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Tuesday, 9 July 2019

‘The Current’ by Tim Johnston

Published by Algonquin Books,
22 January 2019. 
ISBN: 978-1-61620677-2 (HB)

When Audrey Sutter and Caroline Price first met at university, they couldn’t stand each other. But given the strange and unfathomable nature of human friendship, by the time Audrey discovered that her father was dying of cancer and that she needed to borrow money for a bus trip home, the two girls had become inseparable.  

Caroline decided to drive Audrey home and all went well until, about an hour from Audrey’s home, a couple of louts attacked Audrey at a comfort stop. The girls escaped, but the road conditions were treacherous, and their car ended up sliding down a hill and coming to rest overlooking a steep riverbank.  They were never given the chance to escape. Another vehicle came up behind them and nudged their car over the edge.  It fell onto the thin ice covering the Black Root River.  Caroline was drowned.  Audrey survived with a broken arm.

Audrey comes round in hospital with two men in the room, her father, Tom Sutter, a retired Sherriff, and Moran, Tom’s former deputy.  Moran is now the Sherriff in the jurisdiction in which the girls’ accident had happened.  Both men were anxious to know what Audrey could tell them.  Audrey had never liked Moran too well and, though she had enquired, she had never been told why Moran had stopped being her father’s deputy and moved to another area.

Audrey’s accident revived memories of another death in the same river. A decade earlier nineteen-year-old Holly Burke had died when she had been hit by a vehicle and then deliberately left to drown after being thrown into the river whilst she was still alive. Holly’s death still affected the small community. Her father Gordon Burke had been in business with the Young family. But when one of the Young’s sons, Danny, appeared to be the only sensible suspect for Holly’s murder, the links were broken. Danny had been in the right place at the right time, but Audrey’s father, who had been Sherriff at the time, could find no proof that Danny had killed Holly. Ten years later a bitter Gordon Burke still blamed Tom Sutter for that failure.  Danny left town and rarely returned, leaving his twin brother, Marky - a lovely character who whilst mentally challenged is far from daft - and their mother Rachel to look out for each other

Audrey wants to know who killed Holly and Caroline, and she wants justice for them.  So does her father, though he soon dies of a heart attack. Regardless of the danger to herself, a grieving and still frail Audrey perseveres with her investigations into what happened ten years ago and what has happened more recently - including the probable silencing of Danny Young. Moran seems anxious to help but Audrey places more trust in Gordon Burke and the current Sherriff.

This is a beautifully portrayed, captivating story that encompasses so many aspects of everyday life - grief, justice - or the lack of it, friendship, families and the decent, caring, human love that may be found in a small community where everybody knows everybody else. Its characters fit their backgrounds so perfectly that it hardly needs dialogue to confirm their attitudes to the constant mingling of past and present troubles. Marky might not be as sharp as his colleagues, but he loves Danny. Quietly, he attempts to deliver justice for Danny by tackling the source of the darkness that has blighted their community for a decade or more.

I have no hesitation in recommending this story to anyone who would enjoy a thoughtful, well–written, suspenseful, refreshingly different book that follows its own path as it goes seamlessly forwards at its own flawless pace.
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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