt like a stylistic choice taken too far). Johnston takes a stock-ish drama about a girl taken away from her family and makes it compulsively readable by heavily involving us in the angst and corrosion the abduction causes not only on the girl but on her family.

Be warned that this is a dark novel and while some elements of what the abducted girl endures are (fortunately) kept off the page, there are certainly other gritty scenes that create a darker read. 

While reading, I was under the vague impression that this was Johnston's debut novel, and have since discovered it is not. I will keep an eye out for future novels, hopefully thrillers along the same vein. 

* Review copy provided Algonquin Books