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A Relentless 'Descent'


Tim Johnston’s suspenseful novel, Descent, kept me up late. Then, I reached for it first thing the next morning.

Caitlin Courtland, 18, disappears in the mountains of Colorado. Until the mystery of the disappearance is solved, Caitlin’s family suffers deeply from the tragedy and Johnston examines the fragility of life and faith.

Angela and Grant Courtland and their teenage children, Sean and Caitlin, are on a summer vacation before Caitlin goes away to college on a track scholarship. Early one morning, Caitlin and Sean go on a run deep into the mountains. In a remote spot, Sean is hit by a vehicle and Caitlin leaves with the driver to find help. Sean wakes in the hospital, his parents looking on… and Caitlin does not return.

Johnston uses his literary chops to describe the emotional emptiness of the loss and the physical beauty and danger of the mountains. Angela returns to their home in Wisconsin and is incapable of coping. Grant, a carpenter, takes a job in Colorado while he searches for his daughter. Sean is bereft and goes on a road trip in his blue Chevy truck to nowhere in particular. Entanglements occur for both Grant and Sean as the inner tension of their predicament takes its toll on their psyches. Everyone smokes.

Johnston does have a tendency to overwrite and his focus on Grant and Sean at the expense of developing Angela is puzzling. Still, Descent is a relentless page-turner.