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Thursday 11 August 2016

‘Descent’ by Tim Johnston

Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,
13 December 2015.
ISBN 978-1-61620-477-8

Descent documents the distressing slide of a family from comfortable normality into a life of creeping horror where nothing is certain and nobody involved with the story can be happy or contented.  It is one of the most aptly named and disturbing books I have ever read. 

Catlin Courtland and her younger brother Sean set off early one morning from their holiday lodge in the Rocky Mountains. Catlin adores running. She is good at it and has already been awarded a track scholarship for when she starts college in a few weeks time.  With Catlin running ahead and Sean following on his bike the couple are soon way off any beaten tracks and into a densely wooded area where phones cannot get a signal.

Disaster strikes when Sean collides with a truck and suffers a catastrophic knee injury.  The truck driver suggests that he drives Catlin down the mountain until her phone works so she can call her father and send for medical help.  She agrees- albeit reluctantly, and that is the last anybody sees of her.

Most of the remainder of the book is a painstaking and lovingly crafted tale of how the various people involved: Catlin’s parents - whose marriage is already in trouble; her brother, the local Sherriff and his family, and the many others who support them, deal with the impossible state of limbo in which they find themselves abandoned. Their reactions are described with an unadorned, resolute honesty that strengthens the narrative far more than a string of highly emotive language ever could.

The startling end, when it finally comes two years later, is well worth waiting for.  It leaves you wishing that you could continue to follow the characters and find out how they deal with the new situations they find themselves in now that they know what happened to Catlin.  Only one thing is sure, all their lives have been altered irrevocably.
Reviewer Angela Crowther

Tim Johnston is the author of the novel Descent, a short story collection Irish Girl, and the Young Adult novel Never So Green. Tim's stories have also appeared in New England Review, New Letters, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, Double Take, Best Life Magazine, and Narrative Magazine, among others. He holds degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts, Amhers. He currently teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Memphis.
On Twitter: @TJohnstonWriter

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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