Monday, January 22, 2018
Books

Review: Michael Koryta sparks a sizzling thriller

You won't find a hotter summer thriller than Michael Koryta's Those Who Wish Me Dead.

Not only does its plot sizzle with one shocking turn after another; it also involves a massive forest fire so vividly described you almost expect the edges of the pages to be scorched.

Koryta has a home in St. Petersburg and is an alumnus of Eckerd College's Writers in Paradise program. He started his career as an author a decade ago at age 21 when he published his first novel, Tonight I Said Goodbye, which won the Private Eye Writers of America award for best first novel. Koryta has written series detective fiction, ghost stories, historical fiction and more. Those Who Wish Me Dead, his tenth book, is a classic thriller in which an innocent is pursued by deadly enemies.

That innocent is Jace Wilson, a 14-year-old Indiana boy who, in the book's first chapter, accidentally witnesses a murder — or rather, an execution performed by a pair of icily professional hit men. Jace manages to hide from the killers that day, but it's soon clear his life is in danger.

In the second chapter we meet Ethan Serbin, who "left the Air Force after years working as a survival instructor in every climate known to man and made his home in the Montana mountains." He and his wife, Allison, have a home in the shadow of the Beartooth range. Ethan now teaches survival skills in private seminars and, in the summers, runs a camp for troubled teenagers, taking them up into the rugged, remote mountains and teaching them skills beyond starting campfires and blazing trails. "One of the things he learned, teaching those warriors, was that a survivor had specific skills, and almost all of them were between the ears, a convergence of cognitive prowess and emotional control."

One night during a blizzard, one of Ethan's former students shows up. Jamie Bennett is a private bodyguard, and she begs Ethan to take Jace (under an alias) into his group of kids as a way to get the boy entirely "off the grid" and out of the killers' reach. Despite Allison's qualms, Ethan agrees.

The boy proves an apt pupil, and that's good, because those two killers turn up with alarming speed. Jack and Patrick Blackwell are brothers, blond and pale-eyed and disturbingly close. They carry on conversations with each other as if the people they're preying on can't even hear them, as one character says: "The way they say things. Like they're alone in the world. Like it was built for the two of them and they're lords over it." They are frighteningly formidable foes, and men who enjoy their work.

Also in the mix is Hannah Faber, a young woman who was a firefighter on a hotshot team until one disastrous day a year before. Now she is working as a fire spotter in an isolated tower high in the Beartooths, licking her emotional wounds and enjoying her solitude — until Jace shows up at her aerie.

He does so not long after Hannah has spotted her first fire, one that was started by the Blackwell brothers in the commission of yet another murder, and one that will grow into a gigantic wildfire that will threaten the lives of all of the characters as their pursuits of Jace — either to harm or to help him — converge.

Koryta builds the book's suspense with impressive skill, shifting among different characters' points of view to keep the reader constantly on edge. He researches his books intensively, and for Those Who Wish Me Dead he enrolled in a survival training camp, hiked the Beartooths and conferred with hotshot teams. It shows in the many details that flesh out the action, from descriptions of the terrain and the fire's movement across it to a hair-raising "flint and steel" lightning storm amid the mountaintops.

All of it will keep you rapidly turning the pages, and maybe considering a survival course before your next foray into the woods. As Ethan says, "Anticipate and recover, anticipate and recover. If you could do the first well, you were ahead of most people. If you could do both well? You were a survivor."

Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.

Comments
‘Year in Provence’ author Peter Mayle dies at 78

‘Year in Provence’ author Peter Mayle dies at 78

Peter Mayle, whose international bestseller A Year in Provence sent countless tourists to the vineyards and lavender fields of Southern France, has died.In an email, Mr. Mayle’s publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, reported that he died Thursday in a hospital...
Published: 01/18/18

Events: Bob Woodward to speak at Mahaffey

Book TalkAuthor and journalist Roy Peter Clark (Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer) will lead a workshop, "How to Read Like a Writer," at 2 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Tickets $5.Bob Woodward ...
Published: 01/18/18
Notable: Books from those countries

Notable: Books from those countries

NotableBooks from those countriesHere are books by immigrants from some of the countries recently disparaged by the president. Americanah (Anchor) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a brilliant novel set in this country and in the author’s native Nigeria,...
Published: 01/18/18
Review: Tim Dorsey’s ‘The Pope of Palm Beach’ reveals a sweeter side of Serge Storms

Review: Tim Dorsey’s ‘The Pope of Palm Beach’ reveals a sweeter side of Serge Storms

It’s an odd thing to say about a book in the Serge Storms series, but The Pope of Palm Beach is really kind of sweet.Serge might not want to hear that. He does, after all, kill people, in highly creative ways, when he’s not in manic pursuit of his pa...
Published: 01/18/18
‘Fire and Fury’ burns up bestseller lists

‘Fire and Fury’ burns up bestseller lists

When author Michael Wolff was interviewed on the Today show about his book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Savannah Guthrie asked him how he felt about President Donald Trump’s attacks on it. Wolff responded, "Where do I send the box of ...
Published: 01/17/18

Events: Writers in Paradise features Banks, Lippman, more

Book TalkThe Writers in Paradise evening readings continue this week. All readings will take place in the Miller Auditorium at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Books will be available for purchase on site. All readings are free and o...
Published: 01/11/18
Notable: Books on Trump, one year in

Notable: Books on Trump, one year in

NotableOne year inWith the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration approaching, here are new books about him. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt) by Michael Wolff is the incendiary look at the administration that provoke...
Published: 01/11/18
Andre Dubus III reads to ‘sink more deeply’ into the human condition

Andre Dubus III reads to ‘sink more deeply’ into the human condition

NightstandAndre Dubus IIIEckerd College’s Writers in Paradise conference takes place this week, and one of the returning faculty members is Andre Dubus III. Dubus is the author of six books, including Bluesman, Townie and two novels turned films, The...
Published: 01/11/18
Steph Post’s Florida noir ‘Walk in the Fire’ a sizzling sequel to ‘Lightwood’

Steph Post’s Florida noir ‘Walk in the Fire’ a sizzling sequel to ‘Lightwood’

In Steph Post’s new novel, Walk in the Fire, there’s a young aspiring criminal with a gift for astute observation. Asked to describe the tiny Central Florida town of Silas, where much of the book takes place, he says, "You drive through and it’s like...
Published: 01/11/18
Former Times columnist Klinkenberg named Florida Folk Heritage Award winner

Former Times columnist Klinkenberg named Florida Folk Heritage Award winner

Raise a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and toast former Tampa Bay Times columnist Jeff Klinkenberg. This week, he was announced as one of three 2018 winners of the Florida Folk Heritage Awards.The awards honor outstanding folk artists and folk ...
Published: 01/10/18