Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
I am delighted to see that Hodder and Stoughton are bringing award-winning US PI writer Michael Koryta to the UK . Kortya wrote a series of Private Eye novels featuring protagonist Lincoln Perry, though his UK debut is a stand-alone So Cold The River, which mixes the PI convention with that of the supernatural. The best way to sum it up is by imaging a hybridization of early Stephen King and Dennis Lehane. The novel debuted early this year in the US to great acclaim which is completely justified, providing the reader a hefty slab of American Gothic.
When failed Hollywood filmmaker Eric Shaw, is approached by Alyssa Bradford to uncover a secret from her sick grandfather Campbell Bradford, little does Shaw realize that it will take him along a very dark journey. Shaw makes a living producing ‘life videos’ for people to ‘celebrate’ their births, marriages and deaths. Separated from his wife, and depressed in failing to hit the big time in the film-world, Shaw contemplates his bleak future pessimistically. So when Alyssa commissions Shaw to research and produce a film about the wealthy family patriarch [Campbell Bradford], Shaw accepts.
Eric Shaw’s journey takes him to West Baden, in Southern Indiana , where he soon discovers that the elderly Campbell Bradford had links to a mysterious hotel, and the local bottled water ‘Pluto Water’. Characters enter and exit Eric’s journey, some who may appear as mysterious as the bed-ridden Campbell Bradford. It’s clear that Campbell is on his death-bed, and the past is catching up on him. Things take a sudden twist when Eric takes a sip from Bradford ’s vial of ‘Pluto Water’, and then Shaw’s troubles really begin. The strangest aspect of this bottled water is its temperature, which even when the room is warm, feels icy to the touch. Trying to separate reality from hallucination becomes an ongoing battle for Shaw as he realizes that there is something rotten at the core of Campbell Bradford’s past; a past that is linked to the West Baden Springs Hotel, which once hosted film stars, politicians, the wealthy and where there is money, gangsters can not be far behind; nor can the secret of the ‘Pluto Water’.
Evocatively written in the style of American Gothic; it at times appears reminiscent of early Stephen King, but is filled with characters from the conventions of noir crime-fiction making it no mere re-working of The Shining. The tale is as chilling as the icy water that binds this tale making Koryta a name to mark high on your reading list.
Highly Recommended for those who like their crime thrillers tinged with the cold touch of the supernatural