IRON HOUSE, by John Hart

You can’t beat Hart for a tough, often cruel, tale packed with really nasty characters and settings ranging from elegant Taras to squatter hovels: elements of the perfect Southern novel. What makes a Southern novel? Beats me, but Hart’s debut book, The King of Lies – much praised by Pat Conroy as an example of the genre – was, to me, a turgid affair that would’ve made a great short story but drawn out to a novel was hard to get through. This one - Hart’s fourth novel - however, is another beast entirely. Michael, a New York mob enforcer, wants out; his dying boss says yes, the boss’s son and his psychotic sidekick Johnny say no way. It’s war, sucking in Michael’s pregnant girlfriend, a prominent senator and his lovely wife, and Michael’s long-lost brother. But the cast of weird characters is only beginning, and the action and tension ratchet up almost exponentially. You'll stay up late to finish this! It’s a 4, a really good, rough, tough, read.