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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Iron House (audiobook) by John Hart


Not good.

Published by MacMillan Audio in 2011
Read by Scott Sowers
Duration: 15 hours, 6 minutes

Multiple Edgar Award-winning author John Hart delivers a dud with Iron House, a book with too many disparate themes, too many stereotypical storylines and characters that might have been stolen from central casting at any Hollywood B movie and with too much detail about the scenery. Combine it with an overly dramatic reading by Scott Sowers and it makes for an altogether unsatisfying audiobook experience.

In Iron House we have a mafia crime boss on his death bed. His adopted son, Michael, has asked to be released from his obligations to the family business so that he might pursue a normal life with his pregnant girlfriend. But, as everyone knows, you cannot just walk away from the mafia, especially if you are known as the most effective hit man in the organization. So, Michael becomes a target of the organization he helped build. After he kills his adopted father (a mercy killing - he was dying from cancer and had been resuscitated several times against his wishes) the crime family comes after him with guns, bombs and assassination teams.

Michael and his girlfriend Elena go on the run. They head for the home of Michael's brother, a person that Elena has never heard of until the mafia family threatens his life. Micheal reveals that he and his brother Julian grew up in a dystopian orphanage named Iron House in the rural south - a community full of stereotypes such as the hilljack inbred (but very sexy) witch family, rampant mental illness and rich families that use and abuse their neighbors and women who are willing to sell everything, including their bodies and possibly their souls to get out of crushing poverty. Micheal's brother Julian was adopted by a rich senator billionaire (imagine the most stereotypical "southern senator" character you have seen in a movie and you understand this character -distinguished, a serial philanderer, abusive of his power, more concerned about his career than his family, etc.) and his young beautiful wife the very day that Michael ran away from the orphanage.

Every character except Michael is absorbed in their own selfish designs. Orphanage managers are bribed, neighbors steal from one another, sex is used as a weapon by nearly everyone. Even Michael's girlfriend Elena is so concerned about the safety of her unborn child that she argues that Michael should not check on the safety of his own brother because she and the baby are his family now - not his brother. Really? I cannot imagine my wife abandoning my family to mafia killers who will torture people for information.

The mixing of the mafia story with the Southern Gothic theme is, at best, a difficult one. It can be done since both story lines often emphasize family bonds, loyalty and shocking violence but Hart does not handle it well. The scenes with the adopted mother of Julian, Abigail, have stilted, awkward language. There are seemingly endless descriptions of scenery, including roofing tile, reflections of sunlight, telephone poles, floor tile patterns, gates, lawn and trees. Throw in strange phrasing like "he was 4 inches over six feet tall", a saccharine sweet ending and Scott Sowers overly dramatic reading style and you have the makings of an unsatisfactory audiobook experience.

I rate this audiobook 2 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Iron House by John Hart.

Reviewed on September 3, 2011.

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