Cover for Descent by Tim Johnston

The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, who are taking a family vacation before their daughter leaves for college. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic.

Written with a precision that captures every emotion, every moment of fear, as each member of the family searches for answers, Descent races like an avalanche toward its heart-pounding conclusion. 

There’s no book in recent memory that I found as challenging to review as I’m finding this one. I think that’s because Descent tries to be two things at once: both a thriller, telling the story of the disappearance of Caitlyn, a high school senior and track star who is abducted while going for a run during a family vacation to the Colorado Rockies, and a deep character study of the family members–her father Grant, her mother Angela, and her brother Sean–and their lives, together and apart, as they grapple with the nightmare of a daughter and a sister who disappears without a trace. Each of these stories would, individually, be a gripping read. Unfortunately, I feel Mr. Johnston tried to do too much, and as a result, taken as a whole, nothing works as well as it could.

Of course, I still enjoyed the book very much, and was up way too late during the big climax. But, the more I thought about the book and talked about it to my wife, the more I couldn’t overlook the flaws in this debut novel.

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