Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: 'Those Who Wish Me Dead' by Michael Koryta

In Michael Koryta's "Those Who Wish Me Dead," the author creates a pair of cold-blooded killers who are all the more terrifying because of their eerie calm. When facing their prey, Jack and Patrick Blackwell banter with one another as if no one else were in earshot. The Blackwells' chatter would be amusing if they were not merciless sociopaths who torture, maim, and execute their victims without breaking a sweat.

The novel takes place is rural Montana, where Ethan Serbin and his wife, Allison, make a fateful decision to help a youngster in distress. At the behest of a former acquaintance, Ethan allows an adolescent boy, whose identity is to be kept secret for his own safety, to join a group of troubled youth in Ethan's survival skills course. For years, Serbin has been spending his summers teaching hard-to-reach kids to navigate difficult terrain, start campfires, build shelters, and think ahead. When it becomes evident that trouble is at hand, even Ethan, who prides himself on his ability to handle any eventuality, is unprepared for what he is about to encounter. Also in danger is former firefighter Hannah Faber; she knows from first-hand experience how perilous and unpredictable forest fires can be.

"Those Who Wish Me Dead" is an electrifying and violent work of fiction that has several shocking twists and an atmosphere of escalating menace that culminates in a bloody final confrontation. Ethan, Allison, Hannah, and the young man they try to help endure an agonizing ordeal that tests their courage, altruism, and ability to outthink their adversaries. Although the plot has several far-fetched elements that require a sizeable suspension of disbelief, Koryta makes up for this deficit with his effectively understated prose style, fine use of setting, and well-crafted scenes of action, adventure, murder, and mayhem.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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