Descent by Tim Johnston

Descent, Tim Johnston, Book JOurney

The Courtland family, Grant and Angela and their two teenage children, Sean and Caitlin, travel to Colorado for a family vacation before Caitlin heads off to college.  Caitlin is a runner and has won many awards for her skills and is looking forward to the challenge of the terrain of Colorado.

The first morning they are there, Caitlin and Sean take off to try the trails.  Caitlin on foot and Sean following on his bike.  A short time later Grant receives a call from the police that Sean is in the hospital having been hit by a car and when Grant inquires about Caitlin, the officer is puzzled…. Sean was found alone.  Caitlin was not with him.

This is the start of a family nightmare.  Grant and Angela’s already shaking marriage is put in even more jeopardy when Grant insists that he stay in Colorado to continue the search for Caitlin while Angela and Sean return home to Wisconsin and try to continue on with a semi normal life.  As weeks turn to months, and months to years, the damage to all the Courtlands is evident.

Sean lives with the guilt of knowing more than he is saying, and Caitlin… well, what of Caitlin?  Will she ever be found either dead or alive?




I read this book for our book club and while it was a new title to me I am so glad we read it.  What an excellent read.  I liked how real this book felt, an excellent setting of losing a child in the Colorado mountain area and the only witness was hit by a car and has little recollection, hours lost in the search because the police did not know there was another person with Sean until the call to his parents.  Creepy and brilliant.

There was much to like about this novel that I felt was done very well.  I had only a couple of bumps along the way.  There were several chapters where Sean is referred to as the boy and for some reason I struggled with that… mainly because it was written in a way where for a while I did not know who the book was referring to.. at first I thought it was creating a mysterious narrator but after many chapters of not always knowing who was speaking, it bugged me.  My other bump was in the end a character does something completely out of character which brings things to a close… but did not seem to fit with who this person was for the entire book.


Honestly though, compared to the whole book, the bumps were minimal and I found this one hard to put down I wanted so badly to know what had happened to Caitlin and how it would all end.

Deliciously good reading.



  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (January 6, 2015)



13 thoughts on “Descent by Tim Johnston

  1. I am of a totally different mindset than you. I HATED it!!!! I’ll be interested to hear what the others thought. The reviews were pretty good so I might be in the minority on this one.

    1. Angie, did you read the entire book? I ask because I, too, thought it’s first several chapters were so boring I wanted to quit reading it. I didn’t, though, so I saw why people were raving about it; it is really good after 130 pages. I agree that a book isn’t worth raving about if ALL OF IT isn’t good.

  2. It does sound like a wonderful read, thanks Sheila. I’d never heard of it before, but I’m putting it on my list. Great review.

  3. I want to read this one too. I heard a bit about it a few weeks ago and most of it was positive with a few negatives thrown in. I’m thinking – audio.

  4. I read this, too. I agree and disagree with you about this book.

    It has been a couple years since I have been as riveted to a book as I was to DESCENT. Problem, though: it wasn’t riveting until around page 130.

    Once Caitlin is abducted, the book contains chapters that describe how her mother, father, and brother each go on living with this for nearly three years. Chapters seem scattered, not chronological.

    I am so glad to see that you, too, found it annoying that throughout this book Caitlin’s brother, Sean, is referred to as “the boy” almost always. Such constant impersonal usage in seemingly personal chapters is confusing, and the repetitiousness of “the boy” makes it ridiculous.

    About halfway through the book, though, the suspense becomes so great, DESCENT is unputdownable.

    For this excellent suspense, DESCENT deserves the highest rating. But the several uninteresting chapters in its first half and its ridiculous constant use of “the boy” downgrades it. Again, though, its second half is truly stupendous.

    I won this book from the publisher through

  5. I finished DESCENT a few weeks ago and I still have not been able to get these characters out of my mind. I absolutely loved this book. It was a little difficult for me to get the hang of the writing, but once I did, I could not put this book down. I even had trouble finding something to read after this, I guess I had what they call a “book hangover”, I could not let this story go. I felt like nothing else could come close. This book was fantastic!

  6. I first hear about a lot of books on NPR, and this one wasn’t an exception. Our local station has a local book reviewer and this was one she did, and I heard it on my way to work one morning. Her review, didn’t make me run out and get it, and one of her comments bothered me. After reading her review, I’m still not sure how much I want to read it, but I’m closer to it know than I was before.

    Here is her review if you get curious about it:

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