This subpar novel from bestseller Hart (The Hush) explores the impact of the Vietnam War on a Southern family. While serving as a Marine in Vietnam, Jason French reportedly killed many people, some under suspicious circumstances. After returning stateside a heroin addict, he spent time in prison for violent crimes related to his addiction. Now, in 1972, Jason has come back to his hometown of Charlotte, N.C., and is working to reestablish a relationship with his younger brother, Gibby. Meanwhile, a woman Jason once slept with is murdered as part of a scheme orchestrated by an over-the-top bad guy known as X, who has evidence planted implicating Jason in the murder. A multimillionaire on death row for murder, X can manipulate the prison system and pull strings in the outside world. Convinced of Jason’s innocence, Gibby sets out to exonerate him, a mission that coincides with a burgeoning relationship with the most attractive girl in his high school, a clichéd subplot that distracts from Jason’s fraught story. Meanwhile, a villain out of a James Bond film undermines plausibility. This gifted author has done better. 150,000-copy announced first printing. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Feb.)
"Another embarrassment of riches from Hart’s seemingly unlimited basket of talents." Book Reporter
"Unforgettable and propulsive ... extremely well-written suspense with emotional depth." AARP
"Often, the most gripping historicals take place during our immediate past as John Hart demonstrates in The Unwilling...Hart skillfully mines the details of the early 1970s and the impact the Vietnam War had on the country...the story’s strength is its deep examination of characters and the country. Each is a product of the times while trying to look to the future." Oline H. Cogdill for the Sun Sentinel
“A compulsively readable work propelled by not only race-against-time action, but also the endearing bonds between siblings put at loose ends by war, prison, and addiction, John Hart’s The Unwilling provides a unique thriller, well-suited for our times. Hart’s novel proves very much successful, as it allows readers a bit of escapism from the tumultuous world around them.” North Carolina Literary Review
"Hart explores matters of courage and cowardice, fear and family, combat and criminality as his narrative takes numerous turns and builds to a conclusion at once frightening and redemptive. Hart combines literary excellence with popular appeal. And in “The Unwilling” a novel that evokes not only a particular time but also timeless issueshe again burnishes his stature." Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
"Another scorcher from Hart ... [he] keeps us engaged ... subtly folding quiet, character-driven moments into the story while still powering the narrative toward an all-stops-out endingand a chilling coda. Remember to breathe after you turn the last page." Booklist (starred review)
“John Hart creates novels that are somehow raw, tender, brutal, and exquisiteall at the same time. Exceptional.” C.J. Box, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"The Unwilling is crime fiction at its absolute best. An impeccable story teller, John Hart weaves an intricate tale of family, war, prison, and murder into a thoroughly thought provoking and enjoyable read that I absolutely could not put down." Mark Greaney, #1 New York Times bestselling author of One Minute Out
“John Hart writes about violence with frightening passion and vivid description. At the same time he masterfully lets you see inside a powerful family dynamic. His villain will be in anyone’s top 2.” John Sandford, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Prey Series
"Richly complex, as intricately woven as a fine tapestry, soul-piercingly emotional, this is John Hart at his lyrical, atmospheric best. He builds a world and draws you in, and there you remain, a willing captive." Tami Hoag, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Boy
Praise for New York Times bestselling author John Hart:
"John Hart can flat-out write." David Baldacci
"A master storyteller." Harlan Coben
"This generation's Pat Conroy." The Providence Journal
"Hart's writing soars off the page with a lyricism that probably only James Lee Burke can match." Daily Mail (UK)
"If you crave thrillers that are vividly beautiful, graphic, will make you bleed, try John Hart." Patricia Cornwell
"Hart writes as if he is channeling William Faulkner, or perhaps collaborating with the Cormac McCarthy of the Blood Meridian era." Book Reporter
In 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War, Gibson "Gibby" French is about to graduate from his North Carolina high school. Both of Gibby's older brothers have been to war. Robert was killed in action; Jason returned—but as a shattered man who descended into a life of drugs and violence. After being released from a 27-month prison term, Jason, against the wishes of their parents, seeks to reconnect with Gibby. They spend a day together enjoying some whiskey and the company of two women, Tyra and Sara. But shortly afterward, Tyra is found brutally murdered. Jason is arrested for the crime and sent back to prison. Gibby is determined to prove his brother's innocence, but he must grapple with powerful forces that are targeting Jason. When Sara disappears, Gibby looks to save her and find the true killer. VERDICT Edgar Award-winning Hart (The Hush) offers another propulsive crime novel that features fully realized, multifaceted characters and a strong sense of place. [See Prepub Alert, 11/25/19.]—Andy Northrup, Eugene P.L., OR
A dishonorably discharged Marine returns home, throwing his family into chaos.
A family melodrama at first appears to be the center of Hart’s latest, a diffuse tale that lacks the drive of his other works. Jason French has just returned to Charleston, South Carolina. After a dishonorable discharge from the Marines, Jason spiraled into drug abuse and landed in prison. Now freed, his presence roils a wounded family. His twin brother, Robert, was killed in Vietnam. Family patriarch William and his wife, Gabrielle (a woefully undeveloped character), determine to keep Jason away from his impressionable younger brother, Gibby, a high school senior. Gibby looks up to Jason, eventually believing his dishonorable discharge was undeserved. Gibby’s coming-of-age tale might have focused the story, but it vies with a long lineup of characters, events, and themes trailing through the plot. Family drama morphs into horror story when a convict among a busload of inmates from a state prison farm spots Jason and informs Prisoner X (so named because his real name is Axel, or possibly because he killed 10 men). Worth millions and brutally powerful, X terrorizes prison staff and powerful outsiders into doing his bidding. X shared prison time with Jason and now, for reasons gradually parsed out, wants the ex-Marine back at the prison, so he manipulates his minions to murder a woman Jason knows and frame him for the killing. Fleeing arrest, Jason is captured and sent back to prison. Gibby thereupon determines to clear his brother of murder and learn what was behind Jason’s discharge from the Marines (alas, not a very startling reveal). Now the narrative turns into a more traditional police procedural. The case windup adds some much-needed juice to an otherwise slow-moving, colorless narrative, which ends with a chilling kicker.
Less would be a lot more.