Author: John Hart
Published by: St. Martin's Press on Feb. 2, 2021
Format: Paperback, ARC
Source: St. Martin's Press
Book Rating: 8.5/10
Set in the South at the height of the Vietnam War, The Unwilling combines crime, suspense and searing glimpses into the human mind and soul in New York Times bestselling author John Hart’s singular style.
Gibby’s older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison.
Jason won’t speak of the war or of his time behind bars, but he wants a relationship with the younger brother he hasn’t known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whisky and older women.
But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, one of the women taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. The woman finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after.
Given his violent history, suspicion turns first to Jason; but when the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother’s hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
What he discovers there is a truth more bleak than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra’s murder, but the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison.
This is crime fiction at its most raw, an exploration of family and the past, of prison and war and the indelible marks they leave.
Frightful, atmospheric, and spine-chilling!
The Unwilling is an engrossing, gritty novel that transports you to Charleston, South Carolina, during 1972 when the Vietnam War is still being waged and Detective Bill French, unfortunately, finds himself mixed up in a complex investigation involving a heinous killer with a penchant for sadism, and a young murder victim that seems to have known both his teenage son, Gibby and his delinquent, adult son, Jason a little too well.
The prose is meticulous and crisp. The characters are raw, scarred, and maudlin. And the plot, including all the subplots, unravel and intertwine effortlessly into an ominous tale filled with mixed emotions, manipulation, deceit, corruption, grief, violence, and murder.
I have to admit that I have been a huge fan of John Hart since 2006 when he published his debut novel, The King of Lies. And even though I didn’t love The Unwilling as much as some of his older ones, it is still an intricate, sinister, well-written whodunit filled with an abundance of deeply flawed characters that I thoroughly enjoyed.
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Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.