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February 2019 Indie Next List
“Tim Johnston’s brand of storytelling is a curious hybrid of conventional crime fiction and observation of human nature that demands attention. In The Current, Johnston goes beyond the sensational and asks relevant questions when tragedy strikes, addressing real topics that come with the loss of a loved one and the questions that follow a horrific crime. As with Johnston’s previous novel, Descent, his latest concludes with a wallop you will not see coming.”
— Javier Ramirez, The Book Table, Oak Park, IL
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.
In the dead of winter, outside a small Minnesota town, state troopers pull two young women and their car from the icy Black Root River. One is found downriver, drowned, while the other is found at the scene—
half frozen but alive.
What happened was no accident, and news of the crime awakens the community’s memories of another young woman who lost her life in the same river ten years earlier, and whose killer may still live among them.
Determined to find answers, the surviving young woman soon realizes that she’s connected to the earlier unsolved case by more than just a river, and the deeper she plunges into her own investigation, the closer she comes to dangerous truths, and to the violence that simmers just below the surface of her hometown.
Grief, suspicion, the innocent and the guilty—all stir to life in this cold northern town where a young woman can come home, but still not be safe. Brilliantly plotted and unrelentingly propulsive, The Current
is a beautifully realized story about the fragility of life, the power of the past, and the need, always, to fight back.
About the Author
Tim Johnston, a native of Iowa City, is the author of The Current and the New York Times bestseller Descent, as well as a young adult novel, Never So Green, and the story collection Irish Girl, winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction.
“Gripping as it is, 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.”
“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’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.”
—St. Paul Pioneer Press
“With The Current, Johnston presents readers with another slate of unforgettable characters.”
“Along with his poetic style, the author’s acknowledgement of the complicated nuances inherent in friendship, family and love, especially the love of a parent for a child, elevate this tale to literary fiction.”
—The Columbus Dispatch
“With unhurried ease The Current carries us along, mirroring that fatal river, as clear as winter ice on the surface while beneath flowing darkly into the past.”
—The Barnes and Noble 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)
“[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)
“Tim Johnston’s Descent, a complex missing-person thriller set in the shadowy wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, was one of 2015’s most pleasant surprises. His follow-up, The Current, is equally, if not more, impressive . . . as methodical as Johnston is at unwrapping his carefully plotted story, readers will churn throughThe Current's 400 pages—a paradox that only the most accomplished mystery writers ever achieve. The only complaint is that we might have to wait another three years for his next one.”
—Amazon Book Review (Best Book of the Month)
“The Current is a rare creature: a gripping thriller and page turner but also a masterwork of mood and language. 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
"Tim Johnston is the best thing to come along in crime fiction in years. With Descent and The Current he has already established himself as one of the best writers in the game, with an original voice that calls to mind the likes of Cormac McCarthy and Dennis Lehane but is entirely his own. With its beautiful prose, deeply emotional storytelling, and craftsman's eye for detail, The Current made me want to read slower, and write better."
—Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of How It Happened
“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
“Johnson plots out intricate story lines—his character development is thorough and intensive . . . what an invigorating read!”
—Dayton Daily News
“The Current is moody, layered crime fiction at its finest; you’ll be tempted to tear through the pages, but, slow down. The lyrical language is worth lingering over.”
—The Augusta Chronicle
“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