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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 6 September 2012
John Hart has an eloquent and considered writing style, he isn't shy of some dramatic and almost poetic descriptive prose; while at the same time he delivers action and tough guy drama with genuine panache. He also has an eye for a story and generally sets them up well with good chararcters at the heart of it.

Iron House begins well - it has mystery, love and suspense. An over arching sense of impending doom follows the story of Michael and Elena. She is an interesting love interest and underpins his motivations well. The reveal of his past and the Iron House is neatley played - so to the introduction of the main support cast, all well delivered and sensibly written characters. With the possible exception of Stevan - we are left to assume too much about him and maybe we needed to read a little more of his personality. However, after the first 15 or so chapters the book grinds to something of a halt - as the intricacies of the story are developed sadly the pace drops to a crawl - adding in alot of driving and chatting didn't make up for it. The middle third is the books problem, as Elena makes way for another strong female charatcer so the relationships all change - it's like being back at square one, I wasn't really convince by the "investigation" element as it seemed a little too hackneyed way of getting to the truth. The book then sprngs back to life for the final 3rd, though the action climax is a smidge of an anti-climax in places.I'd liked to have seen a little more of the great Michael in action.

It's an interesting and well produced book, which drags in the middle. The subtext of mother's and sons, nature vs nurture is not over played, but neither is it subtle. Overall the it had enough to keep me and most readers going but given the intricacies the twist and 'reveal' wasn't enough to truly drop the jaw. I shall read more from Hart, his accomplished style and character development are worthy of further investment.
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on 15 September 2017
Story line full of twists and turns and surprises. Brilliant prose. Want to read more of his books as this is the first one I've read
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on 21 July 2017
A good read
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on 21 April 2017
very good
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In many ways, Iron House is considerably different to the other novels by John Hart that I have read. Whilst the strong and well-rounded characters, the intriguing plot that drives the story, and the quality of writing remain, I felt that for the first time this novel dealt with characters and situations that were larger than life.

By this I mean that normally Mr Harts characters come from small towns and at the most are big fish in small ponds. They are fascinating and engaging tales but told very much on a personal and (I don't really like using this word as it doesn't seem to do the novels justice, but it does fit) small scale. Iron house has this aspect, but it is also a novel that deals with billionaires, senators, organised crime and more.

Michael, our protagonist, is an ex-hitman style character who is definitely larger than life. However, I don't say this as a bad thing. Whilst I really enjoyed the more grounded stories of Redemption Road, The Last Child and Down River; I also really enjoyed this change. It is rare that an author can make that jump and pull it off.

As you can see by the loss of a star, there has to be a flaw. In this case, it is the one thing that has held true across all of Mr Hart's books, it's too long. By that, I don't mean that there are too many pages because I personally enjoy reading longer books. What I mean is that the story is a little too small for the number of pages that is taken to tell it. There are times throughout this book (and the others I have read by this author) where the story get's stretched thin and I start wishing that we could hurry things along a bit.

Is this a big problem though? No. Not at all. These are still books that I am eager to recommend that people read, and this book is no exception.

So, 4-stars and I am eagerly waiting for future books by this author.
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VINE VOICEon 14 January 2013
This is a very well crafted novel spanning the first 30 odd years or so of the life of two brothers literally abandoned to their own destiny at a very early age. That it also covers almost 500 pages of excellent action is testimony to the author's ability to hook the reader.

The younger brother is adopted by a very wealthy set of parents, the other is also 'adopted' by a ruthless crime boss and becomes his hitman and surrogate son, privy to the man's well guarded secrets. When the boss dies, this elder brother, Michael, becomes the target for disposal with immediate effect.

But the story is more about the search for the younger brother by Michael which then brings with it more mayhem as the adoptive parents are certainly not what we first thought. The manner in which the author weaves the story around two supposedly alternative lives and brings them together with each passing page, leaves the reader wondering just who is related to whom and why.

There is plenty of action for crime thriller fans but there is rather too much along the lines of "I'm going with you, no you're not, yes, I am, okay alright then but keep behind me" which rather spoils the flow. If you can guess the rationale behind all the people involved then you're very good at picking up the clues. I didn't, so the resolution was certainly rewarding if a little wondrous.

John Hart is most definitely a good storyteller so I'll look out for the next book he pens with anticipation.
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on 25 July 2012
Iron House," tells the story of two abandoned brothers, subjected to the abject brutality inflicted upon them by an "orphanage gang" and separated by circumstances that sees one adopted by a wealthy woman and the other "adopted" by an organized crime boss.

John Hart has outdone himself with this latest narrative of family loyalty, love, courage and loss that hooks the reader from the very first page. Masterfully composed, this is a tale of survival and revenge that threatens one mans sanity and freedom, another's life, and places a thirds political future on the line while the quest for huge sums of money drives some of the players to commit unspeakable acts of brutality. The body count continues to mount as one brother searches for the other in a race against time, the mob and the authorities.

More than just a suspense thriller, this is a multi-layered story with plenty of angles and enough bends in the road to obscure what lies ahead. By the time you are 75 pages into this book you will be enmeshed in the life of the protagonist who, while flawed, still has you cheering him on in his quest.

Reminiscent in some ways of BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE and definitely not in the literary masterpiece category IRON HOUSE does possess a vivid and atmospheric literary style with divergent plot lines neatly knitted together to give the audience a memorable reading experience. 3 1/2 stars
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have not read any of John Hart's previous works, so was unsure of what to expect and as this is in the crime, thriller genre and I was thinking that after James Elroy everything else pales by comparison. This then was a total surprise, Hart paints a picture so vividly that he had me hooked by page two and he not only kept me guessing, but kept me wanting to know more, this then is more than a page turner, it is one of those that you have to read with out a break (not entirely possible, but I gave it a go).

The plot revolves around Michael; he works as an enforcer for a shadowy mob figure. He was taken in by him as a youth and his mentor is on his death bed. Michael has met and fallen in love with a beautiful Spanish woman called Elena; he loves her and wants out from his past life of crime, violence and death. She is pregnant with his child, she is happy and she does not know a thing about the real man she loves. She has no idea what grief his past is going to bring crashing into her present - this is not a plot spoiler, but a stage setter.

Now the snag, the crime empire have decided that Michael is not allowed to leave, to love any other than `the family' is a gross breach of trust, and without their trust you are a liability, and liabilities get dealt with in an uncompromising fashion. They will hold off until the `old man' dies, and he is very close to death, Michael harbours a forlorn hope that they will relent and let him go and he can finally live the life he has always dreamt of.

There is more in that there is also the story of two small boys left by a river bank to die of the cold and elements. There is a senator, there is corruption, there is a Victorian orphanage where brutal things were allowed to happen, there are lies and there are truths that should never see the light of day.

Hart peels away the plot like the layers of an onion, and this is pretty big onion, he keeps you guessing all the way, just when you think you have that eureka moment, he pulls the rug from under your feet. This is such a well written, planned and executed novel that I was completely taken aback. There are some plot holes especially the way schizophrenia is portrayed, but never the less I ruddy well enjoyed this as the entertainment it sets out to be.

Whilst a lot of `thrillers' rely on the plot to keep the pace up, this has excellent narrative, believable characters, compelling prose and an artists eye to detail, I can not recommend highly enough and will now be getting his entire back catalogue.
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Iron House, (2012), by North Carolina author and former criminal defense attorney John Hart. This thriller follows on the heels of the New York Times bestselling crime novels THE KING OF LIES, DOWN RIVER, and THE LAST CHILD. Hart is the only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels; he has also won the Barry Award and England's Steel Dagger Award for best thriller of the year. His books, to date, all of which I have reviewed and loved, have been set in North Carolina: generally the mountainous west of the state.

As his earlier works, IRON HOUSE is centered on families, stressed and in danger, several of them in this complex, multilevel work. At its heart are Julian and Michael, who are apparently orphans, marooned at the Iron Mountain Home for Boys, where there was nothing but time. Enough for them to learn that life is not easy. Julian, physically and mentally weak, survives only because his bigger older brother, Michael, is both feared and fiercely protective. When Julian brutally kills an older bully, Michael takes the rap to protect his brother, flees the orphanage in a snow storm. For two decades, he does well on the streets of New York, eventually making a bountiful living as a mob enforcer for Otto Kaitlin. But this life begins to unravel when he meets Elana, who knows nothing of his past. Michael now wants a fresh start, the chance to build a family of his own. But organized crime does not allow for retirement. As a hunted man, everyone he loves at risk, Michael carries Elena back to North Carolina, to the side of the brother he'd lost so long ago.

Hart’s books have been translated into twenty-nine languages and can be found in over fifty countries. He has worked as a banker, stockbroker, and apprentice helicopter mechanic. Now a husband and father of two, he spends his time in North Carolina and Virginia. I saw him speak as a younger man, several years ago, at a mystery festival sponsored by the local Wilmington, N.C. library. He was, of course, intelligent, well-spoken, with a fair amount of wit. As in his earlier works, the author does a fine job of giving us the geography, flora, fauna, roads and transportation, social peculiarities of North Carolina and neighboring states. And New York too. His narrative and descriptive are crisp, his dialog cuts. The suspenseful plot sucks you in from the first page, and, despite the writer’s literate broodings on the nature of family, doesn’t let up to the last. There are touches of Southern Gothic-- greatly exaggerated characters -- to be sure, again as in his previous novels—in a pair of very nasty mothers. This book is certainly more violent than his earlier works, with a much higher body count – in fact, a very high and bloody body count. I don’t mind that, but, if you do, beware. It’s entirely possible that this book is more commercially-oriented than its predecessors. Who cares. Not me. I love it, as I did his earlier works.
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on 31 August 2015
John Hart is a new name to me. This is his fourth thriller, and the critics have heaped praise on him. Well-deserved praise.

Michael and Julian are brothers, whose lives have taken different directions since they left the Iron House orphanage in North Carolina following the savage killing of a bully. Julian was adopted by a senator and has become the successful author of dark children's books. Michael ended up under the protection of a New York crime lord, for whom he has carried out many ruthless murders. The crime lord is now dead and Michael wants to start a new life with Elena, his new-found love. But the gangster's son wants to kill Michael and anyone close to him, including his schizophrenic brother.

They say that all the best themes can be found in the Bible. IRON HOUSE, like the famous BLOOD BROTHERS, is a variation on the story of Cane and Abel. A violent variation, but a highly original one. The senator's wife has terrible secrets of her own. There's a wild child in the woods who should belong in a fairy story but somehow suits this one. The plot goes off in unexpected directions with two distinct climaxes, separated by a hundred pages in which this crime-and-revenge thriller morphs into Southern Gothic melodrama.

John Hart writes the kind of lean, vivid prose that is only seen in the very best thriller writers. The combination of Gothic and Greek tragedy brought to mind Thomas Harris's HANNIBAL, the most 'literary' book of the Lecter series. Here are two fine sentences from IRON HOUSE: "The tenement house that almost killed the man was a river's breadth away, and a lifetime apart." "Jimmy took a deep breath, and smelled all the places he could bury a man." A calibre of writing you are unlikely to read in the self-published books that increasingly dominate the thriller market today. John Hart is a writer I plan to follow. This is far and away the best novel I've read this year.

[Reviewer is the author of THE BEXHILL MISSILE CRISIS]
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