Michael Koryta’s THE CYPRESS HOUSE
His first venture was SO COLD THE RIVER which centered on a mysterious spring below an equally mysterious hotel. I thought the novel was OK but just felt the tension built up a little too long and needed to come to a faster ending.
THE CYPRESS HOUSE is almost the complete opposite. I almost gave up at the start because I thought it was a little heavy-handed to begin with but once the story reaches the Cypress House and events begin to unfold, the tension really begins to build. The supernatural element also takes more of a backseat and more traditional crime elements start to drive the story which is why I connected more with this book. SO COLD THE RIVER employed more of a ghostly supernatural element whereas THE CYPRESS HOUSE is much more southern gothic.
The book is set in depression-era Florida. Arlen Wagner is a veteran of the First World War and as a Marine experienced the horrors of Belleau Wood. The war seems to have left him with a strange gift: he can see when a person is about to die. He finds himself stranded in the backwoods of Florida after he disembarks from a train after getting a premonition that those on board are all about to die. He ends up at the Cypress House, a saloon in the middle of nowhere, and soon gets entangled in bootlegging, drug smuggling and murder. All of which seems to be controlled by a local Judge and his loyal Sheriff. The supernatural element, when it is employed, serves the story well rather than taking away from it and makes for an explosively violent (and creepy) finale.
This is much more like the Michael Koryta I love. I wasn’t sure about his genre detour after SO COLD THE RIVER but I am right on board now.
See my video review here