Iron House by John Hart

Iron House
by John Hart
St. Martin’s Press
Published: July 12, 2011
ISBN Hardcover: 978-0-312-38034-2 ($25.99)
ISBN eBook: 978-1-4299-9031-8 ($12.99)
432 pages
I read an Advance Readers’ Edition received from the publisher.

Iron House sucked me in fast and it was hard to put down. I was in the mood for a good page-turner and this book left me satisfied.

Michael is a trained killer with a heart who has fallen in love and wants out of the mob business after his girlfriend, Elena, tells him she’s pregnant. As a teenager Michael had been taken in by a mob boss who’d heard about the tough orphan who controlled his own little piece of the streets of New York City after fleeing from a brutal orphanage in North Carolina. The mob boss becomes the father he never had, a father who loves Michael more than he does his biological son. The mob boss released Michael from the business, but the two guys left in charge of the business don’t agree with the old man’s decision. The old man dies and everything hits the fan. Elena’s life is on the line and then so is Julian’s life. Julian is Michael’s younger brother, the brother he hasn’t seen since the night he ran away from the orphanage with a bloody knife in his hand.

Michael finds himself running from the only family he knew in order to protect the new family he wants only to get tangled up in the lies and secrets of the old family he didn’t know he had. There’s a wealthy senator and his beautiful wife, brutal boys, sadistic men, and lots of dead bodies in this story, but ultimately its about love and family and how love and family mean different things at different times to different people.  There are several scenes with graphic violence involving torture but they are not gratuitous within the context of the story and convey the seriousness of the situation and show why some psychic wounds run so deep.

***Spoiler alert start*** Don’t read the next paragraph if you plan on reading this novel.
There is one hole in the novel and although it doesn’t weaken the story that much, it is rather obvious, and so I feel obligated to mention it. For the first 148 pages, Michael is pretty much obsessed with keeping Elena glued to his side and safe from Jimmy (the man who trained him to be a killer) and Stevan (his brother, the boss’s biological son) who are out to kill her for revenge. But after Elena and Michael have a disagreement, he doesn’t go after her when she leaves, saying she needs time away. He doesn’t worry about her safety for another 146 pages, he just pines for her and hope she calls. I can understand why Hart wrote it this way because during this time a whole lot of other plot details unfold that advance the story, but it is a pronounced lapse in the characterization of Michael. I don’t see any other way around this problem, other than having Michael chase after her, but then the other details would not have unfolded. Or, he could have re-written the novel using a more omniscient point of view, but then the reader wouldn’t be as attached to Michael and his predicament. 
***alert over***

Iron House is the first novel I’ve read by John Hart. His first three books were NYT bestsellers and he’s won two Edgar Awards. I decided to give Iron House a try because my friend Lynette loved his previous books and its that personal recommendation that I value most.

If you’re looking for a new thriller this summer, Iron House is a good one. It’s an action story and a bit of a love story, a thriller that’s about the deep wounds that only one’s family of origin can inflict, and the potential healing power of love.

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