In So Cold The River, by Michael Koryta, Eric Shaw is a failed filmmaker, newly separated from his wife, and in the process of establishing himself as a videographer of the deceased- creating short pieces to show at their funerals. He has always had the knack for sussing out hidden truths, and that talent calls him to the attention of Alyssa Bradshaw, daughter -in-law of wealthy business tycoon Campbell Bradford. Alyssa hires Eric to produce a film uncovering Campbell’s mysterious origins in a town once famous for mineral springs. An old bottle of mineral water, Pluto Water, is all Eric has to go on. Things get really strange when he decides to have a taste.
I heard such good things about this book and it got off to a great start. I was interested to learn more about, Eric and the reasons for his failing marriage, the Bradford family and the Pluto Water that had been causing Eric to have such strange visions. Were those visions really caused by the water or were they from Eric himself? The questions surrounding the town and the mysteries rooted in the past were fascinating. I loved the character of Anne McKinney, a tenacious and intelligent senior citizen, who feels deeply connected to the town’s history and curious weather patterns.
My main complaint is that the story meandered a little too much for me in the middle, and ultimately ended up being too long. The same issues were explored with no real advancing of the storyline, and some of the characters were a little thin and lacked a richness that would have kept me interested in them. I also, unfortunately, had heard comparisons to The Shining, and I was a little baffled by that aspect. While hotels are featured in this novel, they provide a sense of place and history, more than they are truly creepy characters, integral to the action. While I read on to see how it would end, the book never completely recaptured its initial magic and I wasn’t mildly frightened, much less really scared.
Koryta has a new book, The Cypress House, coming out in January. I have read that So Cold The River is a bit of a departure for him, so he could just be finding his legs a bit here – although most others seem to have enjoyed this one immensely. His story ideas and writing interested me enough that I will likely try the new book, or one of his old ones, before deciding if his books are for me.