Tim Johnston is an excellent writer. The Current is a fine novel of suspense and an intricate study of how people react to tragedy and loss. Audrey and Caroline become close college friends after first trying and failing to be roommates. When Audrey finds out that her father's cancer is beyond treatment, Caroline decides to drive her back to her Minnesota home, and the two are caught in a frightening situation that reopens a ten-year-old crime. The past and present events happen in the same river across two states, and the story has the feel of a strong current. Johnston's descriptions of places in and around the river, where lives suddenly change forever, have a gravity like the flowing water, and he captures the survivors' struggle over what they can never get back as time pushes them away from what they had. His use of places and things to reveal characters' emotions is masterful, and his characters' direct, honest dialog about the most difficult problems is compelling. With very few words Johnston quickly shows us the thoughts and actions of people who seem real.— Tim McCarthy
If we’re comparing books to television, and why shouldn’t we be, then Johnston’s second novel is clearly the critical darling mini-series from your premium subscription-package channel kind of TV. You know the shows I’m talking about. If really good cozies are Masterpiece Theater, and maybe the not-so-good ones are Lifetime movies, and the middling psychological thrillers are the ones that get made into, well, middling psychological thriller series that drag on for three to seven seasons on channels that bored people sort of half watch while they’re ironing, then The Current is that show that’s filling up your Twitter feed, the one all the cool people won’t shut up about with the arty opening credit sequence. So what’s it about, right? Well, yeah, it is another book about dead girls, and if that’s a story that you’re understandably tired of, then this book won’t convince you otherwise. But, to Johnston’s credit, it’s also about the strength and humanity of those girls and women, and the book does confront men who do bad things and deals honestly with good men and how they respond to bad actions, what they do and what they leave undone. The story twists and weaves through these people’s lives before, during, and after a crime is committed. There are several times in the novel where all questions seem answered, where Johnston could have wrapped up the story all nice and neat, but that’s not the writer he is – he keeps pushing, deeper and deeper, in this masterful performance that plumbs the depths of life’s extremes.— Chris Lee
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
—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
“[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 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 review
“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 through The Current's 400 pages—a paradox that only the most accomplished mystery writers ever achieve.”
—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—a meditation on memory and time. 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
“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