Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review - Iron House: A Novel by John Hart

Title: Iron House: A Novel
Author: John Hart
Year: 2011
Page: 432
Genre: Fiction - Literary Thriller

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from

An old man is dying.
When the old man is dead they will come for him.
And they will come for her, to make him hurt.

John Hart has written three New York Times bestsellers and won an unprecedented two back-to-back Edgar Awards. His books have been called “masterful” (Jeffery Deaver) and “gripping” (People) with “Grisham-style intrigue and Turow-style brooding” (The New York Times). Now he delivers his fourth novel—a gut-wrenching, heart-stopping thriller no reader will soon forget.

At the Iron Mountain Home for Boys, there was nothing but time. Time to burn and time to kill, time for two young orphans to learn that life isn’t won without a fight. Julian survives only because his older brother, Michael, is fearless and fiercely protective. When tensions boil over and a boy is brutally killed, there is only one sacrifice left for Michael to make: He flees the orphanage and takes the blame with him.

For two decades, Michael has been an enforcer in New York’s world of organized crime, a prince of the streets so widely feared he rarely has to kill anymore. But the life he’s fought to build unravels when he meets Elena, a beautiful innocent who teaches him the meaning and power of love. He wants a fresh start with her, the chance to start a family like the one he and Julian never had. But someone else is holding the strings. And escape is not that easy. . . .

The mob boss who gave Michael his blessing to begin anew is dying, and his son is intent on making Michael pay for his betrayal. Determined to protect the ones he loves, Michael spirits Elena—who knows nothing of his past crimes, or the peril he’s laid at her door— back to North Carolina, to the place he was born and the brother he lost so long ago. There, he will encounter a whole new level of danger, a thicket of deceit and violence that leads inexorably to the one place he’s been running from his whole life: Iron House.

First Sentence:
Michael woke reaching for the gun he no longer kept by the bed.

My Thoughts:

  • I read a lot of bloggers' good reviews on this one (see  Charlotte's Web of Books' review here and Rhapsody in Books' review here) so I couldn't wait to read it!
  • The cover reminded me a lot of the The Passage by Justin Cronin - see here.  Not identical, but close! 
  • I thought, the title being Iron House, we'd learn more about the Iron House itself. It definitely played a role in the story, but not as predominate as I thought it'd be. I wish more of the setting was at Iron House since it was supposed to be this creepy place.
  • For a 400+ book, there actually was not a lot of action plot wise (I guess that's why this is called Iron House: A Novel, instead of A Thriller) - I guess for those who do not read a lot of the thriller / suspense genre, this book has a lot of action, but for those of us who do, usually more action is packed in a 300+ book :) However, I did like the author's writing because I was not bored, and I kept turning the page to find out what happened. This book really is more about families, than a real thriller.
  • Some parts of the novel might be too graphic for some readers, though those parts didn't bother me. In fact, I don't even remember now (3 months later) what those parts were...
  • Some plot twists were a bit too contrived and perhaps a bit unrealistic. While I did not guess all the twists, they were not so mind-blowing when they were revealed. The last chapter seemed to tie everything a bit too nicely, though I did appreciate the closure at the time (see, you can't please me - if you didn't wrap everything up, then it is too ambiguous for me! And if you tie everything up, then the bow is tied too nicely!) However, now that it's been 3 months since I read it, I remember the story, but not quite the ending... so the ending wasn't shocking enough for me to remember. 
  • The characters were developed well, though I'd like to learn more about Jessup the bodyguard. 
  • I had some questions about the book that I didn't feel the author answered: [SPOILER] (1) I was surprised that Abigail's mum didn't try to blackmail her or ruin her life (2) I was surprised that no one dug into Abigail's past, (3) I had to think about why, along with the 3 boys names, Salinda Slaughter and Abigail's name will be on the list? (4) This one isn't a question, but a comment - I was so bad, I thought Andrew Flint, the principal of the Iron House, was a pedophile, when in fact he turned out to be a good guy later on... my conspiracy mind was racing...
  • Some reviewers said that this is NOT John Hart's back book, perhaps I should try his earlier work.
  • After I finished this book, I thought it'd be a 3.5-4 Stars book. Now that it's been a few months, I'd decided on 3.5 Stars because there were some details I'd forgotten and so the staying power of this book wasn't as good as I'd hope it'd be. Also, later on I'd read Children of Paranoia (see my review here) which reminded me a bit of the Iron House - but I like Children of Paranoia better. Granted, I read Children a month ago, and this one 3 months ago, so maybe that's why I remembered Children better. However, Children's ending was more memorable and it also made me teary. I also liked the characters in Children better. Maybe it is not fair to compare these 2 books, but I guess what made me think of the two together were (1) both are love stories in disguise of a thriller (2) both protagonists were on the run / wanted to change for the better once they found Miss Right.
  • One thing this book made me think about - would we be happier if we know less?  (Michael and Jessup seemed to have the most knowledge / know the most secrets, but also seemed the least happy)


"Julian writes dark because the light he hopes to convey is so dim it only shows when everything around it is black." (p207)

But we can all live with doubts. It's the knowing that breaks us. (p414)

Overall Rating:

3.5 Stars. Enjoyed it, but the story didn't have as much staying power as I'd hoped, or it'd be 4 Stars.

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  1. I've not read Hart, but this one I'd like to try.

  2. @stacybuckeye - Others said some of his earlier books were better but I didn't think this one was bad. At least after I read this book, I didn't NOT want to read any more of his books :) There are some authors I don't know if I'd try again (just not my style).