Review: Rise the Dark by Michael Koryta

9781473614574.jpgRise the Dark, the second book in the Markus Novak series, is a masterful suspense novel, replete with crackling prose, nail-biting thrills, and a crackerjack pace. Dangling the plausibility of physic possibility, and pushing its characters to their physical and mental limits, Michael Koryta has crafted a thriller that will induce an unprecedented kind of page-turning compulsivity. In other words, it’s very, very good.

Picking up soon after the end of Last Words, Markus returns to Montana in pursuit of his wife’s murderer, Garland Webb, who has joined a cult hell-bent on bringing down the electrical grid and blaming it on Islamic terrorists. During his pursuit of Webb, Markus meets Jay Baldwin, who has been pulled into the cult leader’s nefarious plans following the abduction of his wife, Sabrina. Jay is a former lineman, whose knowledge of electricity and the grid is essential to the cult pulling off their spectacular feat; and as long as his wife is in danger, Jay will do precisely what they command, regardless of the consequences. Also involved with the cult is Novak’s mother, Violet – a physic reader, whose supernatural proclivities appear to be manifesting within Markus in the subtlest of ways, much to his chagrin.

This hodgepodge of elements is thrown together and seamlessly blended into a damn fine thriller, with high doses of intrigue and tension. Novak’s mission of vengeance gives the novel severe personal-stakes, but the larger implications of the electrical grid going down skyrockets the potential implications of his failure. While Novak’s a fairly flat protagonist, the supporting cast adds much-needed colour and vibrancy. Uncle Larry, Violet’s shotgun-wielding brother, is a particular hit, but kudos needs to go to Kortya for allowing his two female leads to demonstrate genre-defying strength in their captivity. Rather than being utilised as stereotypical damsels-in-distress, and waiting to be rescued, they’re given ample opportunity to flex their sizable muscles, and kick plenty of ass.

With a genuine cliff-hanger that’ll leave you exasperated when you realise you’ll have to wait a year for any semblance of a resolution, Rise the Dark is one of the year’s best thrillers. Koryta is quickly climbing the ladder as one of my favourite authors.

ISBN: 9781473614581
Format: Paperback (234mm x 155mm x 30mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 25-Aug-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Last Words by Michael Koryta

Last WordsThe perennially sublime Michael Koryta delivers an uneven series launch with Last Words. While the eerie, claustrophobic scenes deep inside Garrison’s massive cave are an obvious highlight, demonstrating Koryta’s extraordinary ability to create moments of pulse-pounding tension from natural environs, the overall plot is a tad uninspired. Well executed for sure, and a definite page-turner; just lacking the spark of, say, Those Who Wish Me Dead.

Markus Novak has been dispatched – banished, really – to Garrison, Indiana to asses a cold case he’s certain his boss has no intention of taking. He knows his superiors just want him out of the office while his future is discussed. Novak is a private investigator for a Florida-based Death Row defence firm, and was a good one, until the murder of his wife two years ago. That case still unsolved, Novak’s life has become one arduous downward spiral, to the extent he’s flirted with less-than-legal means to avenge her death. The case in Garrison – a decade-old cold case involving a dead girl found inside an elaborate cave system by the inscrutable Ridley Barnes – is designed to get Novak out of the way and take his mind off matters at home. But its hooks soon sink deep into his skin: how can Ridley Barnes have no memory of that night? Why is the town’s Sheriff so desperate for Novak to leave? And when Novak himself ends up drugged, and trapped naked inside the same cave system the girl was found in ten years earlier, it becomes personal. Novak won’t stop until he discerns the truth about this small town, and the events of a decade ago.

Koryta evokes wonderful imagery and tension when his characters explore Garrison’s caves. The terror of losing oneself in pitch darkness is intense; so too the realisation that one is beginning to experience the onset of hypothermia. These scenes prove to be the novel’s foundation; it’s unfortunate that the rest of the plot can’t reach the same level. There is nothing technically wrong with the narrative; but the whole ‘outsider comes to town to investigate its hidden past’ shtick has been done to death – and Koryta’s take feels perfunctory rather than innovative.

Last Words leaves the obligatory plot threads dangling for its sequel, and while Markus Novak isn’t a particularly noteworthy protagonist, he deserves a second round to validate his place in the vast echelon of private eyes.  This isn’t Michael Koryta’s finest, but his storytelling remains top-notch, and he remains a cut above the competition.

ISBN: 9780316122634
Format: Hardback (236mm x 150mm x 41mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Little, Brown & Company
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publish Date: 18-Aug-2015
Country of Publication: United States