cover image Descent


Tim Johnston, read by Xe Sands and R.C. Bray. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, 10 CDs, 11.5 hrs., $36.95 ISBN 978-1-62231-503-1

With his first novel for adults, Johnston focuses on the Courtlands—Grant and Angela, their daughter Caitlin and son Sean—on a family vacation in the Rocky Mountains. They’ve barely arrived when the siblings head off to explore the area. Before long, Sean is discovered by the side of a road, badly injured... and alone. His 18-year-old sister, Caitlin, has been kidnapped by a disturbed woodsman who keeps her chained in his isolated mountain cabin. As the months go by, Grant and Angela’s initially fragile marriage breaks apart while the teenage Sean matures into a troubled adult. Johnston’s chapters hop from one Courtland to the other, occasionally skipping around in time. Such abrupt shifts can seem particularly confusing in an audio production, which is probably why two narrators were used. Sands, with her distinctive, natural delivery, quickly identifies the chapters devoted to daughter and mother, distinguishing them by using a firmer, depressed delivery for the suicide-prone Angela and a spacey, helpless natter for Caitlin. Sands also captures an infuriatingly patronizing passive-aggressiveness for Caitlin’s captor. Bray is responsible for a larger portion of the book, giving voice to the chapters featuring Grant and Sean, as well as a few told from the point of view of the sheriff and his younger brother, Billy. He gives Grant a rugged timbre, whereas Sean sounds more like a drifter who feels responsible for his sister’s misfortune. Bray’s sheriff is a hard man doing a tough job, while Billy is sly, brash, and arrogant, an obvious troublemaker who slowly becomes integral to this intriguing study of a tragedy’s aftermath. An Algonquin hardcover. (Jan.)