Friday, December 26, 2014


Descent by Tim Johnston
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: 1/6/2015
eBook, 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781616203047

The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, a young family from the plains taking a last summer vacation before their daughter begins college. For eighteen-year-old Caitlin, the mountains loom as the ultimate test of her runner’s heart, while her parents hope that so much beauty, so much grandeur, will somehow repair a damaged marriage. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic, as suddenly this family find themselves living the kind of nightmare they’ve only read about in headlines
or seen on TV.

As their world comes undone, the Courtlands are drawn into a vortex of dread and recrimination. Why weren’t they more careful? What has happened to their daughter? Is she alive? Will they ever know? Caitlin’s disappearance, all the more devastating for its mystery, is the beginning of the family’s harrowing journey down increasingly divergent and solitary paths until all that continues to bind them together are the questions they can never bring themselves to ask: At what point does a family stop searching? At what point will a girl stop fighting for her life?

Written with a precision that captures every emotion, every moment of fear, as each member of the family searches for answers, Descent is a perfectly crafted thriller that races like an avalanche toward its heart-pounding conclusion, and heralds the arrival of a master storyteller.

My Thoughts:

Descent by Tim Johnston is a highly recommended thriller/family drama.

"A daughter was your life; it was as simple as that. Her body was the only body, her heart the only heart. The most absolute, the most terrible love."

Grant and Angela Courtland have taken their children, Caitland and Sean, on a last summer vacation in Colorado before their daughter Caitland starts college in the fall. When Caitland and Sean leave their hotel for an early morning run (Caitland) and an accompanying bikre ride (Sean) in the mountains. Only Sean comes back and his return is via a hospital stay for a badly broken leg. Caitland has seemingly disappeared after accepting a ride from a stranger in an effort to get Sean help.

Suddenly the Courtlands are a family with a missing daughter and a broken son. The whole family begins to implode under the tremendous emotional toll they are undergoing between Caitland's disappearance and Sean's recovery. Weeks become months and then years. Angela stays at the family's home in Wisconsin, slowly falling apart while Grant stays in Colorado, helping an elderly man while hoping to find clues leading to Caitland's return. Sean takes off in his dad's truck and crosses the country on his own adventure before circumstances send him back to Colorado.

Descent by Tim Johnston shows how a single choice can change so many circumstances for each of his characters.. While the writing is elegant and poetic, the actual development of all his very flawed characters is somewhat lacking. Angela's character is the least fully formed, while the development of Grant and Sean is based more on their actions than any real insight into their psyche. Descent, although beautifully written, was rather slow going until the plot took a turn part way through the book and became a more satisfying thriller and less family drama. The tension is ratcheted way up at this point and the narrative will firmly hold your attention to the end.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill for review purposes.

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