Set in the South at the height of the Vietnam War, The Unwilling combines crime, suspense and searing glimpses into the human mind and soul
Six-time New York Times bestselling and award-winning author John Hart has been hailed as “a master storyteller” by New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben and praised as “this generation’s Pat Conroy” (The Providence Journal). In his very first historical novel, THE UNWILLING (published by St. Martin’s Press), Hart returns to the South, this time at the height of the Vietnam War in a novel inspired by the courage and sacrifice shown by soldiers who fought in that conflict. The novel’s title is inspired by the poem above—an encapsulation of the struggle faced by so many soldiers. Combining crime, suspense, and searing glimpses into the human soul delivered with Hart’s signature style, THE UNWILLING follows a family at war in both the past and present as they become pawns in a struggle much larger than any of them can even imagine.
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Gibby’s older brothers have already been to war. Robert died in the jungles of Vietnam, while Jason came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer and drug addict now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison. Jason won’t speak of the war or of his time behind bars, and he’s estranged from his father, a detective, as well as his mother. But Jason does want a relationship with the younger brother he hasn’t known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whiskey and older women. But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, Jason’s girlfriend Tyra taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. She finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after. The man behind this violence is a deranged, wealthy serial killer, incarcerated yet running the prison through money and intimidation. Given Jason’s violent history, suspicion turns first to him; but when Tyra’s friend, Sara, is kidnapped days later, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother’s hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns, and outlaw motorcycle gangs. What he discovers there is a truth bleaker than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra’s murder, but also the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison.