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Michael Koryta ‘The Ridge’ Review


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Written by: James Keen

“I’m getting scared of the dark. I’m getting scared of what I could do in the dark.” -The Ridge.

Michael Koryta’s novel ‘The Ridge’ is a beguiling mixture of literary types; it combines the macabre elements of a modern-day gothic horror tale with the archetypes of the hard boiled police thriller, managing, for the most part, to appease the requirements of both. A well-researched narrative that contains sufficient shocks and twists that ensures the reader is fairly well engaged throughout.

It’s commendable that Koryta is evidently not at all timid when it comes to setting up his overall premise; the area of Blade Ridge -the novel’s primary location- “as isolated a pocket of the world as you’ll find east of the Mississippi” is home to a wooden lighthouse built in the middle of the woods by a once “gifted carpenter” and a nearby newly-installed enclosure for exotic felines implemented by a widower who recently lost her husband in an accident to the nearby Marshall River. It’s an odd and original setting that confounds the reader’s expectations regarding the typical ‘ghost story’ milieu-no graveyards nor century-old mansions inhabit this particular landscape.

The author’s chief protagonist in ‘The Ridge’ is the recognizable character motif of police deputy Kevin Kimble, a middle-aged, career-driven companionless figure, seemingly content with being “one of those boys who inexplicably becomes identified by his last name”. ‘Kimble’,  from the outset is evidently a tormented individual as the opening chapter quickly establishes with a twin-pronged dilemma for his principal character. On his pre-dawn journey to a Women’s Prison Kimble receives a disturbing call on his cell phone from the elderly, locally-shunned social pariah, Wyatt French; French talks of suicide and questions Kimble as to how rigorous his likely investigation of such an event would be.  His subsequent meeting with an inmate at the prison, Jaqueline Mathis, proves to be equally unsettling and the reader begins to realize that there is a rich and ominous back-story to the tale that the author is embarking upon.

Koryta has fashioned an involving and bracing narrative here, complete with interestingly drawn characters, sharp description and an ending to his novel that is well-rounded and pleasantly rewarding. At its heart, ‘The Ridge’ is an effectively realized modern-day ghost story. Koryta is adept at utilising a by-now standard set of ideas and craftily exploiting those to define his own version of the preternatural. Where the author arguably becomes unstuck are those instances in the text that while they are structurally sound are unfortunately hollow and artificial in terms of plausibility where characters motivations are concerned. There is a moment  that occurs at roughly the mid-point of the novel that this reviewer would contend seriously undermines the intention of the author and the credibility of the plot; however, if you are willing to forgive this curiously incongruent lapse the book proves to be a  tense, bloody and overall engaging affair.

Buy the book and give it a go!

Rating: 3/5

 

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

8 Comments on Michael Koryta ‘The Ridge’ Review

  1. One of my most favourite authors, and probably so far my favourite among all his books (which are all great, imho). Excellent and telling review!

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    • James Keen // March 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm // Reply

      Thank you. Just hope I wasn’t too harsh in giving an overall grade. Can you recommend other titles by Koryta you’d like to see reviewed here?

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      • I surely can! Mr. Koryta has a series going involving a private detective, but he has two earlier novels which are Supernatural and/or horrific: So Cold the River, and The Cypress House. Both are incredible novels, in my opinion, and definitely rereaders. He manages to make the Supernatural/horror elements “realistic,” I think even for readers who generally wouldn’t reach for a novel of that type. He is an author who is on my always-read list no matter what he writes about.

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  2. James Keen // March 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm // Reply

    I’ve just started ‘So Cold The River’ and I’m aware of ‘The Cypress House’ so maybe -Matt Molgaard willing – I’ll be able to post a review or two in the next couple of weeks.
    He strikes me as an author more than capable of juggling the requirements of good story-telling while also managing to elicit an emotional response from the reader, to wit, there’s a section of the ‘The Ridge’ pertaining to the game-keeper Wesley Harrington and his relationship with the big cat, Kino, that is profoundly moving.

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    • I was amazed when I learned last year that his first novel was written when he was quite young (20 or 21 I believe) because I would have sworn he was an accomplished novelist of many years and many works. I certainly hope you will be able to review those for HNR; these novels deserve a wide audience.

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      • James Keen // March 18, 2013 at 6:53 pm //

        I was similarly surprised at how young he is. I was recommended this particular book, The Ridge, by a friend of mine who knew I’d run out of Michael Connelly novels to read, telling me I wouldn’t be disappointed…and I certainly wasn’t.
        Hope to get a ‘So Cold The River’ review posted here very soon -I’ll have a word with the boss.

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  3. Hey James, would you be interested in pursuing a Q&A with Michael if we can make it happen?

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