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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Distant Sons

Narrator: Shaun Taylor Corbett

ISBN: 978-1643753591

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication Date: 10/17/2023

08/06/2024 Paperback edition

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

AUG 2024 MUST READ BOOKS (paperback)


By the New York Times bestselling author of Descent and The Current, an absorbing new work of literary suspense about two young working men who forge a friendship despite secrets in their past, and whose actions ignite the passions and violence of a small Wisconsin town still haunted by the unsolved disappearance of three boys in the 1970s. For readers of Peter Heller, Liz Moore, and Cormac McCarthy.

What if?

What if Sean Courtland’s old Chevy truck had broken down somewhere else? What if he’d never met Denise Givens, a waitress at a local tavern in the Wisconsin town where he lands? Or Dan Young, another young man like Sean drifting through, having fled Minnesota for reasons unknown? Instead, together Sean and Dan pick up carpentry and plumbing work for an old man named Marion Devereaux, and Sean gets drawn into the lives of Denise and her father—and of the townspeople, all haunted by the disappearance of three young boys decades ago, in the 1970s.

As the paths of these characters converge, observing them all is Detective Corinne Viegas, a woman whose drive to seek justice comes from her father's own failure to find those boys and the violence once done to her sister. And over the course of just a few weeks, an irreversible chain of events is set in motion that culminates in shattering violence, and the revelation of long-buried truths.

Evocative, gritty, with indelible characters and setting, Distant Sons is another immersive, gripping suspense novel by Johnston about how the most random intersection of lives can have consequences both devastating and beautiful.


My Review

Master storyteller Tim Johnston returns following The Decent and The Current (both 5 stars) with his sixth novel, DISTANT SONS—an absorbing riveting crime novel/literary fiction set in a small rural Wisconsin town haunted by the unsolved disappearance of three boys in the 1970s with thought-provoking what ifs.

Once again, the author skillfully takes us into rural, blue-collar America with loss, struggles, and ultimately, hope with this gritty suspense novel about how the most random connection of lives can have tragic and beautiful consequences.

The novel opens in 1976 when we learn about the three missing boys. Teddy Felt, Duane Milner, and Billy Ross.

Flash forward to 2018 with Sean Courtland, age 26, making his way through town on the other side of Wisconsin from a job in Montana and on his way home. He passed a few exits and began smelling the engine on the outskirts of town.

A breakdown. Sean will have to get a job in construction to make up for the cash he will ultimately spend on repairs for his Chevy truck.

Then Sean gets involved in a domestic dispute at a bar trying to protect a woman, Denise (bartender), and accidentally hits her. Then, they later become friends, and he gets closer to her and her dad.

We also meet Detective Corrine Viegas (a hoot), a big part of the novel. Sean also meets Dan Young, another outsider down on his luck at the diner who has plumbing skills, and he wants Dan to help him finish the job at Marion Devereaux's house.

He is busy working for the old man. There are rumors about the man on the bluffs who may have been involved in the disappearance of the three boys in the 70s. Also, rumors that it could have been the Devereaux uncle from the war.

Strange things happen at the house and the basement, but Sean keeps his head down and does not get involved since he needs to finish and be on his way.

The paths collide as Detective Corinne Viegas, a woman whose drive to seek justice comes from her father's failure to find those boys and the violence once done to her sister. Soon, events happen with violence, tragic deaths, and long-buried dark secrets, and she is center stage. What is behind those walls?

"Our wills and fates do so contrary run, that our devices still are overthrown. Our thoughts are ours, their ends non of our own."—Shakespeare

Masterfully written in Johnston's signature classic style that we love —brilliantly blending two timelines and stories will keep you on the edge of your seat. Genre crossing—a mix of literary, crime, suspense, small town, mystery, friendship, and police procedural.

Fans of the author will enjoy characters from previous books—Dan Young and Sean Courtland, whom we met in Descent and The Current.

A slow burn, intricate, and immersive, DISTANT SONS is for fans of authors Allen Eskens, Ron Rash, William Kent Krueger, and Dennis Lehane. I'm a huge fan—I highly recommend all his books.

My Reviews:

Thanks to Algonquin Books and Netgalley for an early reading copy for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Oct 17, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars


“A slow-burn novel that quietly elevates the fragile codes of honorable men.”

―Kirkus Reviews

“An exceptional novel."

―Library Journal

"Distant Sons is a mystery about a serial killer, yes, but it’s also not that at all: It’s a heartbreaking story about family, failure, and the fallout from violence. Tim Johnston has crafted a riveting novel that takes us into struggling blue collar America, and locates the hope hidden inside devastating loss. A beautiful book."

―Janelle Brown, bestselling author of Pretty Things

“Tim Johnston has once again raised the bar for the literary thriller. Distant Sons is elegant and edgy, refined and complex. It excavates the truth from the darkest recesses of the past and shines a light towards the possibility of a redemptive future.”

―Ivy Pochoda, author of These Women and Sing Her Down

"Tim Johnston returns in dazzling form with DISTANT SONS, an intricate, haunting novel sure to resonate with fans of Dennis Lehane, Peter Heller, and James Lee Burke. Johnston's plot is tense and his pacing swift, but he's after bigger game here, with questions of identity, intentions, and legacies merging in a tale that will linger long after it is finished. He's also one of the finest prose stylists in the game, stacking polished sentences with a master's touch. Don't miss this one." ―Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of An Honest Man

"Tim Johnston’s Distant Sons is the kind of novel that inspires writers like me to want to step up our game. His prose is both elegant and raw, with characters so real you want to sit down and have a beer with them. Mr. Johnston is a writer with a gift, and if you haven’t had the pleasure to read him, I highly recommend picking up this book."

―Allen Eskens, bestselling author of The Life We Bury and Forsaken Country

"This book kept me up at night. Eerie, unsettling, and addictive."

―Ash Davidson, author of Damnation Spring

Named a Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2023 by Kirkus Reviews, Novel Suspects, The Rap Sheet, & Thoughts From A Page Podcast

About the Author

Tim Johnston is the author of the novels Distant Sons (October 17, 2023), Descent, The Current, the story collection Irish Girl, and the Young Adult novel Never So Green. A New York Times, USA Today, and Indie national bestseller, Descent has been published internationally and optioned for film. Also optioned for film, The Current won the Midland Authors 2020 Adult Fiction Award. 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. Tim’s stories have 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, Iowa. WEBSITE

For more, see the Side Dishes Page. See also Tim’s Author’s Page on the Workman Publishing site.







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