Overwrought: Iron House by John Hart

Excited blurbs from Patricia Cornwell and Vince Flynn on the cover should have given me a clue that Iron House, John Hart’s fourth literary thriller, is more action and thrills than novelistic description and character development. If you’re a fan of Patricia Cornwell and Vince Flynn, then try Iron House. There are murders, mobsters, crooked politicians, trauma, and torture scenes in abundance.
For a thriller, though, the story takes a long time to build up steam — jerkily pausing for melodramatic flashbacks to childhood abuse in Iron House, an anarchic orphanage deep in the mountains of North Carolina. And for a “literary thriller”, writing like this just doesn’t cut it:

A final shudder rolled under her skin, then she collected herself as she always did. She crushed the weakness and the doubt, drove home to tall, stone walls and mirrors that failed to see so deep. She reminded herself that she was iron on the outside, and harder than any woman alive.

There are great reviews of Iron House out there and the bodies in the book pile up quickly, but King of Lies, the first novel by John Hart (a former lawyer turned bestselling author) is still his best work, in my opinion, combining a suspenseful story with narrative twists. Each book that followed (Down South, The Last Child, Iron House) has disappointed, although glowing reviews suckered me into reading all of them. This one is definitely the last.
For literary thrillers, I’ll stick with Peter Abrahams, Val McDermid, Thomas H. Cook, and Inger Ash Wolfe and others whose writing I don’t notice until I close the book at the end, saying, “Wow! Good book!”

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