Descent captures and builds on the terror of a modern-day kidnapping and the horror every parent fears. Caitlin, the victim, has just graduated high school. A star athlete, she disappears on an early morning run on the first day of her family’s Colorado vacation. Initial searches reveal nothing; the Courtland’s young son, Sean, who accompanied his sister, was injured by the mad man who took off with her and remembers nothing. Far from their Wisconsin home, the family struggles to comprehend the tragedy.
Tim Johnston’s chilling novel leaves the reader to wonder if Caitlin is dead or alive. And if still living, then to imagine the horror that has become her existence. Instead of telling her story, the author follows the Courtlands through first the weeks, then the months and finally the years of despair they endure following that fateful morning. With great empathy, he chronicles the slow but steady disintegration and reshaping of their lives. Nothing – nothing – is ever the same for them.
Johnston’s writing is often serene, the details exquisite. The family’s torment he conjures up is palpable, and the story’s twists and turns compelling. In an ending that can only be described as explosive, the kidnapper is revealed for the monster he is and the reader is left with the certain and uneasy feeling that this kind of predator is very real and not confined to the untamed wilds of the Rocky Mountains.
Descent, a New York Times bestseller, is Johnston’s third novel. Previously, he won the O. Henry Prize for his short story collection Irish Girl.