Grist Mill Road is a dark, twisted, and expertly plotted Rashomon-style tale. The year is 1982; the setting, an Edenic hamlet some ninety miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends―Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah―are bound together by a terrible and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty-six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again―with even more devastating results.
Now I was a HUGE fan of Black Chalk, the first novel from this author that I read moons ago now – it was a work of literary genius, a puzzle piece of sheer reading joy, so to say that I was both excited and somewhat apprehensive to read Grist Mill Road is perhaps an understatement.
Turns out Black Chalk was not a one off in the quality sense – Grist Mill Road is a twisted and intelligent tale of three friends and the actions that tie them together – once more the author plays with your perceptions throughout the narrative, showing you one thing that later looks like quite another, all the while digging into the psychology of our main protagonists in a way that is genuinely compelling. Starting off with an emotional punch to the senses within a disturbing scene setter we then start to find out the why’s and wherefore’s and how it came to be, the emphasis being very much on on character and motivation. It is slippery, every assumption you make has to be taken back a little with the next thing you find out and whatever you think at the beginning I can almost guarantee you’ll be thinking something else by the end.
I loved it – it forced me to think outside the box, to consider the difference between what we see and what is true – my sympathies wavered throughout, one of the biggest strengths of this novel is in the authenticity of the characters you are reading about. It is not about good and evil, but all the shades of grey in between those two things – honest human nature. Hannah, Matthew and Patrick all have those very human hidden depths that are in us all, it is not until you reach the end of Grist Mill Road that they are laid bare for your judgment – on who they are, on what they did, on all of it. Brilliant. Honestly it is just brilliant.
The writing is intense, almost voyeuristic and beautifully beautifully done – it has just reiterated for me that I prefer the more literary side of crime in a lot of ways, the ones that keep me up at night after finishing them pondering life and all it’s foibles and pondering people and all their secrets. Grist Mill Road is absolutely mesmerizing, descriptively passionate and unbelievably addictive, with an ending that resonates and digs deep into your soul. These are the ones we read for!
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