Iron House by John Hart

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Iron House by John Hart

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Michael has overcome a tough childhood to now enjoy life. But a single event upsets the apple cart and sees him on the run.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: June 2011
Publisher: John Murray
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848541795

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Hart is already a best-selling author so he has a lot to live up to with his latest book. At over 400 pages it's a big, meaty read. The story opens with Michael, now an adult. In his prime, with the woman he loves and about to become a father: life is looking very rosy indeed. He thinks that he's left his shady past behind him forever. He's wrong. Hart gives his readers a little background info on Michael, the central character, just enough to whet our appetites. It worked for me and I was eager to keep turning the pages. At the start of the book there's a definite sense of something catastrophic about to happen and that it involves Michael in some way.

This event, from which there is no going back involves Michael visiting an elderly man who has not long to live. They have been close, very close for many years. In fact, they appear like father and son - except they're not. It distresses Michael to see the excruciating pain on the elderly man's face. So he does something to alleviate the pain. And the story starts to heat up, big-time ...

At this point it's all a little Mafia-esque in tone and language with plenty of ruthless men, fast cars and a variety of lethal weapons. Michael and his lover Elena find themselves on the run. Those out for vengeance discover Michael Achilles' heel. Michael is certainly not used to being vulnerable, hasn't been for a long time and does not like the feeling. The whole episode tips him back to his unhappy childhood.

We see the young Michael at the centre of the story and it stays that way for a good chunk of the book. What Hart tells us is horrifying and utterly sad. Who could not be moved, I'm thinking. We meet the young Michael and his even younger brother, Julian. Abandoned, motherless, fatherless - they now are forced to call a grim institution (Iron House) their home. It is rife with bullying and violence. It's a living hell and the weak Julian seems to be a target for some of the older boys. Hart spares us no details as Julian is hunted down like a poor, defenceless animal time after time. Michael is tough and brave but he can't be everywhere at once. An 'incident' happens involving the two brothers and life will never be the same for either of them again.

Hart moves the narrative along at a cracking pace. But it's not all out-and-out action. There are sections which are different in feel. Most of the main characters are put under Hart's microscope as we get an indication of what makes them tick. We meet a diverse bunch of individuals along the way ... a woman who has everything that money can buy - but she has no children, a faithful bodyguard, a rather cold and aloof husband, for example. And they are all interwoven in some way or another. I found Michael to be a terrific central character (both young and adult). His resourcefulness where others would possibly have folded, is amazing and heroic. I was gunning for him and his brother right from the start.

The thriller angle does involve a faster pace, numerous locations and a fair amount of violence. But all of this is part of the bigger picture so it worked very well indeed. I found this book to be an entertaining read with a terrific central character at its heart. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Killer Year by Lee Child (Editor)

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