The Current

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

The Current was good, humanity-filled read. It explored the aspects of humans, feelings, and how people handle friendship and tragedy. It was suspenseful and intriguing. When a woman dies in an icy river but the other woman in the car only suffers a broken arm, questions start to pile up, especially when the same type of accident has happened before that was never solved. The way the story unfolds kept me hooked until the very end.
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The Current is an engrossing story about the death of a young college-aged woman who had traveled with her close friend to visit the friend's dying father and the relationship between her death, the subsequent death of her friend's father and a death of another young girl a decade earlier. The author leaves subtle clues along the way as the dying father, a retired sheriff, tries to determine if the young woman was murdered and, if so, by whom. When he dies with the mystery still unsolved, his daughter picks up the investigation on her own - finding help from an unlikely ally - the father of the young girl who had been murdered a decade earlier and who blamed the now-deceased sheriff for failing to capture the perpetrator. 
The author kept my interest from beginning to end, combining a fine mystery with insight into life in small town Minnesota.
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The review below was posted on my blog on April 26, 2019, at

Tim Johnston’s crime mystery “The Current” starts off with two college girls on a long road trip home who suffer an attack at a gas station and whose car gets knocked from behind by an unidentified truck into the icy waters of a Minnesota river, drowning one and injuring the other. It’s an incident that rattles the nearby hometown of one of the girl’s, which endured a similar tragedy of a teenage girl dying in the river 10 years before. The recent survivor soon realizes there’s connections between the two cases and begins to poke around into the prior murder, which was pinned on a boy who was ultimately not charged. 

Uh-oh. These kinds of icy, winter Minnesota mysteries are often hard for me to resist. And indeed I thought “The Current” had a more involved and better plot than the author’s 2015 acclaimed debut “The Descent,” which was a missing person, kidnap kind of story set in the mountains of Colorado. This one starts fast with the crime then turns into a slow burn of a novel about the injured girl and how other residents in her small hometown have been affected by the previous murder as they weathered years of suspicion, guilt, and grief. The accused boy and his family’s lives were changed forever as well as the lives of the victim’s family’s and the sheriff’s who was never able to get a conviction. Eventually the survivor girl is able to unravel enough secrets about that case and the town to get an arrest.

It’s a story, though while a slow burn, propelled me along quickly as I grappled with who and what were behind these crimes. It had a strong atmosphere of the town and the river, and the various characters felt like they had been through these tragedies. At times I wasn’t sure if the author was shooting for the novel to be literary fiction or crime fiction — it wavered between the two — as it went on at some length and manifested the various repercussions to the town folk. I liked it but thought it could’ve been edited shorter. The ending did not fully resolve both of the crimes, which didn’t bother me as I felt that that is often the case, but if that bugs you, be forewarned. I will continue to read whatever the author puts out next as I think his crime novels are compelling and seem to be getting better. 

Thanks to Algonquin books for the e-galley they provided me for this review. It is posted on my blog at
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Often when I really enjoy a book, I have a hard time reviewing it. I typically start out my reviews introducing the plot of the novel. But sometimes, things happen even early on that I want you as a reader to discover just as I did–while immersed in the text. On the other hand, how can I entice you to read an excellent story without telling you something about it?

There’s no way. I can tell you that The Current is about, among other things, the relationships between young adults and their parents, particularly young women and their fathers, and the transforming beauty of love. It looks at the longterm effects of grief and loneliness, and how sorrow and evil leave their mark on a tight-knit community. It is extremely well written, such that I have marked it both as “literary fiction” and “suspense,” which in my world is a perfect pairing! Johnston writes with deft hand, creating a world that is entirely our own while at the same time having elements of beauty and magic.

I feel that isn’t enough so I will give a little synopsis, but don’t blame me if you’d rather have found out the entire plot on your own. One fatal winter’s weekend, 2 young women, both 19, leave their college to drive one of them to her home in Iowa to visit her dying father. Their car ends up plunging into an ice-bound river, but it’s no accident. One survives, and as she heals, she is forced to contemplate the river, its treacherous ice, and the mystery of other girls who have gone into that same river before. The current takes life but also gives it; those who survive it have learned its secrets and can do so again.

10 years ago, another 19 year old girl went into the same river but did not come out. No one was ever arrested or charged with the crime. The surviving girl connects the two stories and begins to dig into the past, recognizing that justice for another is in one sense justice for herself as well, and others. But doing so may put her at risk once again, as buried secrets begin to surface.

You guys, I can’t do it justice. Suffice it to say that this is an excellent book–complex, layered and intense, beautiful in its telling and unflinching in its portrayal. Go read it. It’s so good.
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While I hoped this story would be more suspenseful, I still really enjoyed this book! It was dark and full of heartache! The small town characters gave the readers a view into their grief and guilt.  I think my favorite aspect was the window into how a small town feels towards an individual who has been suspected and cleared of a crime.  And how the individual’s life is forever turned upside down. It gave me something to think about and to turn this thought toward real world experiences. 

I greatly enjoyed the dialogue and felt it helped propel the story forward.  Even though it took me awhile to get a hang of who everyone was. I overall really enjoyed this dark mystery and look forward to the authors next work!
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This book was slow to start, I thought about giving up on it a few times. About halfway through, my interest increased and I finished the book. I was starting to like it more, but the ending leaving you with no answers which was frustrating.
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Published by Algonquin Books on January 22, 2019

The lives of two young women, separated by more than a decade, intersect in The Current. One drowned in a river, but may have the victim of a crime before entering the water. Years later, the other woman nearly drowned in the same river. The second woman was a child when she saw the scene of the first woman’s death. Those fateful connections form the backbone of The Current, a literary crime novel that explores the impact of grief and resentment on characters who have little success coping with their losses.

Audrey Sutter (from Minnesota) and Caroline Price (from Georgia) are in their sophomore year at a Georgia college. Audrey needs to return home after learning her father, retired Sheriff Tom Sutter, is ill. Caroline impulsively decides to escape the magnified dramas of her life by driving Audrey home. Audrey is attacked in Iowa but Caroline rescues her from a probable sexual assault. Audrey and Caroline flee and are almost in Minnesota before ambiguous circumstances send the car into a river.

Gordon Burke’s daughter drowned in the same river years earlier. Burke has always carried a hatred for Sheriff Sutter for failing to arrest Danny Young, who was suspected of causing her death. That possibility ends Gordon’s relationship with Rachel Young (the widow of Gordon’s former business partner) and ends his friendship with Danny’s developmentally disabled brother Markey.

Much of the drama in the novel’s first half centers on Gordon, Tom, and Audrey. As the novel nears its midpoint, the focus shifts to Danny, who comes home to a town that does not welcome his return. Not even his old friend Jeff Goss, who appears to know more about the death of Gordon’s daughter than anyone except Danny, and who does not want Danny’s return to stir up the truth.

Palpable drama flows from a series of revelations as characters come to grip with new evidence of events that took place years earlier, as well as events surrounding the attack on Audrey. Characters are true to their midwestern small town roots, often struggling with emotions and frustrated by their sense of helplessness. Through dialog alone, without needless exposition, Tim Johnston conveys how difficult it is for Gordon to express himself.

As for the plot . . . I hate to use clichés like “riveting,” but I can’t think of a better word. The story is absolutely riveting, in part because the characters are so true-to-life and the description of their actions is so convincing. It’s a sad story but it’s sad because it rings true. It is a story of small town lives ruined by small men, men who “run all over the world like rats,” men who behave horridly and men who don’t speak up and put a stop to it.

Tension builds with such urgency in the second half that the book feels like a heavy weight pressing against the reader’s chest. The tension is created in part because of the story’s ambiguity. A man who might have attacked Audrey in Iowa faces extra-judicial punishment, but is he the guilty man? Another character is clearly guilty of certain crimes but is he responsible for Caroline’s death? Characters develop theories, they think they know what might have happened, but as is often true in life, nobody is really sure. They might convince themselves that they know, but in moments of honest reflection, they don’t know who is guilty and who is innocent. The story’s ambiguity reflects the real world, where so many crimes go unsolved and so many innocent people are falsely accused.

Ultimately, the story is about maintaining empathy in an uncertain world. Audrey feels the heart of Gordon’s daughter beating in her chest. Gordon once wished harm upon Audrey so her father would know the pain he felt, but when he gets to know Audrey, he understands how wrong he was to wish harm upon the innocent. The Current teaches the valuable lesson that justice and punishment are less important than understanding and healing.

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Two young women, friends from a small Midwestern college, are pulled from the frigid winter waters of a Minnesota river, one dead and the other barely alive.  The incident-which is no accident-recalls a similar tragedy 10 years earlier in the same Iowa town on the Minnesota border. The survivor, whose father is the former sheriff in the border Minnesota town,  soon realizes their stories have deeper connections than just the river. Small towns with secrets is a territory that many writers employ,  but Johnston takes his characters to a new level,  fully realized characters, each filled with currents of love, regrets, and grief. Tim Johnston is a master at peeling back his carefully plotted story, one piece at a time.  The Current is a sometimes bleak read, that will bring a feel of a Minnesota winter seem so real, you will want a fire, a quilt, and a cup of hot tea. 

The Current had some moments of overwriting, in my opinion, and could have done with some skillful editing. I found myself trying to get through some of the back and forth and felt that some writing could have been omitted. 

Overall, a four star book, and I will be reading more from Tim Johnston. 

Thanks to #NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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I very much enjoyed this mystery/ suspense novel about two college girls who met with misfortune on an icy road and landed in the current of a river. Although foul play is evident, there are no immediate suspects and very few clues. The author does a nice job of developing characters as he unravels the story using both the current case and similar historical case nearly 20 years ago. As Audrey recovers from the accident and begins to ask questions about what happened, the process of investigation helps her to understand the people from her childhood better - including her own father and some of the decisions he made.  A great page turner for summer reading - highly recommended.
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The Current by Tim Johnston - begins after two girls have been found in the river. One dead, the other severely hospitalized. Audrey, the surviving girl, starts asking questions as she desperately tries to figure out what happened to her and her friend Caroline that night. As the search for clues progresses, the small town is reminded of a similar incident occurring ten years prior. Another girl. Holly. Another body found dead in the river.

The timelines weave back and forth between the current investigation and the past incident. Secrets are uncovered and it appears that these two tragedies may be connected after all. Determined to uncover the truth, Audrey soon realizes she may be on the cusp of solving a decade old murder. Ending up in the river might not have been an accident at all...

I really enjoyed this one. The writing is just spectacularly haunting. Don’t let the cover fool you. This isn’t your fast-paced thriller. This is a literary novel that beautifully examines how tragedy has shaped the inhabitants of this town. The mystery unravels through exploration of each of the character's experiences in both past and present. This isn’t one to fly through. Sit down, take your time, and enjoy the journey that Johnston’s prose takes you on. // ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

Thank you Algonquin Books and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions are my own.
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I really enjoyed Tim Johnston’s first novel, Descent, so I couldn’t wait to dive into The Current. The book, a mystery wrapped in a study of the effects of grief on a small town, doesn’t start out with a bang, but more of a murmur. It sets up the tragedy nicely, perfectly framing a friendship and how easily and abruptly we can lose someone. College students Audrey Sutter and Caroline Price are not fond of each other when they’re paired as roommates, even going so far as to request different room assignments and avoiding each other as much as possible around campus. However, when they’re forced by circumstance to sit next to each other in a lit class, Caroline breaks their silence by turning to Audrey and asking for a pencil. From then on they’re inseparable. And so, when Audrey finds out her father Tom, the former sheriff of a tiny Minnesota town, is dying of cancer, she asks Caroline for a ride to the bus stop. The thought of Audrey riding a bus to go see her dying father is horrifying to Caroline, and besides, anything that tethers her to school, namely her boyfriend, is now an afterthought, so she offers to drive Audrey the 700 plus miles home.

An event at an icy rest stop sets the tone for what’s to come. When Audrey takes longer than she should in returning to the car, Caroline gets out into the frigid night to investigate.

And she looks again at the building, the large single window: the big gal sitting there as before, unquestionable owner of the sleeted-over wagon. All alone in there.


“Shit,” says Caroline, and she’s out of the car and moving fast through the sleet and she can hear them even before she rounds the corner,


“…there now, that’s better. See there, Bud? We’re all gonna be friends here.”


The one talking has got his hand on Audrey’s face, and Caroline registers in that first glance how dark the fingers look against her friend’s pale face, as if they’ve been dipped in paint, or oil—white hand but dark fingers—and how light her friend’s eyes are, even in that shadowed space. Audrey’s hair is a dark mess, tossed by some roughness, and the man has got a knee between her legs and has pinned one of her arms against the wall but her free hand hangs by her side, as if by some terrible gravity—has he broken her arm?

Caroline, tall and strong and powerful (not to mention a talented athlete) is not one to stand by and let anything happen to someone she loves. She maces one of the guys and all but dares the other to come after them so she can get a shot in at him. They make it back to their SUV, climb in, and are soon on a long icy slide down a hill, aimed straight for a bridge. They actually come to a stop without plummeting into the water, but headlights coming up behind them send them out onto the ice that covers the Black Root River, and it’s not strong enough to hold them.

Audrey survives with a broken arm, but Caroline doesn’t. Audrey sets out to find out who was in that car that pushed them into the river and left them for dead. Was it the two men that assaulted Audrey at the gas station? All Audrey remembers is seeing a truck that paused at the edge, then left, while she was hanging onto the RAV4 that was slowly sinking into the ice.

Johnston builds a complex web of menace and expertly weaves past and present together into a suspenseful, hypnotic, and compassionate story.

Meanwhile, her father can’t help but think about a case he never solved. Ten years ago, 19-year-old Holly Burke, who was found dead in that same river, and she was still alive before she went into the water. Her father, Gordon, still grieves for the daughter he lost, and can’t help but see parallels in Audrey and Caroline’s case. He also hasn’t let go of his anger over Tom’s failure to solve her case. There was a suspect named Danny Young, and a separate narrative covers the time directly after Holly’s death, and the aftermath of the suspicion cast on Danny. What does that have to do with the current case? Johnston builds a complex web of menace and expertly weaves past and present together into a suspenseful, hypnotic, and compassionate story. Johnston’s prose is lovely, and it carried me along much like a current might, but beware, there are plenty of rocks to watch out for.

If you enjoy books from Tana French and Kate Moretti, you’ll love Tim Johnston’s most recent book.
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3.5 stars.

This was a tough one to rate. 

On the positive side, Johnston has written an incredibly compelling story. Terrific premise, riveting complexity, and a fascinating cast of characters who motivate the reader to invest emotionally. 

But...BUT. There were some very problematic loose ends that needed to be tied up at the conclusion of this book which were left dangling. 

We had, essentially, two mysteries here. One was solved, and solved in a fascinating and satisfying manner. The other? We're left to wonder, which was frustrating and significantly lowered my overall opinion of the book. It renders a whole portion of the book seemingly futile, and that was disappointing. 

I also could have done without the whole suffering, dying dog narrative. It's depressing and not particularly critical to the plot and really doesn't need to be there.

On the whole, I enjoyed this very much as I was reading it, but the conclusion (or lack thereof) made the book feel incomplete.
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In Tim Johnston's The Current, this gripping novel will sweep you off your feet and have you carried away with the rip tide. It all started for Caroline Price and Audrey Sutter, two friends who ended up in a near-fatal car accident near the river in a small town in Minnesota. Two state troopers had found Audrey half-frozen and alive, while her friend Caroline drowned from the icy water. When word had came about, it reminded Gordon Burke of a similar crime that happened a decade ago to his own daughter. While the police had never found the culprits for that crime, it was up to Audrey to remember what happened to her and the attack on her and friend. As she recovered from her injuries, she talked to Gordon Burke and to the sheriffs on the past case. After her father passed away, she wanted to carry on with his wishes to solve the mystery and to pick up the pieces to that unsolved crime that had the same end result. Though both cases were similar in nature, she had uncovered a sniff of police corruption and a scandal that headed straight to Iowa. With a bit of coercion to arrest the right culprit, she had to fend for herself and make justice be served for Holly and Caroline.
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This book was just not for me. It took me a really long time to read because I kept getting bogged down with the wordiness and the rambling passages. I feel like it could have been edited a bit more to tighten up the plot and move it along faster. 

Many thanks to Netgalley, Algonquin Books and Tim Johnston for my complimentary e-copy ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Tim Johnston's second novel, The Current, cements his status as a unique, unequaled voice in contemporary fiction. Simply put, The Current, is a beautifully written, achingly heartbreaking story with authentic characters and a storyline that grabs readers by the heart and never lets go. The Current is an exploration of the enduring impact of a crime on innocent people set in the most American setting -- a small town in the Midwest. 

Two college students, Caroline Price and Audrey Sutter, set out on a trip to Minnesota. It is the dead of winter and Audrey needs to get home because her father is ill. She has no car or money, but Caroline has both, They don't reach their destination. Minnesota state troopers pull the car from the icy Black Root River. Caroline's body is found downriver, and Audrey is half frozen and traumatized, but alive. Their vehicle's descent into the river was no accident, and news travels quickly through the small town where Audrey's father is the former sheriff. Moreover, the incident is eerily reminiscent of an unsolved crime. Ten years ago, another young woman also lost her life in the river, and her killer has never been found and brought to justice.

Audrey is determined to find answers and soon discovers that she is connected to the prior case by more than the river. As her investigation leaders her toward dangerous truths, she is disillusioned to learn that violence simmers just below the surface of her hometown about which her father's suspicions may have been well-founded.

Johnston's economy of language and keen understanding of life in America's heartland effectively pull readers into the lives of his characters. Its a place where winters are long and treacherous, right is right, and there are no strangers. Against that backdrop, Johnston weaves an intricate tale about getting on with life in the face of unspeakable tragedy and the underlying rage it fuels, and the myriad ways in which small town life is not always as simple as it seems to be on the surface. The Current explores Audrey's coming of age and empowerment as she sees her hometown through adult eyes for the first time. And quietly examines the unconditional, unending love of a parent for his/her child through the perspectives of several of Johnston's characters. The story's pace is akin to the flow of the river -- constant and steady, surging at particular junctures. Ultimately, The Current is a haunting and memorable study of the ties that bind us to our loved ones and communities, and the power of events to shape our future. Johnston confirms that there is a current running through our lives that binds us together, even as it separates us in significant ways, and gives us strength when we need it most. The Current is sure to be deemed once of the best books of 2019 and become a contemporary classic.
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An atmospheric story alive with tension and emotion!

Tim Johnston has written a book that I not only Red but I felt. I felt the tension in my head, I felt the emotion in my heart, and I felt the cold in my bones. There was something so real and raw about this story. It is one of those books that will stick with you long after you turn the last page!

Audrey and Caroline are driving from their southern college to Audreys home in northern Minnesota.   Audrey is going home to see her father who is fighting cancer. As they approach audrey’s hometown they make a choice that will change everything... A bathroom break, an assault, an icy road, a narrow bridge, and the girls plummet into the icy river. Two girls go in, one comes out alive, and the other one is missing... but this was no accident.  This tragedy dredges up a similar tragedy that happened 10 years ago... a different girl, but the same River. Audrey’s father who was sheriff at  the time, headed up the investigation, but is there a connection to this current tragedy? Audrey is devastated, not only dealing with the loss of her friend, but her father’s disease. Consumed with guilt and grief Audrey investigates the past in order to come to terms with the present.  

This was a taut tense psychological crime thriller, that you will not be able to put down. I was riveted by every word in this book and drawn to every character. There is something so vulnerable about Audrey, yet she was so strong and smart, i really found myself rooting for her. The rest of the characters were equally compelling, there was something so true about each and every one of them. The mystery was brilliantly crafted full of twists and misdirection. I enjoyed every minute I spend with Audrey trying to figure out what happened 10 years ago, and if it was somehow related to her own tragedy.

An absorbing thriller full of guilt, grief, tension, miss direction, and emotion! Absolutely recommend!

🎧🎧🎧 this audiobook was narrated by Sarah Mollo-Christiensen and she did a stellar job! This is the first book I have listened to that she narrated and she really brought these characters to life.

 Song Running Through My Mind

Time, time time, see what's become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities
I was so hard to please
Don't look around
The leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Hear the Salvation Army band
Down by the riverside's, there's bound to be a better ride
Than what you've got planned
Carry your cup in your hand
And look around
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Hang on to your hopes, my friend
That's an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again
Look around
The grass is high
The fields are ripe
It's the springtime of my life
Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won't you stop and remember me
At any convenient time?

*** many thanks to Algonquin Books for my copy ***
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The Current is billed as a thriller.  This does the book and its author a great disservice.  Literary fiction is a more apt description for this book.  Although the plot was dragged down somewhat by alternating between past and present, the character development and multiple layers to the story line make this for an interesting read. Add a strong sense of place and beautifully written descriptions of the small town where the book takes place and the Current is a solid addition to the mystery/fiction genre.
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An intriguing book, the story of two college girls ending up in a river. One lives, one dies. Similar to the same circumstances 10 years before when Holly Burke died in a river. While I enjoyed the story, I was surprised about the ending or lack there of!
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This book started off great, but the format was such that it didn't keep my interest as a reader and I quickly gave up. I personally have a hard time reading third person narration and when there is no distinct separation of dialog it made the paragraphs run together. I may go back and try this one again some time.
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This book was a lot better than I expected.  It started off a little strange but it definitely grows on you.  I love the way the author writes from a different person's perspective and keeps switching it up so you have to really pay attention. The story is about two girls who end up in a river. The same river a girl drowned in 10 years previously. The story revolves around all the people involved in the original drowning with the reader travelling back and forth in time.  A very interesting read, well written. I have to give it five stars which I rarely do.
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