Envy the Night

( 17 )


"It has been seven years since Frank Temple III joined the rest of the world in learning his father's bloody secret: The U.S. marshal maintained a covert career as a contract killer, a double-life that ended in suicide to avoid prosecution and prison." "The shocking revelation triggered years of anonymous drifting for Frank, time spent running from his legacy and struggling to believe that the father he'd loved so dearly was entirely in the wrong. After all, the victims hadn't been innocents. And Devin Matteson, the man who'd lured his father ...
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"It has been seven years since Frank Temple III joined the rest of the world in learning his father's bloody secret: The U.S. marshal maintained a covert career as a contract killer, a double-life that ended in suicide to avoid prosecution and prison." "The shocking revelation triggered years of anonymous drifting for Frank, time spent running from his legacy and struggling to believe that the father he'd loved so dearly was entirely in the wrong. After all, the victims hadn't been innocents. And Devin Matteson, the man who'd lured his father into the killing game only to later give him up to the FBI, is probably the darkest of the lot. Those are troubling thoughts, and Frank tries to stay away from them. But when an old family friend calls to say that Matteson is returning to the isolated Wisconsin lake that was once sacred ground for their families, it's a homecoming Frank knows he can't allow." "His arrival in town reveals a situation far from the expected, though." While Matteson is nowhere to be found, his old cabin is indeed occupied - by a strange, beautiful woman and a nervous man with a gun. When a pair of assassins from Miami arrive on their heels, Frank knows Matteson can't be far behind. And while the wise move would be to call in the police and get out of town fast, that just doesn't feel right. After all, contract killer or not, Frank's father was at heart a teacher. And his son excelled at the lessons.
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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Michael Koryta earns a seat at the high table of neo-noir crime writers by putting a fresh spin on the fathers-and-sons narrative so many of his peers feel compelled to write over and over again. In Envy the Night, he gives substance to the usual drivel about young men burdened by the sins of their dead fathers—by making the old man a hired killer. That legacy genuinely merits the existential angst driving the 25-year-old Frank Temple III in his vendetta against Devin Matteson, the man he believes betrayed his father.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Revenge drives this superb stand-alone from Edgar-finalist Koryta (A Welcome Grave). Frank Temple II, a U.S. marshal, commits suicide after a tip leads to the exposure of his secret life as a hit man. Seven years later, Frank II's 24-year-old son, Frank Temple III, learns from an old Vietnam pal of his father's that the man who ratted out Frank II, Devin Matteson, is returning to Wisconsin from Florida. Temple heads to his father's cabin in remote Willow Flowage, Wis., to confront Matteson, who first recruited Frank II into the assassination game. Temple realizes that there's more at stake than his vendetta against Matteson, as he encounters a group of ruthless killers and joins forces with Nora Stafford, the owner of an auto repair shop. Koryta's dialogue is as sharp as the knives his characters wield, and his plot twists at the most unexpected moments. This thriller places Koryta solidly in the company of the genre's most powerful voices. Author tour. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
“Koryta is one of the best of the best, plain and simple.”—Michael Connelly

“With Envy the Night, Koryta earns a seat at the high table of neo-noir crime writers.”—The New York Times

“A heart-pounding thriller.” —Boston Globe

“Koryta’s best work to date.” —George Pelecanos

The Barnes & Noble Review
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 (A Welcome Grave was an Edgar finalist). 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. --Dick Adler
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312357412
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/4/2009
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 200,121
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Koryta

Michael Koryta’s first novel, the Edgar-nominated Tonight I Said Goodbye, was published when he was just twenty-one, and was followed by Sorrow’s Anthem and A Welcome Grave. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he has worked as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. His work has been translated into more than ten languages.

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Read an Excerpt

Envy the Night

By Koryta, Michael
St. Martin's Minotaur
Copyright © 2008

Koryta, Michael
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312361587

Chapter One

Frank Temple III walked out of the county jail at ten in the morning with a headache, a citation for public intox, and a notion that it was time to leave town.

It wasn’t the arrest that convinced him. That had been merely a nightcap to an evening of farewells—Frank hanging from the streetlamp outside of Nick’s on Kirkwood Avenue, looking down into the face of a bored cop who’d seen too many drunks and saying, “Officer, I’d like to report a missing pair of pants.”

It hadn’t been the hours in the detox cell, either. Frank was one of six in the cell, and one of just two who managed not to vomit. Sitting with his backagainst the cold concrete block wall listening to some poor son of a bitch retch in the corner, Frank considered the jail, the people who checked in and didn’t check out the next morning, the way he would. He considered the harsh fluorescent lights reflecting off gray and beige paint, the dead quality of the air, the hard looks the men inside developed to hide the hopelessness. It would be the same when the sun rose as when it set, except you wouldn’t be sure when that happened, couldn’t even use the sun to gauge the lack of change. He considered all of that, and knew that if he could understand only one thing about his father, it was the decision he’d made to avoidthis place.

This was the second time Frank had been in a jail. The first was for a drunk driving charge in a small North Carolina town two years earlier. He had failed the Breathalyzer but requested field sobriety testing anyhow, his booze- addled brain sure that he could pass. After watching Frank stumble and stagger through the first exercise, the cop put an end to it, said, “Doesn’t look like your balance is too good, kid.” Frank, leaning against the car for support, had waved him closer, as if about to impart a secret of the highest magnitude. The cop leaned down, and when he was close enough, Frank whispered, “Inner ear infection.”

He had the cuffs on and was in the back of the car before he was finished explaining the connection between one’s sinuses and one’s balance. His was not a receptive audience.

So this was the second trip to a jail, and even if his father hadn’t found a coward’s way to avoid a life sentence, the number would be the same. Frank wouldn’t have visited. But he also couldn’t hide the thought, listening to those drunks mumble and belch and vomit beside him, that maybe the reason he put himself in situations like this was because he wanted a taste. Just a taste, that was all, something he could walk back into the free world with and think—that’s what it would’ve been like for him.

He’d been chased into the night of drinking by one disturbing phone message and one pretentious professor. The message had come first, left by a voice he hadn’t heard in many years.

Frank, it’s Ezra. Ezra Ballard. Been a long time, hasn’t it? You sound older on your message. Anyhow, I’m calling because, well . . . he’s coming back, Frank. I just got a call from Florida telling me to open up the cabin. Now, I’m not telling you to do anything, don’t even care if you call me back. I’m just keeping my word, right? Just keeping my word, son. He’s coming back, and now I’ve told you.

Frank hadn’t returned the call. He intended to let it go. Knew that he should, at least. By the end of the day, though, he was done in Bloomington. A single semester of school—his fifth college in seven years, no degree achieved or even threatened—and Frank was done again. He’d come here to work with a writer named Walter Thorp (Walt to my friends, and I hate all of them for it), whose work Frank had admired for years. Bloomington was closer to home than Frank had allowed himself to come in years, but Thorp was a visiting professor, there for only one semester, and he couldn’t pass up that chance. It had gone well, too. Thorp was good, better even than Frank had expected, and Frank had worked his ass off for a few months. Read like crazy, wrote like crazy, saw good things happening on the page. The last week of the semester brought an e-mail from Thorp, requesting a meeting, and Frank used that as encouragement to push Ezra Ballard’s call out of his mind. Focus on the future, don’t drown in the past.

That was his mantra when he went to the cramped office on the third floor of Sycamore Hall, sat there and listened as Thorp, glancing occasionally at that gold watch he always wore on the inside of his wrist, complimented Frank’s writing, told him that he’d seen “great strides” during the semester, that Frank clearly had “powerful stories to tell.” Frank nodded and thanked his way through it, feeling good, validated in his decision to come here, to ignore that phone call.

“I’ve never done this for a student before,” Thorp said, arching an eyebrow, “but I’d like to introduce you to my agent.”

Frank couldn’t even feel the elation yet; this was that much of a surprise. Just looked back at Thorp and didn’t speak, waited to see what else would be said.

“In fact,” Thorp added, tracing the edge of his desk with a fingertip, eyes away from Frank’s, “I’ve already mentioned you to him a few times. He’s interested. Very interested. But he was wondering—we both were, really—have you ever given thought to writing nonfiction? Maybe a memoir?”

Frank got it then. He felt his jaw tighten and his eyes go flat and he stared at the old- fashioned window behind Thorp’s head and wondered what the great writer would look like flying through it, landing on the terrace three floors below.

“I only ask because your story, and the way it intersects with your father’s story, well, it could be quite compelling. To have that in addition to your own narrative gifts, Frank, is quite a package. Nate—he’s my agent—he thinks the market would be fantastic. You might even be able to get a deal on just a synop and a few sample chapters. Nate thinks an auction would be possible, and that’s the sort of circumstance where the dollar figures can go through the—”

He had the good sense not to follow Frank out the door and down the steps. Ten hours later, Frank was in the jail, all the amusement left in his drunken mind vanishing when the booking officer looked up from the paperwork and said, “No middle name?”

Nope, no middle name. Too bad, because going by your middle name was an easy thing—provided you had one. But he didn’t. Just that Roman numeral tacked on the end, Frank Temple III, the next step in the legacy, a follow- up act to two war heroes and one murderer.

They’d put him into the detox cell then, left him there to wait for sobriety, left him with swirling thoughts of his father and Thorp and the message. Oh, yes, the message. He’d deleted it, but there would be no need to play it again anyhow. It was trapped in his brain, cycled through a dozen times as he sat awake waiting for morning.

He’s coming back.

He was not allowed to come back. Frank and Ezra had promised one another that, agreed that they’d let him live out his days down there in Miami so long as he never tried to return, but now there was this phone call from Ezra saying that after seven years the son of a bitch had decided to test their will, call that old bluff.

All right, then. If he would return, then so would Frank.


He was northbound by noon, the Jeep loaded with his possessions. Except loaded wasn’t the right word, because Frank always traveled light so he could pack fast. The quicker he packed, the easier it was to ignore his father’s guns. He didn’t want them, never had. Through nineteen states and who knew how many towns in the last seven years, though, they’d traveled with him. Other than the guns, he had a laptop computer, two suitcases full of clothes, and a pile of books and CDs thrown into a cardboard box. Twenty- five years of life, it seemed like he should have more than that, but Frank had stopped accumulating things a long time ago. It was better to be able to move on without being burdened by a lot of objects that reminded you only of where you’d just been.

West through Illinois before heading north, to avoid the gridlock and construction that always blanketed Chicago, then across the state line and into Wisconsin as the sun disappeared, the destination still hours ahead. Tomahawk, a name Frank would’ve dismissed as cliché if he’d written it for a North Woods lake town. The town was real enough, though, and so were his memories of it.

His father wouldn’t be there. Devin Matteson would be. If Ezra’s call was legitimate, then Devin was returning for the first time in seven years. And if Frank had an ounce of sense, he’d be driving in the opposite direction. What lay ahead, a confrontation with Devin, was the sort of possibility that Grady Morgan had warned him he had to avoid. Grady was one of the FBI agents who’d brought down Frank’s father. Grady was also a damn good man. Frank had been close to him for a while, as close as he had been to anyone for a few months during the worst of it, but then the media sniffed that relationship out and Frank left Chicago and Grady behind. They hadn’t talked much since.

He drove past Madison in the dark and pushed on. He hadn’t eaten all day, just drank Gatorade and swallowed ibuprofen and drove, hoping to do it all in one stretch, with just a few stops for gas and to exercise sore muscles. Before he reached Stevens Point, though, he knew he wasn’t going to make it. The hangover had killed his appetite, but he’d needed food if he was going to stay awake, and now the fatigue was beginning to overpower him. There was a rest stop ahead, maybe the last one he’d see for a while, and he pulled off and parked. Lowered the driver’s seat as far as it would go, enough to let his legs stretch a bit, and then he slept.


It was a Big Brother kind of thing, no doubt about it, but Grady Morgan had kept an active monitor on Frank Temple III for seven years. It wasn’t proper, or even really legal, because Frank had no role whatsoever in anything that could still be considered an active investigation for Grady. But nobody had noticed or cared or commented yet, and as long as they didn’t, he’d keep watching. Without a touch of remorse. He owed the kid at least this much.

The feelers Grady had out there in the world, computers that ran daily checks on Frank’s fingerprints and Social Security number, had been quiet for a long time. As had the phone lines and the e-mails and the mailbox. No word from Frank in quite a while, and there were times when Grady ached to speak to him, check in, but he didn’t. He just went to work every day and eyed the calendar that showed retirement was not far away and hoped that Frank would continue to stay off the radar screen. Grady didn’t want to see a blip.

Here was one. The wrong kind of blip, too, an arrest in Indiana, and when it first came through to his computer Grady felt an immediate sick swirl go through his stomach, and he actually looked away from the screen for a moment, not wanting to read the details.

“Shit, Frank,” he muttered. “Don’t do this to me.”

Then he sighed and rubbed a forehead that was always growing, chasing the gray hair right off his skull, and he turned back to the computer screen and read the details of the arrest. When he got through, he let out a breath of relief. Public intoxication. That was it. The second arrest in seven years, the second time Grady had felt this chill of sorrow, and the second time he could roll his eyes and chalk it up as No Big Deal, Kids Being Kids.

He hoped.

As he pushed back from his desk and walked to the window and looked out at the Chicago skyline, he sent a silent request to Frank Temple III somewhere out there across the miles.

Tell me it was just fun. Tell me, Frank, that you were out with some buddies having beers and chasing girls and laughing like idiots, like happy, happy idiots. Tell me that there was no fight involved, no temper, no violence, not even a closed fist. You’ve made it a long way.

A long, long way.

Frank III had been eighteen years old when Grady met him. A slender, good- looking kid with dark features contrasted by bright blue eyes, and a maturity that Grady hadn’t seen in a boy of that age before, so utterly cool that Grady actually asked a psychologist for advice on talking to him. He’s showing nothing, Grady had said. Every report we’ve got says he was closer to his father than anyone, and he is showing nothing.

He showed something in the third interview. It had been just him and Grady sitting in the Temple living room, and Grady, desperate for some way to get the kid talking, had pointed at a framed photograph of father and son on a basketball court and said, Did he teach you how to play?

The kid had sat there and looked at him and seemed almost amused. Then he’d said, You want to know what he taught me? Stand up.

So Grady stood up. When the kid said, Take that pen and try it to touch to my heart. Hell, try to touch it anywhere. Pretend it’s a knife, Grady hadn’t wanted to. All of a sudden this was seeming like a real bad idea, but the kid’s eyes were intense, and so Grady said what the hell and made one quick thrust, thinking he’d lay the pen against the kid’s chest and be done with it.

The speed. Oh, man, the speed. The kid’s hands had moved faster than anybody’s Grady had ever seen, trapped his wrist and rolled it back and the pen was pointing at Grady’s throat in a heartbeat’s time.

Half- assed effort, Frank Temple III had said. Try again. For real this time.

So he’d tried again. And again, and again, and by the end he was working into a sweat and no longer fooling around, was beginning to feel the flush of shame because this was a child, damn it, and Grady had done eight years in the Army and another fifteen in the Bureau and he ran twenty miles a week and lifted weights and he could beat this kid…

But he couldn’t. When he finally gave up, the kid had smiled at him, this horribly genuine smile, and said, Want to see me shoot?

Yes, Grady said.

What he saw at the range later that afternoon—a tight and perfect cluster of bullets—no longer surprised him.

Seven years later, he was thinking about that day while he stared out of the window and told himself that it was nothing but a public intox charge, a silly misdemeanor, and that there was nothing to worry about with Frank. Frank was a good kid, always had been, and he’d be absolutely fine as long as he stayed away from a certain kind of trouble.

That was all he needed to do. Stay away from that kind of trouble.


Excerpted from Envy the Night by Koryta, Michael
Copyright © 2008 by Koryta, Michael. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay
Envy the Night comes from a land of monsters. Namely, those that populate many a crime novel, film drama, or news broadcast: murderers, thieves, con men and swindlers. Reprehensible characters, easy to hate and impossible to love. Unless you're one of those who always has loved them.

I once wrote a short, simple newspaper article explaining the arrest of a local man on a handful of criminal charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. There was nothing exceptional about his crimes; it was the sort of police report we saw on a regular basis, one that met our criterion for inclusion in the paper but didn't earn major coverage. I wrote a very straight-forward account of the arrest and didn't think much of it until the next day, when the man's sister called to complain.

Her emotions ran the gamut from tearful to enraged, but centered around just one complaint: "You made him sound like a bad person." My response, of course, was to say that it was likely the six crimes her brother had (allegedly) committed that created that perception, not my story. It was something I laughed about with my colleagues at the time, but the call lingered in my mind because of the depth of her emotion and the simplicity of her complaint. At no point did she say that her brother had been wrongfully accused, or the victim of circumstances, or even that I'd gotten some detail wrong. What bothered her was that I had settled for explaining the charges, which was in keeping with our newspaper's guidelines but not her heart's. There was no play-by-play of her brother's life, no description of the man beyond the arrest record.

It was that lack of balance that she couldn't handle.

That idea intrigued me over the years with regard to fiction. Envy the Night's protagonist (Frank Temple III) is struggling with the painful legacy of his father, a Federal agent turned contract killer. What drew me to this story was the idea that while such a man could easily be turned into a perfect monster in the eyes of the world, it would be a good deal more difficult for the son who'd loved and adored him for 18 years to accept the same belief. More difficult still if the man had actually been a good father.

I also wanted to write about legacies, about the way people are influenced by those who came before them. Envy the Night's characters are in their current situations in part because of the families they were born into, and I think that's true of most of us. We don't walk empty-handed through life, but carry with us the threads of other lives, those of parents and grandparents and many generations beyond that. They are threads that tug at times, sometimes guiding, sometimes pulling astray. My hope is that you enjoy meeting these characters and watching those tugs and their resulting impacts. I know I enjoyed writing it, and I thank you for reading. --Michael Koryta
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I loved this book and highly recommend it!

    In his fourth novel, Koryta strikes a perfect balance with skillful writing, clever dialogue and characters who draw you into the story. Each character is superbly crafted with depth and humanity. Set in the woods of Wisconsin, the peaceful natural surroundings of the story provide a perfect contrast to the gritty violence that ensues, and adds an extra chill by placing violence one only expects in the big city into small town America. The plot twists and turns taking the reader along with it. Infused with humor, Envy the Night is intriguing from start to finish, making it impossible to put down, a must read!!! Brilliant!!!! Koryta continues to impress!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2008

    This is an unputdownable thriller.

    When his other clandestine life as a mob hit man is exposed, U.S. Marshal Frank Temple II, a, commits suicide. His family is shocked first by the revelation by the patriarch¿s death and his son who worshipped him cannot deal with his hero crumbling like this.------------ Seven years later, his twenty-four years old son, Frank III remains angry and still drifting as he has since his dad killed himself. When a friend from his dad¿s military days in Nam Ezra Ballard informs him the rat who squealed on his father is Devin Matteson, the son finally finds a reason to focus on life he wants vengeance. He has the opportunity when Devin is coming from Florida to Wisconsin. The III waits at his late dad¿s cabin in Willow Flowage, but soon realizes he has a bigger issue to deal with he and auto repair shop owner Nora Stafford are in deep trouble as some nasty killers stalk the area.---------------- This tense thriller hooks readers from the moment Frank III leaves jail with a severe headache while thinking what to do about the info Ballard provided him.. Character fueled mostly by the son, ENVY THE NIGHT is a fast-paced taut tale that never misses a beat even when the exciting story line makes a turn from III the stalker to III the stalked. Michael Koryta is at his best with this action-packed Wisconsin thriller. This is an unputdownable thriller.----------- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2008

    Another Masterpiece

    Koryta has done it again. Each time I pick up a new work penned by this master, I'm amazed that it's possible to outdo the last one. Koryta has veered from his usual style in Envy the Night. Not only has he created a new set of characters, but he's also changed his point of view, writing in third person limited this time instead of first. Koryta has a gift with characterization and that gift seems to heighten with every novel. A lot of times it is easier on a reader for the character to be flat. Then you aren't faced with the confliction of feelings that are elicited. It's easy to completely hate or completely love a character. But Koryta doesn't let you off that easy. He evokes an array of emotion in his reader. Koryta did a bang-up job with the characters in this novel, and plot just drove the book home. This book was full of twists and turns. Having a great plot to immerse yourself in is a treat in and of itself. But Koryta always adds that something extra special in his mastery of the English language. There are devices and phrases and descriptions threaded throughout the entire novel that made me stop and reread. I wanted to hear them over in my head because they are so effective. This is definitely a book to be reread. Magnificent!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Just plain awful

    I read the last half of this book turning the page -- turning them fast -- while I scanned for something that resembled content. There was precious little.

    This is a juvenile book written at the level of a teenager.

    Re-read some John D. MacDonald and clear your palate -- don't waste money on this author.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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