I became a John Hart fan a couple years ago when I discovered his 2016 release, Redemption Road (highly recommended) so I’ve been eagerly anticipating his latest book. John Hart is known as a writer of “literary” crime novels, with the requisite plot twists of a thriller but with writing and characters a step or two above the usual. The Hush, however, is NOT a crime novel. While there is a mystery, it’s very different from Hart’s other books, for one gigantic reason: it deals with the supernatural. I knew this going in, so I was prepared, but I’m not sure how other John Hart fans will react.
The story follows Johnny Merrimon, the protagonist of one of John Hart’s earlier novels, now a 23-year-old loner living in a 6,000-acre swamp and forest called Hush Arbor, or simply the Hush. While Johnny loves the Hush, most people in the area are afraid of it, and for good reason: there’s something in there that doesn’t appreciate outsiders. And when people start disappearing, Johnny becomes an easy target for the suspicions of the local sheriff.
This is a novel one should read without spoilers, so I’ll stop there. It took me a little while to get into the story—it doesn’t grab you by the throat in chapter 1 like his other novels, but slowly unspools as the texture deepens and the plot thickens. The last third moves more quickly and I stayed up WAY past my bedtime finishing it last night. If you enjoy a darkly atmospheric novel with ghosts and black magic intermixed with your whodunnit, this is the novel with you.
Side note: while The Hush includes several characters from a prior novel (The Last Child) this novel stands alone—in fact, I haven’t read the first book, although I plan to now! And seriously, if you haven’t read Redemption Road, you should.