Excerpt from Down River by John Hart, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Down River

by John Hart

Down River
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2007, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2008, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Vy Armour

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“Who is it?” My throat felt raw.

“Zebulon Faith.”

It was Danny’s father, a quick-tempered man who knew more than most about a lot of things: the inside of the county jail, narrowmindedness, the best way to beat his half-grown son.

“Just a second,” I called out.

“I wanted to talk to you.”

“Hang on.”

I went to the sink and threw some water on my face, pushed the nightmare down. In the mirror, I looked drawn-out, older than my twenty-eight years. I toweled off as I moved to the door, felt the blood flow in me, and pulled it open. The sun hung low. Late afternoon. The old man’s face looked hot and brittle.

“Hello, Mr. Faith. It’s been a long time.”

He was basically unchanged: a little more whittled down, but just as unpleasant. Wasted eyes moved over my face, and his lips twisted under dull whiskers. The smile made my skin crawl.

“You look the same,” he said. “I figured time would have taken some of the pretty-boy off your face.”

I swallowed my distaste. “I was looking for Danny.”

His next words came slowly, in a hard drawl. “When Manny said it was Adam Chase, I didn’t believe him. I said no way would Adam Chase be staying here. Not with that big old mansion full of family just sitting out there at the river. Not with all that Chase money. But things change, I reckon, and here you are.” He lowered his chin and foul breath puffed out. “I didn’t think you had the nerve to come back.”

I kept my sudden anger in check. “About Danny,” I said.

He waved the comment away as if it annoyed him. “He’s sitting on a beach in Florida somewhere. The little shit. Danny’s fine.” He stopped speaking, closing down the subject of his son with an offhand finality. For a long moment he just stared at me. “Jesus Christ.” He shook his head. “Adam Chase. In my place.”

I rolled my shoulders. “One place is as good as another.”

The old man laughed cruelly. “This motel is a rattrap. It’s sucking the life out of me.”

“If you say so.”

“Are you here to talk to your father?” he asked, a sudden glint in his eyes.

“I plan to see him.”

“That’s not what I meant. Are you here to talk to him? I mean to say, five years ago you were the crown prince of Rowan County.” A despicable grin. “Then you had your little trouble and you’re just up and gone. Near as I can tell, you’ve never been back. There’s got to be a reason after all this time, and talking sense into that prideful, stubborn son of a bitch is the best one I can think of.”

“If you have something to say, Mr. Faith, why don’t you just say it?”

He stepped closer, brought the smell of old sweat with him. His eyes were hard gray over a drinker’s nose, and his voice thinned. “Don’t be a smart-ass with me, Adam. I remember back when you was just as much a shit-brain kid as my boy, Danny, and the two of you together didn’t have the sense to dig a hole in the dirt with a shovel. I’ve seen you drunk and I’ve seen you bleeding on a barroom floor.” He looked from my feet to my face. “You’ve got a fancy car and a big-city smell on you, but you don’t look no better than anyone else. Not to me. And you can tell your old man I said that, too. Tell him that he’s running out of friends.”

“I don’t think I like your tone.”

“I tried to be polite, but you’ll never change, you Chases. Think you’re so much better than everyone else around here, just because you have all that land and because you’ve been in this county since creation. None of it means you’re better than me. Or better than my boy.”

Excerpted from Down River by John Hart. Copyright © 2007 by John Hart. A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved.

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