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In Bradford's hometown, Eric discovers an extraordinary past--a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and ...
In Bradford's hometown, Eric discovers an extraordinary past--a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and mobsters once intermingled. Long derelict, the hotel has just been restored to its former grandeur.
But something else has been restored too--a long-forgotten evil that will stop at nothing to settle a decades-old score. And with every move, Eric inches closer to the center of the building storm.
Evils from the grave permeate Michael Koryta's superb So Cold the River. The tale melds crime fiction, history, and gothic horror, and its mounting suspense moves the reader along at a surprisingly brisk pace through more than 500 pages. Framed by fantasy but grounded in the everyday, the real dread Koryta conjures springs from his characters' fears that they haven't lived up to their own expectations.
Once on the brink of a big movie career, Eric Shaw now barely gets by making videos of others' lives, especially for funerals. Eric thinks he can develop a documentary from his current job shooting a video history of dying billionaire Campbell Bradford. The reclusive Campbell and his hometown of West Baden, Ind., known for its extravagantly restored resort hotel, are a story "that begged for telling."
Campbell's only possession from his past is a strange glass bottle filled with water from a nearby spring. Drinking from this vessel produces frightening visions about another Campbell Bradford, a nasty tyrant who ruled the town with appalling violence more than 80 years ago. Josiah Bradford, a petty criminal, stalks Eric, seething that his family name hasn't brought him money or power.
The supernatural hangs heavily over the story-the long-dead Campbell, it develops, is actively trying to regain his power from the grave. But So Cold the River roots itself in a refreshing sense of the real. Koryta won the L.A. Times Book Prize for Envy the Night, and here he captures the rural beauty of Indiana while imbuing the area with the feel of impending doom-culminating in a slam-bang ending with tornadoes manifesting Campbell's wrath. It's a satisfying capper to a tale that harvests its suspense, and its charms, from local sources.
YOU LOOKED FOR THE artifacts of their ambition. That was what a sociology professor had said one day in a freshman seminar, and Eric Shaw had liked something about the phrase, wrote it and only it in a notebook that would soon be forgotten and then discarded. Artifacts of their ambition. Only through study of those things could you truly understand people long departed. General artifacts could be overanalyzed, layered with undue importance. It was critical to find things that indicated ambitions and aspirations, that tired bit about hopes and dreams. The reality of someone’s heart lay in the objects of their desires. Whether those things were achieved did not matter nearly so much as what they had been.
The phrase returned to Eric almost two decades later as he prepared a video montage for a dead woman’s memorial service. Video life portraits, that’s what he called them, an attempt to lend some credibility to what was essentially a glorified slide show. There’d been a time when neither Eric nor anyone who knew him would have been able to believe this sort of career lay ahead for him. He still had trouble believing it, in fact. You could live a life and never comprehend exactly how you found yourself in it. Hell of a thing.
If he were fresh out of film school, he might have been able to convince himself that this was merely part of the artist’s struggle, a way to pay the bills before that first big break. Truth was, it had been twelve years since Eric claimed his film school’s highest honor, twelve years. Two years since he’d moved to Chicago to escape the train wreck of his time in L.A.
During his peak, thirty years old and landing bigger jobs with regularity, his cinematography had been publicly praised by one of the most successful movie directors in the world. Now Eric made videos for graduations and weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. And funerals. Lots of funerals. That had somehow become his niche. Word of mouth sustained a business like his, and the word of mouth about Eric seemed to focus on funerals. His clients were generally pleased by his videos, but the funeral parties were elated. Maybe on some subconscious level he was more motivated when his work concerned the dead. There was a greater burden of responsibility there. Truth be told, he operated more instinctively when he prepared a memorial video than when he did anything else. There seemed to be a muse working then, some innate guiding sense that was almost always right.
Today, standing outside a suburban funeral parlor with a service about to commence, he felt an unusual sense of anticipation. He’d spent all of the previous day—fifteen hours straight—preparing this piece, a rush job for the family of a forty-four-year-old woman who’d been killed in a car accident on the Dan Ryan Expressway. They’d turned over photo albums and scrapbooks and select keepsakes, and he’d gotten to work arranging images and creating a sound track. He took pictures of pictures and blended those with home video clips and then rolled it all together and put it to music and tried to give some sense of a life. Generally the crowd would weep and occasionally they would laugh and always they would murmur and shake their heads at forgotten moments and treasured memories. Then they’d take Eric’s hand and thank him and marvel at how he’d gotten it just right.
Eric didn’t always attend the services, but Eve Harrelson’s family had asked him to do so today and he was glad to say yes. He wanted to see the audience reaction to this one.
It had started the previous day in his apartment on Dearborn as he was sitting on the floor, his back against the couch and the collection of Eve Harrelson’s personal effects surrounding him, sorting and studying and selecting. At some point in that process, the old phrase came back to him, the artifacts of their ambition, and he’d thought again that it had a nice sound. Then, with the phrase as a tepid motivator, he’d gone back through an already reviewed stack of photographs, thinking that he had to find some hint of Eve Harrelson’s dreams.
The photographs were the monotonous sort, really—everybody posed and smiling too big or trying too hard to look carefree and indifferent. In fact, the entire Harrelson collection was bland. They’d been a photo family, not a video family, and that was a bad start. Video cameras gave you motion and voice and spirit. You could create the same sense with still photographs, but it was harder, certainly, and the Harrelson albums weren’t promising.
He’d been planning to focus the presentation around Eve’s children—a counterintuitive move but one he thought would work well. The children were her legacy, after all, guaranteed to strike a chord with family and friends. But as he sorted through the stack of loose photographs, he stopped abruptly on a picture of a red cottage. There was no person in the shot, just an A-frame cottage painted a deep burgundy. The windows were bathed in shadow, nothing of the interior visible. Pine trees bordered it on both sides, but the framing was so tight there was no clear indication of what else was nearby. As he stared at the picture, Eric became convinced that the cottage faced a lake. There was nothing to suggest that, but he was sure of it. It was on a lake, and if you could expand the frame, you’d see there were autumn leaves bursting into color beyond the pines, their shades reflecting on the surface of choppy, wind-blown water.
This place had mattered to Eve Harrelson. Mattered deeply. The longer he held the photograph, the stronger that conviction grew. He felt a prickle along his arms and at the base of his neck and thought, She made love here. And not to her husband.
It was a crazy idea. He pushed the picture back into the stack and moved on and later, after going through several hundred photographs, confirmed that there was only one of the cottage. Clearly, the place hadn’t been that special; you didn’t take just one picture of a place that you loved.
Nine hours of frustration later, nothing about the project coming together the way he wanted, Eric found the photo back in his hand, the same deep certainty in his brain. The cottage was special. The cottage was sacred. And so he included it, this lone shot of an empty building, worked it into the mix and felt the whole presentation come together as if the photograph were the keystone.
Now it was time to play the video, the first time anyone from the family would see it, and while Eric told himself his curiosity was general—you always wanted to know what your clients thought of your work—in the back of his mind it came down to just one photograph.
He entered the room ten minutes before the service was to begin, took his place in the back beside the DVD player and projector. Thanks to a Xanax and an Inderal, he felt mellow and detached. He’d assured his new doctor that he needed the prescriptions only because of a general sense of stress since Claire left, but the truth was he took the pills anytime he had to show his work. Professional nerves, he liked to think. Too bad he hadn’t had such nerves back when he’d made real films. It was the ever-present sense of failure that made the pills necessary, the cold touch of shame.
Eve Harrelson’s husband, Blake, a stern-faced man with thick dark hair and bifocals, took the podium first. The couple’s children sat in the front row. Eric tried not to focus on them. He was never comfortable putting together a piece like this when there were children to watch it.
Blake Harrelson said a few words of thanks to those in attendance, and then announced that they would begin with a short tribute film. He did not name Eric or even indicate him, just nodded at a man by the light switch when he stepped aside.
Showtime, Eric thought as the lights went off, and he pressed play. The projector had already been focused and adjusted, and the screen filled with a close-up of Eve and her children. He’d opened with some lighthearted shots—that was always the way to go at a heavy event like this—and the accompanying music immediately got a few titters of appreciative laughter. Amidst the handful of favorite CDs her family had provided, Eric had found a recording of Eve playing the piano while her daughter sang for some music recital, the timing off from the beginning and getting worse, and in the middle you could hear them both fighting laughter.
It went on like that for a few minutes, scattered laughter and some tears and a few shoulder squeezes with whispered words of comfort. Eric stood and watched and silently thanked whatever chemist had come up with the calming drugs in his bloodstream. If there was a more intense sort of pressure than watching a grieving group like this take in your film, he couldn’t imagine what it was. Oh, wait, yes he could—making a real film. That had been pressure, too. And he’d folded under it.
The cottage shot was six minutes and ten seconds into the nine-minute piece. He’d kept most pictures in the frame for no more than five seconds, but he’d given the cottage twice that. That’s how curious he was for the reaction.
The song changed a few seconds before the cottage appeared, cut from an upbeat Queen number—Eve Harrelson’s favorite band—to Ryan Adams covering the Oasis song “Wonderwall.” The family had given Eric the Oasis album, another of Eve’s favorites, but he’d replaced their version with the Adams cover during his final edit. It was slower, sadder, more haunting. It was right.
For the first few seconds he could detect no reaction. He stood scanning the crowd and saw no real interest in their faces, only patience or, in a few cases, confusion. Then, just before the picture changed, his eyes fell on a blond woman in a black dress at the end of the third row. She’d turned completely around and was staring back into the harsh light of the projector, searching for him. Something in her gaze made him shift to the side, behind the light. The frame changed and the music went with it and still she stared. Then the man beside her said something and touched her arm and she turned back to the screen, turned reluctantly. Eric let out his breath, felt that tightness in his neck again. He wasn’t crazy. There was something about that picture.
He was hardly aware of the rest of the film. When it ended, he disconnected the equipment and packed up to leave. He’d never done that before—he always waited respectfully for the conclusion of the service and then spoke to the family—but today he just wanted out, wanted back into the sunlight and fresh air and away from that woman with the black dress and the intense stare.
He’d slipped out of the double doors with the projector in his arms and was headed through the foyer and toward the exit when a voice from behind him said, “Why did you use that picture?”
It was her. The blond woman in black. He turned to face her, caught a blast of that stare again, able now to see that it came from intense blue eyes.
“Yes. Why did you use it?”
He wet his lips, shifted the weight of the projector. “I’m not really sure.”
“Please don’t lie to me. Who told you to use it?”
“I want to know who told you to use it!” Her voice a hiss.
“Nobody said a word to me about that picture. I assumed people would think I was crazy for putting it up there. It’s just a house.”
“If it’s just a house,” she said, “then why did you want to include it?”
This was Eve Harrelson’s younger sister, he realized. Her name was Alyssa Bradford now, and she was in several of the photographs he’d used. Back in the main room someone was speaking, offering tribute to Eve, but this woman did not seem to care in the least. All of her attention was on him.
“It felt special,” he said. “I can’t explain it any better than that. Sometimes I just get a sense. It was the only picture of the place, and there were no people in it. I thought that was unusual. The longer I looked at it… I don’t know, I just thought it belonged. I’m sorry if it offended you.”
“No. It’s not that.”
It was quiet for a moment, both of them standing outside while the service continued inside.
“What was that place?” he said. “And why are you the only one who reacted?”
She looked over her shoulder then, as if making sure the doors were closed.
“My sister had an affair,” she said softly, and Eric felt something cold and spidery work through his chest. “I’m the only person who knows. At least that’s what she told me. It was with a man she dated in college and during a rough time she had with Blake…. He’s a bastard, I’ll never forgive him for some of the things he did, and I think she should have left him. Our parents were divorced, though, and it was an ugly divorce, and she didn’t want to do that to her kids.”
This sort of disclosure wasn’t all that uncommon. Eric had grown used to family members sharing more than seemed prudent. Grief sent secrets spilling past the old restraints, and it was easier to do with a stranger sometimes. Maybe every time.
“That cottage is in Michigan,” she said. “Some little lake in the Upper Peninsula. She spent a week there with this man, and then she came back, and she never saw him again. It was the children, you know, they were all that kept her. She was in love with him, though. I know that.”
What could he say to that? Eric shifted the projector again, didn’t speak.
“She didn’t keep any pictures of him,” Alyssa Bradford said, and there were tears in her eyes now. “Tore apart the photo albums she had from college, too, and burned every picture he was in. Not out of anger, but because she had to if she was going to stay. I was with her when she burned them, and she kept that one, that single shot, because there was nobody in it. That’s all she kept to remember him.”
“It just seemed to belong,” Eric said again.
“And that song,” she said, her eyes piercing again after she’d blinked the tears back. “How on earth did you select that song?”
They made love to it, he thought, probably for the first time, or if not that, then certainly for the best time, the one that she remembered longest, the one that she remembered not long before she died. They made love to that song and he pulled her hair and she leaned her head back and moaned in his ear and afterward they lay together and listened to the wind howl around that cottage with the deep red paint. It was warm and windy and they thought that it would rain soon. They were sure of it.
The woman was staring at him, this woman who was the only person alive who knew of her dead sister’s affair, of the week she’d spent in that cottage. The only person alive other than the lover, at least. And now Eric. He looked back into her eyes, and he shrugged.
“It just felt right, that’s all. I try to match the music to the mood.”
And he did, on every project. That much was true. Everything else, that strange but absolute sense of the importance of the song, couldn’t possibly be more than trickery of the mind. Any other notion was absurd. So very absurd.
Eve Harrelson’s sister gave him a hundred-dollar bill before she left to return to the service, a fresh wave of tears cresting in her eyes. Eric wasn’t sure if it was a tip or a bribe for silence, and he didn’t ask. Once his equipment was packed up and he was sitting in the driver’s seat of the Acura MDX that Claire had paid for, he transferred the bill from his pocket to his wallet. He tried not to notice that his hands were shaking.
Excerpted from So Cold the River by Koryta, Michael Copyright © 2010 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.
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Posted June 4, 2010
Not exactly sure how I would classify this book. The major bookstores seem to be shoehorning this into the horror realm. It doesn't read like the typical horror story to me, although there is evil. And while it is a thrilling story, it's not exactly what you would call a thriller. Not fantasy, as while there's a magical element to it, there are no wizards or werewolves or unicorns to be found. Think I'm going to go with the broad generalization of speculative fiction. While I understand why they chose horror, I think it's a mistake as readers who would love this book may never see it if they don't normally read horror.
This was a really engaging story! The main character is Eric Shaw, a former hotshot filmmaker who is now producing video montages for weddings and funerals. We gradually learn how he wound up so far from Hollywood and estranged from his wife, as he begins work on a documentary for his latest client. Eric runs into roadblocks almost immediately, as it seems that the Campbell Bradford who once ruled over the town is not Alyssa's father-in-law. Could there be two Campbell Bradfords? From the same town? Doesn't seem likely, but things just get stranger from there.
With the help of Kellen Cage, a student working on his doctorate thesis, and Anne McKinney, an older woman who remembers the town as it once was, Eric tries to solve the mystery of Campbell Bradford and his strange antique bottle of Pluto Mineral Water. Why is the bottle so cold, even after sitting in a warm room? Does it really have the power to cause visions? Let's just say that this story gives a whole new twist to the advice: don't drink the water!
Gave this one a 4/5 rating as I really enjoyed it. The writing is excellent, and Koryta masterfully weaves the horror, mystery, and thriller aspects of the story together into an exciting and surprising conclusion! Have to say that while I predicted how the story would end, I was happy to be proved wrong. I thought it was original and clever and definitely worth reading!
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Posted June 29, 2010
Eric Shaw, a dejected Hollywood cameraman, is back at home in Chicago, sans wife and now makes vignettes for memorial services. Then he gets the change to do a documentary of the one Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old billionaire on his death bed who ran away from his home town when he was a kid.
Eric goes to the town and learns of its glorious past and tangles with a few locals. He also starts having these visions that become more and more disturbing to him, yet he wants to learn the truth of what it all means.
Michael Koryta takes a real place with a real history and blends in a horrifying and mysterious ghost story that just thrilled me to the bone. I loved how he used the history of this hotel, it'd demise and resurrection and incorporated into his novel. It makes me want to visit.
7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 17, 2010
Eric Shaw is an aspiring film maker in Chicago who makes memorial films for funerals. After one such effort he is approached by a woman who wants him to make a memorial to her father-in-law who is in a coma. Very little is known about her father-in-law's life and she wants Eric to go to the town in Indiana where he lived before Chicago. She gives Eric an old bottle of mineral water (called Pluto Water) that the old man had brought with him from Indiana in his youth.
Eric insists that he first visit her father-in-law (Campbell Bradford) in the hospital to get a sense of the man and she reluctantly agrees. When Eric, sees her father-in-law he starts to film him. Each time Eric looks at him through the camera lens, he appears to wake up and talk to Eric. When he looks at him away from the camera, he appears to still be in the coma. Eric shows him the bottle of Pluto water and he gets scared.
Eric goes to the town in Indiana and there is a big hotel in the middle of nowhere in the town. The hotel is famous for its mineral springs, the same springs that supposedly are in the bottle of Pluto Water. Of course Eric is tempted to drink the bottle and when he does he becomes incredibly ill after which he starts seeing visions, apparently from the past.
The book references the hotel as something out of "The Shining" and the book seems to morph into another version of that very movie. There is another Campbell Bradford that lived in the town in the 1920's and apparently Eric is seeing visions of that Campbell. There is one living decendent of that Campbell Bradford (Josiah) who also seems to be having visions of Campbell.
Eric meets another man (Kellen) who is working on a biographical story of an African American that ran a small hotel at the same time as Campbell Bradford was in town in the 1920's. The two become friends and try to share information. The two have a couple of run-ins with Josiah who turns out to be very "nasty" and not interested in sharing any info on his great grandfather.
Meanwhile Eric is addicted to the bottle of Pluto Water and the bottle does weird things such as stay cold all the time. The more he drinks, the more lifelike his visions of the past.
The book was a fairly good read but the last third of the book leaves a lot to be desired and I would have rated the book a full five stars if the end of the book had been better.
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Posted May 29, 2010
So Cold the River's book jacket uses words such as "irresistible suspense" and "spellbinding". I wouldn't go that far, but if you are looking for an original, well-written tale very reminiscent of Stephen King's The Shining, then this book might be for you.
Eric Shaw is a down-on-his-luck, back-from-LA, Chicago filmmaker who is now "reduced" to designing "video life portraits" at funerals to make ends meet. To make matters worse, he is also on his way to divorce from his wife, Claire. When he is approached by Alyssa Bradford to spend a few weeks in French Lick and West Baden to document her dying father-in-law, Campbell's, mysterious past, he can't say no. Both are small towns with deep histories in their extraordinary hotels (I told you to expect The Shining). Shaw meets many people along the way who are willing to help him, but becomes addicted to the towns' water. The water shows him visions of Campbell's life in the early 1900s. The story takes a sinister turn when Eric's visions become stronger.
The story begins strong with a penchant for pageturning. Midway through, it loses some steam, but everything is nicely pulled together in the end. I did not find it an "icy, terrifying winner", as Dennis Lehane's blurb on the cover suggests, but if you are looking for some mindless entertainment, you can find it here.
MY RATING - 3/5
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Posted June 10, 2012
Posted July 4, 2010
It started with a beautiful woman and a challenge. As a gift for her husband, Alyssa Bradford approaches Eric Shaw to make a documentary about her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old billionaire whose past is wrapped in mystery. Eric grabs the job even though there are few clues to the man's past--just the name of his hometown and an antique water bottle he's kept his entire life.
In Bradford's hometown, Eric discovers an extraordinary history--a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and mobsters once mingled, and hot springs whose miraculous mineral water cured everything from insomnia to malaria. Neglected for years, the resort has been restored to its former grandeur just in time for Eric's stay.
Just hours after his arrival, Eric experiences a frighteningly vivid vision. As the days pass, the frequency and intensity of his hallucinations increase and draw Eric deeper into the town's dark history. He discovers that something besides the hotel has been restored--a long-forgotten evil that will stop at nothing to regain its lost glory. Brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, So Cold the River is a tale of irresistible suspense with a racing, unstoppable current.
In So Cold The River by Michael Koryta, we find ourselves completely lost in the history of the Bradford family and it's ties to the famed West Baden Resort Hotel in Indiana. It's been completely restored to its former glory but something sinister lies within the mineral springs that are being pumped into the hotel from an underground river.
It's this same water that Eric finds himself in possession of when Alyssa Bradford hires him to complete a documentary on her family. She hands him a green glass bottle that despite where you place it, it remains freezing cold to the touch even in direct sunlight. Something beckons to Eric from within the bottle of water, one sip couldn't hurt could it? You'll soon find out upon journeying into this wonderful fiction of mystery and suspense.
I received this book compliments of Hachette Book Groups and found this to be worthy of the greats like Stephen King and Ted Dekker. It held my attention for 503 pages of gut wrenching, spine tingling suspense and drama. It reminded me of The Shining but without all the gore, just the suspense and intrigue keeping you on the edge of your seat literally. I would rate this book a 10 out of 10. Michael Koryta is now one of my all time favorite authors.
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Posted June 8, 2012
Michael Koryta's recent novels read like a slightly more literary Stephen King or Michael Crichton. The setting in West Baden/French Lick, Indiana is beautifully depicted and Kotyta's eerie story really brings it to life. I can't wait to read his other novels.
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Posted February 14, 2012
Excellent book, superbly written, full of believable (and unbelievable!!)characters, set in the midst of the wonderful French Lick Resort in southern Indiana. Am ordering Koryta's other two books right now.
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Posted June 30, 2010
THIS STORY PULLS AND TUGS AND KEEPS YOU ON EDGE. I AM NOT SURE WHAT GENRE I WOULD PUT THIS UNDER, HORROR/THRILLER? BUT SIMPLY PUT, IT IS A MUST READ!
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Posted September 21, 2013
This book was different than any book that I have ever read before. I couldn't put it down. I had to know what was in the water. As the story progressed, I wasn't sure if it was actually happening or a delusion of Eric Shaw. Why was Kellen Cage so eager to help him? Why was his wife so eager to drop everything to come to his rescue? You'll just have to read the book and find out.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 31, 2013
A very facinating story. Hard to categorize this novel though. It was kind of a ghost story but in a very different way than I've ever experienced. Which I'm sure doesn't help any in expressing the tone of this book. You'll know what I mean if you choose it. I was entranced in this eerie situation that he created. If I could give any critique it would be that the book is probably longer than it really needed to be. I've never read from this author before but his other stories sound intriguing. I would consider reading another of his books in the future.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 5, 2013
Michael Koryta certainly has a talent for picking a subject and turning it into a great story. I could not put the book down and would now like to go to Indiana and check out the hotels and the area he wrote about.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 14, 2013
I thought that I would never find an Author that I liked as well as I have over the years as Stephen King......but after reading So Cold The River..I have fallen in love again...with one that is indeed his equal...I have also read Cypress House...and indeed ....I have fallen deeply...and I thank youWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 4, 2013
This book was extremely hard to put down and a fantastic read from beginning to end. Can't wait to read the rest of his books!!!! Outstanding!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 5, 2013
Posted October 26, 2012
Posted July 21, 2012
Posted July 16, 2012
I bought the book because we were going to visit the area. I don't read horror but love mysteries. I found this to be an enjoyable page-turner - and I learned more about the history of the area prior to our trip.
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Posted July 15, 2012
Posted January 9, 2012
I only read halfway through this book. Im a busy person so when i read a book, i want it to be a good one. This book isnt necessarily bad, it just bored me. The book uses foreshadowing at the end of several chapters such as "A storm is coming." Or "A storm was on the horizon and the wind was starting to blow." Well, half way through the book you are still waiting on things to happen. Meanwhile, the main character farts around town, gets in a bar fight, interviews an old woman, thinks about his ex wife, blah blah blah.
To the books credit, i only read half of it. Maybe it gets better. I'll never know.
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