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!