Friday Night Lights meets In Cold Blood in this powerful tale of distant brothers whose torment over the murder of their sister when they were teens is compounded by the murder of another targeted teenage girl—a killing one of the brothers is determined to avenge even if that means committing murder himself.
Adam Austin, a physically imposing bail bondsman and sometime private investigator in the small town of Chambers, Ohio, has never gotten past the guilt of letting his little sister Marie walk home from a football game alone. He drove off with his new girlfriend, Chelsea, and never saw his sister again. He still talks to Marie in her spotlessly maintained old room but is barely on speaking terms with his religiously rehabilitated younger brother Kent, the venerated coach of the football team they once played on together, who forgave the man who killed Marie. After Adam unknowingly sends a 17-year-old client to her death by telling her where she can find a letter-writing ex-con she thinks is her father, the past eerily collides with the present. Dark, spiraling events unmoor the already unstable Adam and his chances of happiness with Chelsea, who is back in his life with her no-good husband serving a long prison sentence. Kent, who seemed headed to his first state championship before the murder of the teen, his star receiver's girlfriend, turns to his brother when his family is threatened. The question is whether Adam is beyond turning to anyone for help. Koryta, who drew acclaim with his 2011 supernatural thrillers, The Ridge and The Cypress House, returns to crime fiction with a gripping work. This book succeeds on any number of levels. It's a brilliantly paced thriller that keeps its villains at a tantalizing distance, a compelling family portrait, a study in morality that goes beyond the usual black-and-white judgments, and an entertaining spin on classic football fiction. A flawless performance.
A compulsively readable novel about brothers on opposite sides of life.
The winner of St. Martin’s 2003 Prize for Best First P.I. Novel presents a Cleveland shamus who falls afoul of Russian mobsters—and for his beautiful client
Against the better judgment of his partner Joe Pritchard, novice gumshoe/narrator Lincoln Perry accepts a retainer from wealthy industrialist John Weston to find his missing daughter-in-law Julie and granddaughter Betsy. Weston’s son Wayne made headlines when he was found shot dead. The smart money says that Wayne, a Pinkerton investigator, killed Julie and Betsy before turning the gun on himself. Dad can’t believe it, and the bodies of the two females haven’t been discovered. Ex-cops Perry and Joe’s fledgling agency can’t afford to turn down the work. Reporter pal Amy Ambrose helps fill in the background, but when she follows up a lead, she’s threatened by a group of Russian-American thugs, headed by imperious kingpin Dainius Belov, who destroy her car. The investigative trail leads through a shady businessman named Jeremiah Hubbard and Wayne’s partner Aaron Kincaid to sometime thug Randy Hartwick, who dates back to Wayne’s days as a Marine. During Perry’s meeting with Hartwick, a sniper ends the subject’s checkered career with a fatal bullet. In Myrtle Beach, Perry finds Betsy and Julie, whose beauty and vulnerability captivate him. But his satisfaction is cut short by the news that the Russians are headed south in pursuit.
A gracefully written, straight-ahead detective story with a welcome 11th-hour surprise.
Cleveland’s Clark Avenue—where private eye Lincoln Perry, ex-con Ed Gradduk and Scott Draper, owner of his family’s bar, The Hideaway, grew up as best pals—is under fire. The torch, caught on surveillance tape, is Ed, who presumably killed Anita Sentalar, head of the National Alliance rebuilding project, before he burned down a house under construction. Lincoln, refusing to believe it, tracks down Ed after eight years. They barely speak before the suspect is run over, maybe accidentally, by Padgett and Rabold, the cops chasing him. Against the better judgment of his shamus partner Joe Pritchard (Tonight I Said Goodbye, 2004), Lincoln delves into Ed’s immediate past, which has also attracted the interest of local cop Cal Richards and the Feds. Central to their investigations are area gangster Jimmy Cancerno and missing day-laborer Mitch Corbett, who worked with Ed on Cancerno’s buildings. Before he’s found with the help of Lincoln’s reporter pal Amy and Pritchard’s cop contacts, there’ll be more Clark Street conflagrations, more death and two new versions of a 20-year-old story of terror and intimidation. It’ll take Lincoln’s heroics to save both Draper and Pritchard before the neighborhood quiets down and Lincoln can come to terms with his own past.
Nicely told, with the requisite genre beatings and gunplay reserved for the end and the equally requisite angst, this time over past misdeeds, front and center.
A hard-boiled shamus knows better than to answer the distress call of his ex...or does he?
Police pay a visit to Cleveland gym owner and sometime private eye Lincoln Perry (Sorrow’s Anthem, 2006, etc.) when wealthy Alex Jefferson is found in a dumpster, the victim of torture and murder. Jefferson’s widow Karen is Perry’s ex, and the last time he saw Jefferson, he beat him to a pulp at Jefferson’s country club. A week later, Karen calls Perry, and against his better judgment, he goes to see her. Jefferson left a huge estate, much of it to his missing son Matthew. So Karen hires Perry to find her estranged stepson and give him the news. When Perry tracks Matthew down in Indiana, the young man pulls a gun but uses it to commit suicide, making Perry again a murder suspect until forensics clears him. Teaming at times with Cleveland detective Harold Targent, Perry sets out to discover Matthew’s secret in hopes of identifying Jefferson’s killer. A violent ex-con named Andy Doran may hold the key. Many twists await along the way, with Perry himself never far from the dubious status of prime suspect, much of the evidence apparently designed to frame him.
The plot has its share of boilerplate elements. But sentence for polished sentence, no one in the genre writes better.
Private eye Lincoln Perry walks the meanest streets of the 21st century.
While his partner Joe is in Florida considering retirement, Linc drifts around their Cleveland office ignoring mail and phone calls until the door opens to admit Parker Harrison, who’s been trying to reach him for months. Parker, paroled 13 years ago after doing time for killing his ex’s boyfriend, wants him to find Alexandra Cantrell. She ran Whisper Ridge, the halfway house Parker lived in for a year after he got out of jail, until she and her husband Joshua disappeared. Linc turns him down, then reconsiders when Joshua’s body is uncovered on the Whisper Ridge property. Who killed him? Who buried him? The case hinges on two factors: Alexandra’s insistence on rehabbing cons and her blood tie to the Sanabria crime family. Ken Merriman, a Pittsburgh shamus, becomes involved, although he refuses to identify his client; the gumshoes are soon invading Detective Quinn Graham’s turf and uncovering former Whisper Ridge residents who were plants, some loyal to the FBI, some to the Sanabria interests. A retired FBI agent still after Sanabria causes more complications, and even Joe’s return from Florida can’t cut through all the double-crosses or save Ken’s life. Employing his stubbornness and investigative skills, Linc manages to unravel many mysteries and find the missing Alexandra but remains unsure of his own direction.
Feisty plotting and the most memorable prose since Chandler. Koryta (A Welcome Grave, 2007, etc.) belongs on every genre reader’s bookshelf.
In Depression-era Florida, a war veteran with the eerie ability to see impending death comes up against a criminal judge who exerts deadly force.
Following up his acclaimed gothic, So Cold the River (2010), Koryta blends gritty noir and ghostly visions in a novel that seems custom-designed for Nicolas "Ghost Rider" Cage. Arlen Wagner, a survivor of bloody battles in Europe, is on a train headed for a work camp in the Florida Keys when he sees smoke coming from the eyes of passengers and skeletons instead of bodies. He warns everyone to de-train, but succeeds in convincing only a 19-year-old boy, Paul. They get a ride to an isolated boardinghouse on the Gulf Coast run by the beautiful Rebecca. The great hurricane of 1935, which claims the lives of all the passengers, is headed their way, but it is hardly the worst threat. Judge Solomon Wade, who imports heroin on boats from Cuba, will kill anyone who gets in the way of his operation. Arlen wants no part of any of this but targets Wade out of his love for Rebecca, whose father the judge had killed, and his paternal feelings for Paul, whose jealous anger over his sleeping with her has him acting out in dangerous ways. Though Koryta's evocation of the Depression could be stronger, the novel builds to a richly satisfying climax in which Arlen is guided by the spirit of his father and voices of the recently departed.
A commanding performance in the field of supernatural noir.
Wyatt French blasted himself to smithereens with his shotgun. But before he died, he contacted Kimble, a Shipley, Ky., sheriff, and Darmus, a reporter for the Sawyer County Sentinel, and asked them to consider whether he really committed suicide. A strange request, perhaps, but Wyatt was a strange man, who for unspecified reasons built a lighthouse miles away from the sea and even equipped it with ultraviolet beams when his new neighbors at the big-cat rescue center complained that its light upset their animals. In the course of investigating Wyatt’s lair, lights unfortunately get broken and strange things begin to happen. A black puma escapes the compound, a keeper is mauled, a deputy magically gets up and walks away when his car is totaled and an eerie blue glow bobbles through the woods. Even stranger, Wyatt seems to have plastered the walls of the lighthouse with pictures of murderers and accident victims, some dating back to the 1880s, when 16 men died constructing the Whitman trestle nearby. At length, Kimble and Darmus realize their pasts also include fateful accidents that occurred near the trestle. Meanwhile, the big cats grow more restless and the blue light appears more often. The final confrontation will cause Kimble to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Koryta (The Cypress House, 2011, etc.), whose affection for the big cats and those who care for them is contagious, has produced a supernatural thriller that will raise goosebumps the size of golf balls.
A gothic horror story set in—wait for it—rural Indiana.
Filmmaker Eric Shaw, reduced to preparing video montages for memorial services since the failure of his Los Angeles career caused him to retreat to Chicago and leave his marriage to Claire, is approached by wealthy Alyssa Bradford, who offers him $15,000 to re-create the life of her father-in-law, Campbell, 95 and near death in a nursing home. The only clue to his past is a green glass bottle, still stoppered, that he’s kept in his safe—a bottle of something called Pluto Water from some hidden spring between the twin towns of French Lick and West Baden, Ind. Quicker than Stephen King conjures goosebumps, Shaw finds himself hearing train whistles, having visions of an old gent in a bowler hat and suffering world-class headaches. Kellen Cage, a black student working on a doctoral thesis concerning French Lick and West Baden, offers some help. Meanwhile, the last Bradford, ne’er-do-well Josiah, hopes that the video may bring him money. The weather turns ominous. Shaw’s headaches worsen. His scary visions continue. Would a sip of that reputed elixir, Pluto Water, help? As the visions intensify, Josiah turns more menacing, killing with no provocation a private eye sent from Chicago to stop Shaw. Old Anne, a weather spotter, senses that the wind is up. Shaw becomes obsessed with finding out more about Pluto Water. But four tornados will hit the county within an hour, the Lost River will rise and a major conflagration will almost annihilate Claire before the Campbell past is bottled up tight once more.
A departure from Kortya’s Lincoln Perry p.i. series (The Silent Hour, 2009, etc.) that’s every bit as well-written.