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The Hush

Review

The Hush

I heard quite a bit about THE HUSH long before I actually held it in my hands and read it. Its premise and promise is author John Hart’s return to the characters of THE LAST CHILD, arguably his most beloved novel. That worthy and groundbreaking work introduced a gifted and haunted teenager named Johnny Merrimon and his best friend, Jack Cross, who reside in rural Raven County, North Carolina. THE HUSH, which is set a decade after the events of THE LAST CHILD, delivers everything you might expect and so much more.

While this latest book occasionally references its predecessor and shares some of its characters, it is more a stand-alone work than a sequel. Johnny, now 26, is living a hermit-like existence in what is known as Hush Arbor, a 6,000-acre expanse that he acquired via an inheritance. He is, as the saying goes, land-poor, being all but impoverished as a result of a series of legal battles to quiet the title to the property. Johnny, at least on the surface, seems unconcerned about his delinquent property taxes. He is content to spend his time preparing for the coming winter and sleeping in a treehouse near his cabin. Johnny also is the subject of equal parts local adoration and notoriety due to the events that occurred 10 years ago. Folks are impressed that they have a celebrity in their midst, however rarely, but are waiting for him to go off.

"Hart gives us a complex tale --- which bounces back and forth between the present and the 1800s --- that begins simply enough but is constructed incrementally so that readers (unlike those who intrude upon Hush Arbor) never get lost."

Jack aced college and law school, and as a reward of sorts --- certainly a mixed blessing  --- is employed as an associate with what passes for a white-shoe law firm in the area. There continues to be a special bond between Johnny and Jack, despite their different talents, abilities and troubles…or perhaps because of them.

Hart takes a while to set these pieces up on the board. They’re interesting, though not particularly intriguing at first, even when we meet some of the folks disputing Johnny’s title to Hush Arbor. We also meet a wealthy New York financier (you can almost hear the boos from the audience the moment he is introduced) who wants to buy the land and all that is on it from Johnny for an incredible amount of money. His offer seems to come out of nowhere, given that the despicable cad has been caught poaching on the land in the past and has earned Johnny’s ire. Hart throws in just a couple of unusual circumstances that might get past casual readers as he unreels the line.

Still, it is a surprise when Hart works into the novel an absolutely unexpected angle that leaves readers wondering where the story is going. Hart then follows it up with a revelation, previously only hinted at, about Johnny himself and his relationship to the land. It isn’t just stubbornness that keeps him from selling Hush Arbor. He is connected to the land in the truest sense of the word; they have a protector, a force that is more than merely dangerous and existed in the Hush for decades. When Johnny is falsely accused of a number of deaths, he finds that he has to solve the mystery of the Hush once and for all. He must do more than prove his innocence; his very life depends on it.

THE HUSH may start off slowly, but it is wonderfully written. As a result, readers are truly hooked by the story long before the suspense heats up. Hart gives us a complex tale --- which bounces back and forth between the present and the 1800s --- that begins simply enough but is constructed incrementally so that readers (unlike those who intrude upon Hush Arbor) never get lost. And be warned: there are parts of it that are as quietly frightening as anything you might read this year. But you will love every word, regardless of whether or not you are a fan of things that go bump (and rend and tear and claw) in the night.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 28, 2018

The Hush
by John Hart

  • Publication Date: February 27, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250012309
  • ISBN-13: 9781250012302