Friday, April 8, 2011

"The Cypress House," by Michael Koryta ~ Amps Up the Suspense!

"The Cypress House" is one of the first novels I'm not sure I will do justice to in a review. It is a book so rich in good writing and suspense that it demands reading to really get a complete sense of how excellent it is. Frankly, Michael Koryta is at the top of authors in this genre, in my opinion, in today's literature.

I am simply exhausted. "The Cypress House" is not a book that allows you to go calmly about your daily business once you've opened it and read the first two paragraphs. I've been fitting it into my schedule, bit by bit, for the last three days, and wishing I could have read it in one sitting. Completely addictive novel...hands down.

Rumors about Michael Koryta's being "one of the best of the best" suspense writers, a quote from Michael Connelly (author of "The Poet," -- a personal favorite), are almost damning him with faint praise, as the saying goes. Koryta is in a league of his own.

He is an artist. His masterful hand, creating time and place, draws one into step with his characters moment by moment, relentlessly. The descriptions Koryta gives are his paintbrush of the reality and truth of things, lying in the minute details. As he mentions the creaky shutters slamming in the wind 'just like the screen door at his old home'...or someting squeaking 'like the swing on the porch' of his father's house, I know exactly what the sound is and where its origin lies. As a Southerner, I see the picture in my head, and I'm there with his characters...visually, in my hearing and viserally. This is only one example of many.

I was drawn into the hearts and minds of Koryta's characters, whether good or evil, and could understand the motives of each. What admirable people the "good guys" are; so worthy of respect, and teachers of morals and virtue. Arlen, the pivitol character, and Paul who are bonded in a sort of father/son companionship, are characters with depth of color, personality and symbolism. Their love interest, the central character, Rebecca, is a young woman caught up in personal struggles and circumstances that ask of her self-sufficiency and criminal wiles not common for women her age.

The reader becomes as entangled in the anxieties and complexities of the characters' problems as they do, even as they seem insurmountable. It is this common bonding under duress that Mr. Koryta so deftly channels that brings us into the situation without our knowing it, until we've become caught up in the horror, ourselves. We become the invisible accomplices with our characters, so that when all is done, our own hearts and minds are as striped to the bare bone as theirs. We are as exhausted as they are. Their triumphs are ours, and their losses, our losses.

Along with his "film noir" story setting in the storm tossed, hurricane season of Florida's Gulf Coast, Michael Koryta also throws us the tangy bit of extra-sensory perception. Arlen has the paranormal gift of seeing the impending, possible death of others. This gift lends another dimension to an already stirling suspense novel. Mr. Koryta has us totally amped-up for the ride...

I could say much more about his expertise as a writer. His use of vocabulary and dialog works to build his characters and their place in the story to perfect pitch. I learned a great deal about the veteran's work program, depression era during post WWI, and the Roosevelt administration. I also learned a bit about a soldier's post traumatic stress syndrome, and its pros and cons. There is so much meat in Koryta's writing.

He magically employs the anthropomorphic technique of natural setting to build suspense and over-hanging doom. A house made of cypress...the wood of coffins, nearly indestructible, and carrying a foreshadowing. The darkness of weather patterns and the damage they reek, as well as the frightening unknowns of the swamp, provide an additional picture of looming danger, as well as the unknown factor of an "act of God," which could turn any plan upside down. Because Koryta employs this powerful technique, we are always set on edge and waiting for the proverbial "shoe to drop." It's excruciatingly wonderful and reminiscent of Faulkner.

"The Cypress House" is a powerful and masterfully written suspense novel. Readers of this genre will, from now on, place Michael Koryta's books among those that they purchase simply on the basis that he wrote them. His first editions will become collectible because he is our next "The Postman Always Rings Twice," suspense author.

His other books include: "So Cold The River," a recent release and,

"Envy The Night," for which he won The LA Times Book Prize for best mystery thriller

Visit his website at:

*Please leave a comment if you've read this book, or want to...

Your Bookish Dame/Deborah


Deb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deb said...

I'm currently reading So Cold The River and I have to say that it's not the best book that I've ever read. While it has kept my attention, the characters seem false to me. But I would be interested in seeing what his latest book is about.

Deborah~ said...

Interesting, Deb... I'm going to take your word for that one...hmmm.
But, please try this "Cypress House." I found it just great reading...spooky and wonderfully told. I loved the characters!