So Cold The River, by Michael Koryta – Book Review

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.

Read More Reviews At: You’ve Gotta Read This ~ Jenn’s Bookshelves Bermudaonion

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Review Copy.

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  1. The only thing in common between this story and The Shining is the big spooky hotel. I enjoyed this book because I’ve been to French Lick and the hotel; it is always fun to read about something you’ve experienced. But you are right, some of the characters were not well-developed. I thought the antagonist was almost a parody. I have Cypress House in my stacks (signed by the author from SIBA!) and I’ll be attempting to get that one read in the next month or two.

  2. I absolutely loved this book, and for many of the reasons Sandy mentioned. I’ve been to the area, I was lucky enough to visit the hotel during the renovation. How absurd for someone to compare this to the Shining! As you and others have mentioned, the fact that part of it takes place in a hotel is the only similiarity I see. I have Koryta’s next book in my review stack & I can’t wait to start it.

  3. Hmmm, I’ve heard lots of good things about this but still haven’t felt compelled to read it. Based on your review it sounds like I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it that much anyway. =/

  4. Meandering is not a good thing for me. I would’ve probably given this one up. Read his next one for us would you and let us know if he gets any better 😀

  5. I have never heard of this one, but this sounds interesting. But like Stacy, I think I will wait for your review of the other one 🙂

  6. The synopsis of this book is really intriguing…but based on your review it sounds like So Cold the River has been for you what The Historian has been for me: begins with a bang, and then the rest of the book just feels superfluous after such an interest-peaking start. The Historian is one that I have enjoyed, but find to be much too long. I’ve set it aside for a while. A lot of the middle sections could have been cut out to make the book more concise. Sounds like this one could use some cuts, too, but I still may check it out later since I do have it in one of my boxes somewhere.

  7. This one sounds good to me, and I’ve mostly read positive reviews, so it’s nice to see some flaws pointed out. It sounds interesting, but it’s probably one of those that will live on my TBR pile forever.

  8. I’m actually relieved by your review. This book is a DNF for me and I read about 75% before bailing. I don’t appreciate this genre and he lost me with the water and the old lady (sorry… reading it a year ago I have forgotten some of the details). I did scan the rest to see how it turned out… and didn’t review it.