John Hart


King of Lies




I started a bit reluctant with this one, worried that the prose was a bit tortured, that Hart was trying a bit hard to ramp up the emotion in every scene (still skittish after a nasty close call with the godawful Patterson). Most of the relationships are so extreme – the sister, the father, the, what, mistress. He’s a bit free with his atrocities – rape, and various grisly murders – often an attempt to hide a lack of style and substance behind a superficial wall of sensationalism. The ‘American Beauty’ style reinvention wasn’t always convincing to me – either how ‘Work’ had got trapped, and his escape: I often still didn’t find him particularly likeable. The characters are so TV friendly/familiar – casting this would be a walk in the park, you can just about see them walking from the screen onto the page. Others are so text book – particularly the off the shelf country club shallow bitches, but also the heart of gold ‘bum’. The climax *was* silly – save me from killers that can’t manage the job even when armed with a Mercedes, or even with a gun point blank, burying a bullet in the chest and head (something she’d done previously – and cooly, and effectively). And the dénouement a bit over the top fairy tale. 


But… I couldn’t put the damn thing down. Casually picked it up at maybe 10pm one night, and didn’t stop until I’d finished it at 4am. Whatever my gripes, I’ve got to admit that Hart’s got the ability to get you in and keep you turning pages – which is no mean feat. His pacing is assured. The red-herrings workable. He gets the mix of personal and relational development alongside thriller plot pretty much … right. There’s some capable dialogue, and I liked the way the DA was moved from friend to foe (way more potent than if he just started as arch villain). Even though there’s enough books out there to make this a bit of a sub-convention, it is still a refreshing contrast to have the cop/s who decide early who’s guilty and then work hard to find evidence to support their presupposition presented as out of line, rather than their usual validation (I spoke to a cop who said she hated the way so many shows lauded this dodgy approach to investigation). And I suppose he does mainly show rather than tell: characters’ actions support their descriptions, and times even replace them.


So, sure, I’ll try some more John Hart. I’m sure I’ll have some reservations, but I’ll expect some craft, and a good ride.


February 2014