Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, a young family from the plains taking a last summer vacation before their daughter begins college. For eighteen-year-old Caitlin, the mountains loom as the ultimate test of her runner’s heart, while her parents hope that so much beauty, so much grandeur, will somehow repair a damaged marriage. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are magestic, as suddenly this family find themselves living the kind of nightmare they’ve only read about in headlines or seen on TV.
As their world comes undone, the Courtlands are drawn into a vortex of dread and recrimination. Why weren’t they more careful? What happened to their daughter? Is she alive? Will they ever known? Caitlin’s disappearance, all the more devastating for its mystery, is the beginning of the family’s harrowing journey down increasingly ivergent and solitary paths until all that continues to bind them together are the questions they can never bring themselves to ask: At what point does a family stop searching? At what point will a girl stop fighting for her life?
Descent wasn’t quite the fast-paced thriller I was expecting, but for the most part I still quite liked it. The first part, which is the set up for Caitlin’s disappearance immediately hooked me. Partly because I knew from the premise what was coming, but also because I enjoyed the banter between her and Sean. After she goes missing, the story turns into more about a family in crisis. Sean and his parents have different coping mechanisms but the sad truth is that all of them are really just mired in the same place and they can’t move on with their lives until they discover the truth, wherever that leads them. At this point the pacing slowed down and just when I was thinking “Hmm. I’ve read too many other stories like this”, The story shifted to Caitlin who is still alive and fighting to remain so. Tim Johnston’s writing is beautifully descriptive. The scenes where Caitlin is being held in the Rockies were particularly evocative and it was easy to understand why the search for the missing girl was so difficult amidst the towering peaks and dense shadowy forests along the slopes. The characters are all imperfect but well written, especially Grant, the father, who stays and refuses to give up hope and Sean, who blames himself for his sister’s disappearance. Up until the end, the kidnapper remained a hidden and menacing figure who went quite well with the setting. My biggest issue lies with the ending which wraps things up a little too neatly after what this family has gone through. The search for Caitlin goes on for years and during that time Grant and Angela become estranged and the guilt-ridden Sean goes on a cross country odyssey before rejoining his father to search for Caitlin. And some of the things Caitlin does trying to escape–well let’s just say that even with years of therapy, the average person would face many challenges in overcoming the trauma. Yet everyone suddenly gets a happy ending? It just didn’t quite ring true to me. But still, there is no denying that Tim Johnston can write and for the majority of the book I was completely immersed. I definitely recommend Descent to any mystery lover who likes their suspense to slowly build rather than being non-stop.