Title: Hawk Mountain
Author: Conner Habib
Genre: Literary Thriller
Number of Pages: 307
Warning: This book review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!
I would describe this as a good book with no redeeming characters. You will hate the ‘protagonist,’ Todd. Seriously. He’s the worst and he just keeps getting worse and worse as the book goes on. If you’re the kind of reader who needs someone to root for this isn’t the book for you. It’s bleak, bleak, bleak, a trip straight into darkness and depravity. Luckily, that is the kind of book I like so I enjoyed this, if ‘enjoy’ is the right word.
Todd is a closet case with a bitchy ex-wife who suddenly wants to share custody of their young son, after years of having nothing to do with him. While spending time with his son Anthony on the beach, Todd runs into Jack, the guy who bullied him back in high school. Of course, Todd does what anyone would do after meeting their high school tormentor as an adult; he lets Jack stay over at his house and babysit his son.
What I didn’t expect (major spoilers ahead) was for Todd to butcher Jack less than halfway through and systematically dismember his body in the basement. It said in the blurb that ‘An English teacher is gaslit by his charismatic high school bully‘ so I expected Jack to be more of an antagonist or play more of a role in the story. Well, I guess he did play a role throughout most of the book but not alive. I was shocked by what a ruthless bastard Todd was. I thought he was just gormless at first, but he turned out to be a stone-cold motherfucker.
He didn’t even kill Jack because he bullied him (not that I’m condoning killing bullies.) He killed him because he couldn’t handle the sexual feelings he had for him. I don’t know how you can casually cut up a corpse like that, especially when you haven’t done it before. The novel is really well-written, with a strong sense of place and vivid animal imagery. The symbolism of predator and prey was well-utilized throughout. I liked the way the book shifted between past and present.
The author grabbed my interest immediately and even though Todd’s treatment of Jack’s body was pretty disgusting and graphic it was still somehow a fast, even entertaining read. At first I didn’t understand why Todd was leaving Anthony alone with Jack until it became clear he didn’t care about his son at all. I hated the ex-wife and wanted to bitch-slap her so bad, even though Todd was obviously worse. I guess Anthony was sort of a redeeming character. He was too young to be a complete asshole yet. I think this is Habib’s first novel and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next. He’s obviously got a lot of talent as a writer and his prose has a strong sense of darkness and immediacy.