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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Current

The Current

ISBN: 9781616206772

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication Date: 1/22/2019

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars ++

TOP BOOKS OF 2019 A Stunning New Novel from the Bestselling Author of Descent.

Tim Johnston, whose breakout debut Descent was called “astonishing,” “dazzling,” and “unforgettable” by critics, returns with The Current, a tour de force about the indelible impact of a crime on the lives of innocent people. When two young women leave their college campus in the dead of winter for a 700-mile drive north to Minnesota, they suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives in the icy waters of the Black Root River, just miles from home. One girl’s survival, and the other’s death—murder, actually—stun the citizens of a small Minnesota town, thawing memories of another young woman who lost her life in the same river ten years earlier, and whose killer may yet live among them.

One father is forced to relive his agony while another’s greatest desire—to bring a killer to justice—is revitalized . . . and the girl who survived the icy plunge cannot escape the sense that she is connected to that earlier unsolved case by more than a river. Soon enough she’s caught up in an investigation of her own that will unearth long-hidden secrets, and stoke the violence that has long simmered just below the surface of the town. Souls frozen in time, ghosts and demons, the accused and the guilty, all stir to life in this cold northern place where memories, like treachery, run just beneath the ice, and where a young woman can come home but still not be safe.

Brilliantly plotted, unrelentingly suspenseful, and beautifully realized, The Current is a gripping page-turner about how the past holds the key to the future as well as an unbreakable grip on the present.

The Current

My Review

Master storyteller Tim Johnston returns following his award-winning debut, Descent, with his latest literary fiction/suspense/murder mystery, THE CURRENT —beautifully haunting and atmospheric, an intense heartbreaking tale of two young women and an unsolved murder set in a small Midwestern town where the past and present collide.

I adore this author! Psychologically rich and character-driven, just when you think Tim Johnston could not possibly top his debut, he shocks us all. CAPTIVATING!

Two young women, Carolina Price (Georgia) and Audrey Sutter (Minnesota) meet at college in Memphis. Aubrey is upset when learning her dad (retired sheriff) has lung cancer (her mom died when she was seven) and wants to go home to be with him.

Caroline offers to drive her for the long road trip for the two gals. After around eleven hours, as they near the Iowa/Minnesota line, less than an hour to go, they stop for a bathroom break (a detour off the highway at an isolated gas station).

Caroline remains in the SUV while Aubrey goes to the restroom, and when she fails to return, Caroline goes looking for her and discovers outside the bathroom two men about to sexually assault her. Caroline intervenes and sprays them with mace, and they escape, shaken to the core, and make it back to the SUV.

Another issue: icy roads! Caroline loses control of the car. They are on the edge of a frozen river bank, holding their breath, and they think help is coming. However, when the truck approaches, thinking they are being rescued, the truck bumps them into the frozen river! Talk about nail-biting suspense! The river was frozen over!

This scene is chilling! One survives in the hospital, and one is pulled under the current with her body recovered weeks later. Was it road range or something else? Was it the guys back at the gas station out to get them?

Strangely, it is similar to a case of a decades-old murder of another young woman. CREEPY & terrifying! It's the same Black Root River. Ten years earlier, Holly Burke, about the same age as the girls, was stuck by a car and dumped into the river. No one was ever convicted of the murder.

Alternating between the past and present, the author expertly explores the girl's deaths and how the deaths affect the families.

Holly's father, Gordon

The family of Danny Young (suspect in Holly's murder)

Aubrey's father, Tom Sutter, Sherriff, was haunted by his failure to convict.

In addition, the girl left behind suffers survivor guilt and is determined to make sense of the cold case and the current one. She feels drawn as she had been in that river, too. One made it, and the other did not. What about the parents, the families?

From guilt and grief and a town and community divided. The Sheriff, no longer a sheriff with cancer, is determined to find the perpetrators before he dies to bring the killer to justice and protect these girls.

Johnston delivers an outstanding literary suspense thriller whodunit set in this small town with dark secrets. Immersive and gripping, his writing is breathtaking, with metaphors and symbolisms with an atmospheric backdrop of a frozen river full of grief, regret, love, hope, and healing! I highly recommend THE CURRENT, THE DESCENT, AND DISTANT SONS (currently reading).

For fans of Allen Eskens, William Kent Krueger, John Hart, Ron Rash and William Landay. (all favs)

Thanks to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I also purchased the hardcover copy. | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 Stars +

Pub Date: 01/22/2019

I loved this book and read it when it came out and rated it; however, I realized this evening I failed to post my review at the time (I had a lot going on in my life back then). I am reading Tim's upcoming Distant Sons and wanted to cross-link my reviews. WOW! Just wait until you read this one. You will enjoy Dan and Sean, whom we met in Descent and The Current.


"A first-rate thriller . . . Past and present merge in The Current, Tim Johnston's atmospheric, exquisitely suspenseful novel of two murders separated by ten years."

—The Washington Post

“Gripping . . . Johnston’s masterful novel is worth lingering over—it soars above the constraints of a traditional thriller and pulls you deep into the secrets of a grief-stricken town.”


“[An] outstanding thriller . . . Johnston imbues each character with believable motives. The nuanced plot delves deep into how a community—and surviving relatives—deal with the aftermath of a death.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This novel is careful layer upon careful layer, as deceptively thick yet brutally delicate as winter ice itself. Johnston's descriptions of people, places, grief, and loneliness are subtle and evocative; the minor plot about an aging dog becomes a rending portrait of the ravages of love. Indeed, for all its harsh observations about human nature, this novel has at its heart a strong belief that love, for all the pain it brings, is the one thing that truly saves us. An apt title that functions as a beautiful metaphor for all the secrets and emotions roiling beneath the surface of every human life.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“I would have taken a break long before 2:00 a.m. last night were it not for Johnston’s masterly ability to rummage inside the heads of his various characters, revealing the frayed fabric of small-town life in the process and showing us the stand-up grit of a handful of women and men . . . We need a little hyperbole if we’re going to adequately describe how much we love a Tim Johnston novel.” —Bill Ott, Booklist

“The Current is a rare creature: a gripping thriller and page-turner but also a masterwork of mood and language—a meditation on memory and time. You’ll want to go fast at the same time you’ll be compelled to savor each and every word.”

—Ivy Pochoda, author of Wonder Valley

Named one of Amazon's Best Mysteries and Thrillers of the 2019.

“Johnston dazzled with his breakout thriller, Descent; his follow-up is a more ambitious page-turner, unpacking how a shocking murder impacts the denizens of a small Minnesota town as they weather suspicion, guilt, and grief.”

—Entertainment Weekly (The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2019)

“Tim Johnston has given us the gold standard of lush narrative description—captivating, mesmerizing, stunning. It's doubtful you'll ever read a more beautifully written book than The Current.”

—The New York Journal of Books

“The Current is a haunting story . . . Johnston masterfully describes people, their grief, their guilt, and loneliness. He brings out both the brutal and loving sides of human nature. It is a real treat for those who love thrillers.”

—The Washington Book Review

“Tim Johnston’s second novel, The Current, is even better than his first, which is saying something. He’s a terrific writer and definitely a name to watch.”

—Dennis Lehane, author of Since We Fell

“Johnston writes in gracefully exact language with genuine heart . . . reminiscent of writers like Annie Proulx and Richard Bausch.”

—The New York Times Book Review

“Tim Johnston’s gripping second novel is much more than a skillfully constructed, beautifully written whodunit. It’s a subtle and lyrical acclamation of the heart and spirit of small-town America. The Current is not your conventional, frenetically paced page-turner, although it smolders with a brooding, slow-burn tension that nudges the reader forward, catching you up in the lives of the troubled solitaries at the book’s core.”

—Washington Independent Review of Books

“Pick up Tim Johnston's suspenseful novel The Current and you risk finding yourself glued to your chair, eyes to the pages, no thought of attending to daily obligations. Johnston's elegant, cinematic style takes us into the characters' lives and history, problems and concerns. The book examines that horrifying moment when everything changes, the before and after when love, friendship, hopes and trust turn into dread, guilt, blame and grief.”

—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Johnston delivers a richly atmospheric story whose depictions of the frozen winter landscape reinforce the novel’s theme of individuals unable to move on after loss . . . The Current is, in part, a mystery, but it’s also about everything that is left in a mystery’s wake — the fathers and daughters, mothers and sons facing the tormenting questions surrounding their dead or disappeared loved ones. It is an examination of the way tragedies divide but can also offer the opportunity to bring people together, ushering in the inevitable thaw that can reveal the path toward moving forward and healing.”

—The Los Angeles Review of Books

“Tim Johnston’s new novel, The Current, is an exceptional tale of suspicion and secrets—and a strong follow-up to his excellent 2015 book, Descent.”

—Cedar Rapids Gazette

“The author of Descent, returns with a tour de force about the indelible impact of a crime on the lives of innocent people.”

—The Wichita Eagle

“[An involving and layered thriller . . . Johnston’s prose is so lyrical you want to stop and read it again

About the Author

Tim Johnston

Tim Johnston is the author of the novel Descent, the story collection Irish Girl, and the Young Adult novel Never So Green. Published in 2009, the stories of Irish Girl won an O. Henry Prize, the New Letters Award for Writers, and the Gival Press Short Story Award, while the collection itself won the 2009 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. In 2005 the title story, “Irish Girl,” was included in the David Sedaris anthology of favorites, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. Tim’s stories have also appeared in New England Review, New Letters, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, Double Take, Best Life Magazine, and Narrative Magazine, among others. He holds degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 2011-12 he was the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington Fellow at The George Washington University, and he is the recipient of the 2015 Iowa Author Award. Tim currently lives in Iowa City, where he is at work on his new novel. Read More Read the Publishers Weekly profile on Tim here.






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