Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So Cold The River / by Michael Koryta

"He wasn't crazy. There was something about that picture." (p. 8)
Downtrodden filmmaker Eric Shaw is barely making ends meet when a wealthy client hires him to do a video documentary of her father-in-law, a reclusive 95-year-old billionaire named Campbell Bradford. Needing the money, Eric takes the job and travels to the rural town West Baden, Indiana to meet the mysterious nanogenarian soon discovering that there's something very strange about both Bradford and the isolated town itself. Once a resort hotspot, West Baden possesses a natural hot springs reputed to miraculously cure all types of ailments with its special mineral water and, in the spirit of revival, the town has made efforts to revisit its glory years. The resort's once-fabulous hotel, where the wealthy elite congregated decades ago, has even been refurbished to resemble its former grandeur. It's here where Eric has been put up for his stay.
Though he's in OK health, Eric festively takes a swig of the spring's famed natural elixir and immediately begins having visions of an an extraordinarily horrific nature. At the same time, he starts to learn more about Campbell Bradford, both the elderly alive man he interacts with and another Campbell Bradford, one supposedly long dead. In the following days, Eric's dreams and hallucinations become increasingly more coherent, showing him the West Baden that once was and a resurgent evil back from the past. As his surroundings become more distorted and his convictions less certain, Eric does all he can to confront the horror unfolding before him. Koryta's list of mystery-thrillers have impressed in the short span he's been on the radar (he's only 28) and this well-crafted horror tale attests to his skill at storytelling. The hotel in West Baden draws more than a few comparisons to Stephen King's Overlook Hotel in The Shining (FIC KING), but the author fashions his content with his own stylized attributes, evolving the story through the origins of the supernatural evil haunting the characters right up until the inevitable showdown. (FIC KORYTA)

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