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Chris High books reviewed

So Cold the River - Michael Koryta

Hodder & Stoughton

September 2, 2010

Front cover of the book 'So Cold the River' written by Michael Koryta

Chilling, compelling and captivating ... just three “C” words that don’t even begin to say just how good Michael Koryta’s So Cold the River actually is. Many may have tried and all have failed to “Out-King” Stephen King, but Koryta – with his consummate story-telling powers – can place this well and truly in the same league as anything the so-called Master of Horror has ever accomplished, without ever cloning the great man’s style in any way.


Ninety-five-year-old millionaire Campbell Bradford is dying. His family have hired ex-filmmaker Eric Shaw to make a documentary about him, but Campbell’s childhood is shrouded in mystery. The only clues to his past are the name of his hometown and an antique glass water bottle that he’s kept his entire life.

Arriving in West Baden with the bottle and a camera, Shaw begins to have vivid and disturbing visions. And the more he finds out about the town and the man, the more he suspects that something besides the West Baden Springs Hotel has just been restored
Eric Shaw, Josiah Bradford, Anne McKinney and Danny Hastings – along with all of the others in this startling novel –are such rounded, multi-dimensional characters, it almost as though the reader can reach into the page and touch, hold or punch them. The fact that the setting, as explained in the author’s notes, is genuine helps give the story as a whole a depth and sense of credibility that might otherwise be lost and so help the Indiana towns of West Baden and French Lick become extremely powerful characters in their own right and so add a further dimension and colour to proceedings.

Above all, however, it is the plot itself that makes this novel as mesmerising as it is. The manner in which the story moves between past and present so seamlessly and at such a tremendous pace is as though a film is being painted in prose before the reader’s eyes and so automatically lifts them from their seats and places them at the very hub of the action from word one, page one and so carries them along until the very end.

A short story that evolved into a five-hundred + page novel, it is credit to Koryta’s skills that never once does his story become confused or clichéd and that each turning point is so well defined and yet so well disguised, we are constantly surprised and, therefore, begging for more.

With five mainstream crime novels to his name in the USA, Koryta has ventured onto pastures new, with is what is, ostensibly a horror/fantasy novel, with such aplomb it can only be hoped that his other work be made available sooner rather than later.

So Cold The River by Michael Koryta is a truly memorable novel that will, like a shock summer storm, have you gasping tirelessly for breath from first word to last.

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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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