Redemption Road: A Novel

Redemption Road: A Novel

by John Hart


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“Hart has taken it to another level…read this novel.” —David Baldacci

From the award-winning author of five New York Times bestselling novels comes a “gripping, believable story that doesn’t rest until the last sentence” (Associated Press).

A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother.
A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting.
After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free while, deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, a body cools in pale linen…
This is a town on the brink.
This is Redemption Road.

“Heart-wrenching…haunting…an extraordinary novel in which the human heart proves the most confounding mystery of all.”—Providence Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594787389
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/16/2017
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 372,566
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

JOHN HART is the author of several New York Times bestsellers, The King of Lies, Down River, The Last Child, Iron House, Redemption Road, and The Hush. The only author in history to win the Edgar Award for Best Novel consecutively, John has also won the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His novels have been translated into thirty languages and can be found in more than seventy countries.

Read an Excerpt

Redemption Road

By John Hart

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 John Hart
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-02291-2


Gideon Strange opened his eyes to dark and heat and the sound of his father weeping. He held very still, though the sobbing was neither new nor unexpected. His father often ended up in the corner — huddled as if his son's bedroom were the world's last good place — and Gideon thought about asking why, after all these years, his father was still so sad and weak and broken. It would be a simple question, and if his father were any kind of man, he'd probably answer it. But Gideon knew what his father would say and so kept his head on the pillow and watched the dark corner until his father pulled himself up and crossed the room. For long minutes he stood silently, looking down; then he touched Gideon's hair and tried to whisper himself strong, saying, Please, God, please, then asking strength from his long-dead wife, so that Please, God turned into Help me, Julia.

Gideon thought it was pitiful, the helplessness and tears, the shaking, dirty fingers. Holding still was the hardest part, not because his mother was dead and had no answer, but because Gideon knew that if he moved at all, his father might ask if he was awake or sad or equally lost. Then Gideon would have to tell the truth, not that he was any of those things, but that he was more lonesome inside than any boy his age should be. But his father didn't speak again. He ran fingers through his son's hair and stood perfectly still as if whatever strength he sought might magically find him. Gideon knew that would never happen. He'd seen pictures of his father before and had a few dim memories of a man who laughed and smiled and didn't drink most every hour of every day. For years he'd thought that man might return, that it could still happen. But Gideon's father wore his days like a faded suit, an empty man whose only passion rose from thoughts of his long-dead wife. He seemed alive enough then, but what use were flickers or hints?

The man touched his son's hair a final time, then crossed the room and pulled the door shut. Gideon waited a minute before rolling out of bed, fully dressed. He was running on caffeine and adrenaline, trying hard to remember the last time he'd slept or dreamed or thought of anything else besides what it would take to kill a man.

Swallowing hard, he cracked the door, trying to ignore that his arms were skinny-white and his heart was running fast as a rabbit's. He told himself that fourteen years was man enough, and that he didn't need to be any older to pull a trigger. God wanted boys to become men, after all, and Gideon was only doing what his father would do if his father were man enough to do it. That meant killing and dying were part of God's plan, too, and Gideon said as much in the dark of his mind, trying hard to convince the parts of him that shook and sweated and wanted to throw up.

Thirteen years had passed since his mother's murder, then three weeks since Gideon had found his father's small, black gun, and ten more days since he'd figured out a 2:00 a.m. train would carry him to the gray, square prison on the far side of the county. Gideon knew kids who'd hopped trains before. The key, they said, was to run fast and not think on how sharp and heavy those big, shiny wheels truly were. But Gideon worried he'd jump and miss and go under. He had nightmares about it every night, a flash of light and dark, then pain so true he woke with an ache in the bones of his legs. It was an awful image, even awake, so he pushed it down and cracked the door wide enough to see his father slumped in an old brown chair, a pillow squeezed to his chest as he stared at the broken television where Gideon had hidden the gun after he stole it from his father's dresser drawer two nights ago. He realized now that he should have kept the gun in his room, but there was no better hiding place, he'd thought, than the dried-out guts of a busted-up television that hadn't worked since he was five.

But how to get to the gun when his father sat right in front of it?

Gideon should have done it differently, but his thoughts ran crooked sometimes. He didn't mean to be difficult. It just worked out that way, so that even the kind teachers suggested he think more about woodshop and metalworking than about the fancy words in all those great, heavy books. Standing in the dark, he thought maybe those teachers were right, after all, because without the gun he couldn't shoot or protect himself or show God he had the will to do necessary things.

After a minute, he closed the door, thinking, Two o'clock train ...

But the clock already said 1:21.

Then 1:30.

* * *

Checking the door again, he watched a bottle go up and down until his father slumped and the bottle slipped from his fingers. Gideon waited five more minutes, then crept to the living room and stepped over engine parts and other bottles, tripping once as a car rumbled past and splashed light through a gap in the curtains. When it was dark again, he knelt behind the television, slipped off the back, and pulled out a gun that was black and slick and heavier than he remembered. He cracked the cylinder, checked the bullets.


It was the small voice, the small man. Gideon stood and saw that his father was awake — a man-shaped hole in a stretch of stained upholstery. He seemed uncertain and afraid, and for a moment Gideon wanted to go back under the sheets. He could call everything off; pretend none of this had ever happened. It would be nice, he thought, not to kill a man. He could put the gun down and go back to bed. But he saw the halo of flowers in his father's hands. They were dry and brittle now, but his mother, on her wedding day, had worn them like a crown in her hair. He looked at them, again — baby's breath and white roses, all of it pale and brittle — then imagined how the room would look if a stranger were looking down from above: the man with dead flowers, the boy with the gun. Gideon wanted to explain the power of that image — to make his father understand that the boy had to do what the father would not. Instead he turned and ran. He heard his name again, but was already through the door, half falling as he leapt off the porch and hit the ground running, the gun warm now in his hand, the impact from hard concrete slamming up his shins as he ran half a block, then ducked through an old man's yard and into thick woods that ran east with the creek, then up a big hill to where chain-link sagged and factories were rusted shut.

He fell against the fence as his father, far behind him, called his name over and over, his voice so loud it broke and cracked and finally failed. For a second, Gideon hesitated, but when a train whistled in the west, he pushed the gun under the fence and scrambled over the top, tearing skin as he did and banging both knees when he landed wrong in the overgrown parking lot on the other side.

The train's whistle blew louder.

He didn't have to do it.

No one had to die.

But that was the fear talking. His mother was dead, and her killer needed to pay. So he aimed for a gap between the burned-out furniture plant and the place that used to make thread but now had one whole side falling in. It was darker between the buildings, but even with loose bricks under his feet Gideon made it, without falling, to a hole in the fence near the big white oak in the far corner. There was light from a streetlamp and from a few low stars, but it disappeared as he belly-slid under the wire and plunged into a gully on the far side. The dirt was dry and loose going down. He slipped — scrabbling to keep the gun from falling out in the blackness — then splashed through a trickle of water and clambered up the other side to stand breathless in an alley of scrub that spread out from metal tracks that looked white against the dirt.

He bent at the waist, cramping; but the train rounded a bend and blasted light up the hill.

It would have to slow, he thought.

But it didn't.

It hit the hill like the hill was nothing. Three engines and a wall of metal, it blew past as if it could strip the air from his lungs. But more cars came onto the hill every second, and Gideon had a sense of it in the dark, of fifty cars and then another hundred, their weight dragging at the engines until he realized the train had slowed so much he could almost keep up. And that's what he tried to do, running fast as the wheels sparked yellow and built a vacuum that sucked at the bones of his legs. He scrabbled at one car and then another, but the rungs were high and slick.

He risked a glance and saw the last cars racing up behind him, twenty maybe, and then less. If he missed the train, he missed the prison. His fingers stretched, but he fell and smeared skin from his face, then ran and reached and felt a rung in his hand as agony burst in his shoulder and his feet thumped across wooden ties before the car, at last, was a shell around him.

He'd made it. He was on the train that would carry him off to kill a man, and the truth of that pressed down in the dark. It wasn't talk anymore, or waiting or planning.

The sun would rise in four hours.

The bullets would be real bullets.

But so what?

He sat in the blackness, determined as hilltops rose and fell and houses between them looked like stars. He thought of sleepless nights and hunger; and when the river glinted beneath him, he looked for the prison, seeing a bright light miles out across the valley floor. It raced closer, so he leaned out when the ground seemed flattest and least rocky. He looked for the strength to jump, but was still on the train as dirt flicked past and the prison sank like a ship in the dark. He was going to miss it, so he thought of his mother's face instead, then stepped out and fell and hit the ground like a sack of rocks.

When he woke, it was still dark, and though the stars looked dimmer, he had enough light to limp along the tracks until he found a road that led to a cluster of brown buildings he'd seen once from the back of a moving car. He stepped beneath a black-lettered sign that said CONVICTS WELCOME and studied the two-windowed, cinder-block bar on the other side of it. His face was a blur in the glass. There were no people or traffic, and when he turned to look south, he saw how the prison rose up in the distance. He looked at it for long minutes before slipping into the alley beside the bar and putting his back against a Dumpster that smelled like chicken wings and cigarettes and piss. He wanted to feel pleased for making it this far, but the gun looked wrong in his lap. He tried watching the road, but there was nothing to watch, so he closed his eyes and thought of a picnic they'd had when he was very young. The picture taken that day was in a frame on his bedside table at home. He'd worn yellow pants with big buttons and thought he might remember how his father held him high and spun him in a circle. He held on to the idea of that childhood, then imagined what it would feel like to kill the man who took it away.

Hammer back.

Arm straight and steady.

He practiced in his head so he could do it right in person; but even in his mind, the gun shook and was silent. Gideon had imagined the same thing a thousand times on a thousand nights.

His father was not man enough.

He would not be man enough.

Pressing the barrel against his forehead, he prayed for strength, then walked through it again.

Hammer back.

Arm straight.

For an hour more he tried to steel himself, then threw up in the dark and hugged his ribs as if all heat in the world had been stolen, too.


Elizabeth should sleep — she knew as much — but the fatigue was more than physical. The weariness came from dead men and the questions that followed, from thirteen years of cop that looked to end badly. She played the movie in her mind: the missing girl and the basement, the bloody wire, and the pop, pop of the first two rounds. She could explain two, maybe even six; but eighteen bullets in two bodies was a tough sell, even with the girl alive. Four days had passed since the shooting, and the life that followed still felt foreign. Yesterday, a family of four stopped her on the sidewalk to thank her for making the world a better place. An hour later, somebody spit on the sleeve of her favorite jacket.

Elizabeth lit a cigarette, thinking about how it all came down to where people stood. To those who had children, she was a hero. A girl was taken and bad men died. To a lot of people, that seemed about right. For those who distrusted the police on principle, Elizabeth was the proof of all that was wrong with authority. Two men died in a violent, brutal manner. Forget that they were pushers and kidnappers and rapists. They'd died with eighteen bullets in them, and that, for some, was inexcusable. They used words such as torture and execution and police brutality. Elizabeth had strong feelings on the matter, but mostly she was just tired. How many days now with no real sleep? How many nightmares when it finally happened? Even though the city was unchanged and the same people inhabited her life, it seemed harder each hour to hold on to the person she'd been. Today was a perfect example. She'd been in the car for seven hours, driving aimlessly across town and into the county, past the police station and her house, out beyond the prison and back. But, what else could she do?

Home was a vacuum.

She couldn't go to work.

Pulling into a dark lot on the dangerous edge of downtown, she turned off the engine and listened to the sounds the city made. Music thumped from a club two blocks away. A fan belt squealed at the corner. Somewhere, there was laughter. After four years in uniform and nine with the gold shield, she knew every nuance of every rhythm. The city was her life, and for a long time she'd loved it. Now it felt ... what?

Was wrong the right word? That seemed too harsh.

Alien, maybe?


She got out of the car and stood in the darkness as a distant streetlight flickered twice, then snapped and died. She made a slow turn, picturing every back alley and crooked street in a ten-block radius. She knew the crack houses and flophouses, the prostitutes and pushers, which street corners were likely to get you shot if you said the wrong thing or rolled up hot. Seven different people had been killed on this busted-up patch of broken city, and that was just in the past three years.

She'd been in darker places a thousand times, but it felt different without the badge. The moral authority mattered, as did the sense of belonging to something larger than oneself. It wasn't fear, but nakedness might be a decent word. Elizabeth didn't have boyfriends or lady friends or hobbies. She was a cop. She liked the fight and the chase, the rare, sweet times she helped people who actually meant well. What would remain if she lost it?

Channing, she told herself.

Channing would remain.

That a girl she barely knew could matter so much was strange. But, she did. When Elizabeth felt dark or lost, she thought of the girl. Same thing when the world pressed in, or when Elizabeth considered the real chance that she could go to prison for what had happened in that cold, damp hole of a basement. Channing was alive, and as damaged as she was, she still had a chance at a full and normal life. A lot of victims couldn't say that. Hell, Elizabeth knew cops that couldn't say it, either.

Grinding out the cigarette, Elizabeth bought a newspaper from a machine beside an empty diner. Back in the car, she spread the paper across the wheel and saw her own face staring back. She looked cold and distant in black and white, but it could be the headline that made her seem so remote.

"Hero Cop or Angel of Death?"

Two paragraphs in, it was pretty clear what the reporter thought. Even though the word alleged showed up more than once, so did phrases such as inexplicable brutality, unwarranted use of force, died in excruciating pain. After long years of positive press, the local paper, it seemed, had finally turned against her. Not that she could blame them, not with the protests and public outcry, not with the state police involved. The photograph they'd chosen told the tale. Standing on the courthouse steps and peering down, she looked cold and aloof. It was the high cheekbones and deep eyes, the fair skin that looked gray in newsprint.

"Angel of death. Jesus."


Excerpted from Redemption Road by John Hart. Copyright © 2016 John Hart. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Redemption Road 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this fantastic book in one day, good thing I'm retired or I would have had to call in sick because I could not stop reading!! This author hits a home run with every book he writes. I just wish he would write more often!! Highly recommend to all!!!! Buy it, read it love it!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best I've read in a longe time and I read a lot. Plot was spellbinding; i was hooked from page one! And characters were believable enough that you'll either love them or hate them. Elizabeth is a believabke protaganist with human strengths and weaknesses! Can't say enough great things about this book or the author. Read it!! (Plot is on description page of B&N Nook, so I didn't go into it with this review; just want to say it's a great novel with intertwining characters & plot)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read and reread all of Mr. Hart's books and loved each.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read all of John Hart's books and this is his best one yet. At times very heart breaking. Loved main characters with all their faults. This book will keep you up late and unable to put it down. This is definitely a five star book. Don't miss it,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have 4 of john harts book.....I highly recommend...I can't wait to read redemption....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
John Hart is a weaver. He grabs you from the first page and weaves you spellbound until the very last page. Unlike some authors, he finishes the tale and doesn't leave you wondering what happened. I could not put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is slow in the beginning. The author is setting you up for some very intense reading. A lot of lives intertwined and of course it leads you to redemption road.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good read, actioned- pacted
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just hope I don't have to wait another 5 years for another book from chart. I couldn't put this book down!!!!!!!! Buy it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was so glad to see this new release from one of my favorite authors! Did not disappoint, great story and characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my second book of John Harts and I am so looking forward to reading my third. It amazes me that I have just discovered this author as I have read many many book during my lifetime--------
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fantastic read by a great author. It kept me rivited.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just when you are sure the most obvious suspect can’t possibly be the one, you are convinced it is the one and then you’re not so sure .........
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
Wow! This is the first book I have read by John Hart, and actually I listened to this one. Between the words and the voice (Scott Shepherd narrated), I could feel the slow burn of the south. The atmosphere of this story came across so well, that I could almost picture what was happening as if I was watching a movie. It unraveled at a steady pace until bam! it took off and had me sitting on the edge of my seat to find out what was going to happen next. The book opens with us meeting ex-con and former cop Adrian Wall who is to be released from prison after thirteen years for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the same day, we meet Gideon Strange, the victim's young son, who travels to a bar near the prison, determined to kill Wall in retribution for murdering his mother. He does not succeed and ends up being shot by the bartender and is rushed to the hospital. This is when we meet the main character of this novel, Elizabeth Black. She has been a surrogate mother to Gideon, protecting him from his alcoholic father. Elizabeth is a 13 year veteran cop, who has a complicated relationship with Adrian Wall. She is also being investigated for killing 2 rapists. This part of the story unfolds in flashbacks from Liz as well as Channing Shore, the victim. There are also a couple of other threads going on with a crooked prison warden and some guards as well as a serial killer. As the story unravels, Wall, Black, Strange, and Shore all become interconnected. Hart does an amazing job of creating his characters. They are realistic and evoked real emotions in me as I read this book. One of the secondary characters that I loved was elderly attorney Faircloth "Crybaby" Jones. He stood up for what he believed in and what was right. When the opportunity to extricate himself came, he would not leave his home. Liz as the main character was a great choice. She was a flawed character who had some great values and character traits. The way she took care of the "kids" in the story shows what a great mother she would make. There seems to be a possible romance between Liz and Adrian, so I was constantly waiting to see where this story line would go. Everyone in this North Carolina town knew everyone else's business, at least what they thought was accurate information. The last third of the book had me reading quickly to find out if the bad guys were going to get what they deserved and if the good ones, would be safe. Just when we think someone is going to get injured or even murdered, something happens to send us in another direction. This mystery/thriller tugged at raw emotions and left me thinking about the story and characters after I finished. I definitely recommend this book to lovers of mystery and thrillers. I will be looking for more by John Hart in the future.
Wepper More than 1 year ago
Loved it. John Hart is a great story teller. I was introduced to his books by a neighbor and I'm reading all of them. I'm on Hush now and it is a fun story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've enjoyed all of his books, including this one. If you haven't read any of his writings... do it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of John Hart's books including this one. He is an excellent writer who does not pull any punches in either subject matter or plot. All of his main characters go through hell and this book is no exception. And while some parts of this book were brutal it is a testament to the author that I could not put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like improbable plots, undeveloped characters who behave contrary to human experience and twists that are far less believable than a bad episode of Scooby Doo, then this book is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grat book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great edge of your seat! Did not want to put it down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sobryan More than 1 year ago
When days are long and afternoons are hot, a good book is one way to take your mind off the temperature and humidity. Whether you’re sitting in front of the air conditioner or relaxing under the beach umbrella, the written word can take you places far beyond your current circumstances. Some may prefer an intense novel, one filled with sharp twists, complex characters and a plot that leaves readers wondering what they would do in a similar situation. Such is the case with John Hart’s "Redemption Road," lauded as one of the most anticipated books of 2016. Be advised that "Redemption Road" is not a “beach” read, but it is a “vacation” read. It’s not a quick read that can be finished in a few hours, then put down and quickly forgotten. Instead, it’s an intense a story of hopelessness, loyalty and salvation wrapped up in a crime thriller. When Adrian Wall, a former police officer, is released from prison after 13 years, the victim’s young son Gideon has one thing on his mind – kill the man who murdered his mother. Elizabeth Black, a detective who has been like a surrogate mom to Gideon, has troubles of her own as she faces possible charges for gunning down two rapists. Only she and the rape victim, Channing, know the truth. When another body of dead woman is found covered in linen and laid on a church altar, everyone turns against them. It’s a repeat scene from 13 years ago, and police suspect Adrian may be a serial killer. The two adults have a past, both together and separately. They may be the only two in the town who believe in each other. "Redemption Road" takes readers down many paths, bringing them face to face with good, evil and those who fall somewhere in between. As Hart’s characters illustrate, action is driven by choice, and choice leads to consequences. Hart certainly knows his craft, especially considering he’s the first and only author to win back-to-back best novel Edgar Awards. "Redemption Road," which went on sale in May, is already a New York Times bestseller and sure to be a future award winner. ARC provided by NetGalley
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
This book started out kind of weird, but it wasn't too long before it was off to the races. And during the ride to the finish there was definitely a lot of mud slinging going on and I'm pretty sure several horses lost their shoes and even one lost his jockey. That's just how tough this ride was. You could just throw a bomb into the cast of characters and chances are more than half of the ones you hit would have deserved it. I've never seen so many criminals, unless it was a book about the mob, of course. Even the good guys were bad guys. Well, not all of them, of course. I can tell you that I absolutely loved this book, could not nor did not want to put it down. My pulse is still racing as I just finished the book even though the last several pages were very anticlimactic and just tied up some loose strings. They should have given my body a chance to calm down. This book should come with a warning and definitely some kind of blood pressure drugs. My huge and grateful thanks to Thomas Dunne Books and Net Galley for allowing me to read and review this outstanding book. I will be talking about this one for weeks to come.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's about time.?