Sunday, February 8, 2009
Koryta's Triumph Stands Alone
ENVY THE NIGHT, by Michael Koryta
You can't always tell a book by its cover blurbs, but the ones decorating Michael Koryta's ENVY THE NIGHT have the crystal ring of truth and admiration. Michael Connelly and George Pelicanos are not often generous to a fault, but Koryta's first stand-alone thriller -- after three books in his excellent series about Indiana private eye Lincoln Perry -- might make you rush out to obtain it and lock yourself in your room until you finish it.
Koryta's Lincoln Perry books were wonderful slices of midwestern noir. But ENVY THE NIGHT is that rarest of literary creatures: a stand-alone thriller that we want to be a series. Could it happen? Could Frank Temple III, the 24-year-old son of a hired killer, and Nora Stafford, at 30 the unwilling proprietor of her comatose father's auto body shop, survive all the dangers they face in the bucolic Wisconsin lakefront town known as Willow Flowage, just down the road from Tomahawk? We live in hope.
"Frank had endured a lot of pity over the years, some genuine, some false," Koryta tells us. "Sometimes it would be expressed directly to him; other times it just showed in their eyes. Poor kid. Imagine having such a monster for a father. The problem, though, the one that Frank saw and nobody else ever could, was that he'd been a good father..."
Nora is another beautifully drawn character, a basically sad young woman forced home by family devotion and now as lonely and displaced as Frank. They bond to stay alive, although even that part of their relationship is frequently tested. Other characters -- an auto body worker from hell who turns out to be some kind of hero, an enigmatic FBI agent who keeps an eye on Frank for guilty reasons of his own, and a motley crew of inept and very ept villains -- are also brought to life with lots of art but very few words.