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Picador (2018-01-09)
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Thriller / suspense fiction


by Yates, Christopher J.

Grist Mill Road is a dark, twisted, and expertly plotted Rashomon-style tale. In 1982, among the craggy rock cliffs, three friends - Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah - are bound together by a terrible and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty-six years later, in New York City living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again - with even more devastating results.

Here is a triple helix of a story structure, a sharp-edged love triangle complete with an Atonement style revelation. Character-driven, gorgeously written and wrenching, Grist Mill Road exposes the poisonous resentments, sexual longings, and reservoirs of violence that roil just below the orderly surface of small town life. Like Yates' critically acclaimed Black Chalk, this follow up novel showcases the author's background as a professional puzzle-maker; this too is an "engrossing literary guessing game" one that will keep readers in suspense until the final page.

Christopher J. Yates was born and raised in Kent and studied law at Oxford University before working as a puzzle editor in London. His first book is Black Chalk, which was published by Harvill Secker in the UK, Picador in the US, Centrepolygraph in Russia, Eurasian in Taiwan, Ambo/Anthos in the Netherlands, and Baldini & Castoldi in Italy.

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Russia: AST

Quote: Dystel

A defining moment of violence inextricably links the lives of three young adults in Yates' (Black Chalk, 2015) psychological thriller."I remember the gunshots made a wet sort of sound, phssh phssh phssh, and each time he hit her she screamed. Do the math and the whole thing probably went on for as long as 10 minutes. I just stood there and watched." Yates' novel begins with this visceral description that immediately establishes a complex relationship not only between Patrick, the narrator of these lines, and Matthew, his friend and the perpetrator, but also between memory and the truth. The novel cuts between a first-person narrative of Patrick at 12, documenting the events that led up to this shocking BB gun attack, and a third-person narrative of Patrick and his wife, Hannah, in 2008. As newlyweds, they are trying to find their way through the economic collapse and Patrick's loss of his job; Hannah is a reporter interested in writing a true-crime book. She is also the victim of the earlier crime, and while she knows about Patrick's connection to Matthew, she has no idea that he actually witnessed what happened and failed to stop it. Much of the book explores the ways in which they individually struggle to come to terms with and exorcise guilt before the past can destroy their present and future happiness. If this sounds complicated, it ishumanly complicated and narratively complicatedbut successfully and movingly so. Yates manages to take a brutal incident and, by the end, create understanding for all three major characters involved: the victim, the perpetrator, and the witness. By doing so, he drives home the messages that truth is always subjective and that true, compassionate love is always redemptive. It's the compassion part, he argues, at which most of us tend to fail. Mesmerizing and impossible to put down, this novel demands full attention, full empathy, and full responsibility; in return it offers poignant insight into human fragility and resilience.

Review: Kirkus, starred review

An antihero in an Albert Camus novel ignored a dying child's plea for help and spent the rest of his days pounded by guilt. Toward the end he cried out to the little girl to come back, "and give me a chance to save both of us." That's the entire point of this haunting, disturbing, beautiful and demanding novel. Patrick, barely into adolescence, stands by while his friend Matthew tortures young Hannah, eventually putting out her eye with BB pellets. Her eye socket, Patrick observes, "looked like it was housing a dark smashed plum." The rest of the novel is about the aftereffects of these grim few pages. Matthew becomes a wealthy investor, and Hannah becomes a newspaper reporter. Patrick, still trying to explain away why he did nothing to help Hannah, lives in a half-world of jobs that don't quite happen. Inevitably, the three reconnect almost three decades later, and the unfinished business has its finaland bloodyworking out. And Patrick finally has a chance to save both of them. The intensity of the storytelling is exhilarating and unsettling.

Review: Booklist, starred review

Yates follows his well-received debut, Black Chalk, with an edgy, intelligent thriller that explores the aftermath of a senseless crime. In 1982, 13-year-old Matthew Weaver ties Hannah Jensen, who's also 13, to a tree in the woods outside Roseborn, N.Y., and shoots her with a BB gun 49 times, including through the eye. Patrick "Patch" McConnell, a friend of Matthew's, is walking nearby and hears the shots. When Patch arrives at the scene, he at first thinks Hannah is dead, but she survives her injuries. Flash forward to 2008, when all three are living in New York City. Hannah, now a crime reporter, is married to Patch, who puts all his energies into his food blog and fantasizing about getting even with the boss who recently laid him off. A chance meeting with Matthew brings to the surface the anger and violence each has repressed. The reader's sympathies shift as each character brings a different perspective to the events that shaped them. Unexpected twists keep the tension high.

Review: Publishers Weekly, starred review

The plot is darkly, intricately layered, full of pitfalls and switchbacks, smart and funny and moving and merciless; the characters are all that and more. This is a powerful exploration of how truth isn't a complete and immutable thing, or a pure force of redemption: it's made up of broken shards that lie buried somewhere in the spaces between people, and when the jagged edges work their way to the surface, they can be devastating.

Quote: Tana French, author

Yates's (Black Chalk) sophomore novel is a fun-house mirror of a single, horrific incident that defines three lives. Patch, Hannah, and Matthew enter the New York woods in 1982 as young teens, and what happens there changes each of them irrevocably. The structure is a fine example of the Rashomon effect, set with alternating points-of-view of the three involved. Patch and Hannah tell their tales in distinctive first-person voices, while Matthew's story is recounted in the second person, which only adds to the divergence of accounts, along with an overarching third-person omniscient narration that's set 26 years later when the protagonists' lives once again collide. Smart, beautiful, and unrelenting prose puts the reader right into the scenes, making it difficult to decide which of the trionone of them are particularly likable, but each is engaging in his or her own wayis telling the truth. VERDICT This fast-paced, suspenseful journey through the minds of these characters will fascinate Donna Tartt fans and readers who enjoy twisty, intellectual thrillers and unreliable narration.

Review: Library Journal

Dark, intense, and disturbing, Christopher Yates'Grist Mill Road begins with a shock and keeps the suspense burning page after page. A thriller with imagination to spare. Highly recommended.

Quote: Krysten Ritter, author ofBonfire

Anintricately craftednovel about adult lives forever changed by closely held childhood secrets. Grist Mill Road isa compulsive readthat will unsettle you from its first page and surprise you until its very last.

Quote: Jung Yun, author

Christopher Yates'Grist Mill Roadisa terrific thriller. A horrid childhood crime carried secretly to adulthood, with menace lurking around the corner, and guilt hanging heavy overhead. Alfred Hitchcock would have optioned the plotin the blink of his gimlet eye.A gripping read.

Quote: Jason Matthews, author

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