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.