The Current, by Tim Johnston

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Tim Johnston, and Algonquin Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In my first exploration of Tim Johnston’s work, the novel took a journey that may literally chill the reader to the bone. On their way back from college, two young women stop for gas in the middle of winter. A simple fill-up soon turns sour when one is assaulted by two men who prey on her solitude. After fending them off, the women rush to their vehicle and continue on their way, hoping the worst is behind them. Bright headlights soon creep up in the rearview mirror and the vehicle is bumped off the road, teetering on the edge of a body of water. In the moments before they lose consciousness, both women vow to get through this together. When Audrey Sutter wakes, she is in the hospital with significant injuries. Her friend was not so lucky, having perished before a passer-by called the authorities. Now, with her fractured memories (and bones), Audrey must relay what she knows to the sheriff, who tries to formulate a suspect list. Audrey’s father, Tom, is a former sheriff himself and will not stand idly by as he seeks to locate the perpetrators. However, this proves harder than it seems and leads go colder faster than the ice water in which his daughter was once submerged. With a cold case coming to the surface and the local sheriff choosing to run things at his own pace, those who sought to kill Audrey remain at large, but are they watching so that they can finish the job? Johnston weaves an interesting tale that seeks to control the reader’s experience like a strong-willed river current. With all the elements for a successful novel, I am not sure why this one missed the mark for me.

Having sampled no past work by the author, I am required to let my gut and first impressions steer me. Johnston utilised many of the needed elements to craft a decent novel, including a crime and assault to open the story. However, it would seem that there was a supersaturation of information that diluted much of the delivery. Audrey Sutter, who plays at least a partial protagonist character, proves to be somewhat likeable, though I did not feel a strong connection to her. She’s young and is forced to come to terms with much loss in short order. Still, I would have liked to feel as though her fate (and finding the person/people who tried to kill her) meant more to me. The same goes for many of the other characters who crossed the pages of the book, including the retired cop Tom Sutter. Instead, many of the names and their backstories blended together to form a giant wad of narrative goop. Johnston had some great ideas amidst the various tangential storylines, something that I think might better have been developed in a series. While the central crime does recur, there are so many people with insights on different plots that the reader is forced to parse through all the discussions and keep things straight. Johnston has a strong writing style and I applaud this, but I could not find a level of comfort to pull me through this piece. Best of luck for those seeking a story with lots to offer, but too much to digest.

Kudos, Mr. Johnston, for your efforts. Not my cup of tea, though the premise drew me in from the outset.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: