Envy the Night

Envy the Night

by Michael Koryta

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Michael Koryta secures his place as one of the thriller genre’s “most powerful voices(Publishers Weekly) with a dark and psychologically complex novel about a young man trying to escape his past.

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

In the seven years since he learned that his U.S. marshal father lead a double life as a contract killer—and committed suicide to avoid prosecution—Frank Temple III has mostly drifted through life. But when he learns that Devin Matteson, the man who lured his father into the killing game only to later give him up to the FBI, is returning to the isolated Wisconsin lake that was once sacred ground for their families, it’s a homecoming Frank can’t allow.

“A heart-pounding thriller.” —Boston Globe

Frank finds Matteson’s old cabin occupied by a strange, beautiful woman and a nervous man with a gun. But when a pair of assassins arrives on their heels, he knows Matteson can’t be far behind. The wise move would be to get out of town—but that doesn’t feel right. After all, contract killer or not, Frank’s father was at heart a teacher. And his son was an excellent student….

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312357412
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/04/2009
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 82,744
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

MICHAEL KORYTA's first novel, Tonight I Said Goodbye, was published when he was just twenty-one. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he began working as a newspaper reporter and for a private investigator while still in high school. Tonight I Said Goodbye won the St. Martin's Press/Private Eye Writers of America Contest for first novel and the Great Lakes Book Award for best mystery, and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for best first novel. His other novels include Envy the Night (winner of the 2008 mystery/thriller Los Angeles Times Book Prize), The Silent Hour, and Those Who Wish Me Dead. His work has been translated into more than ten languages.

Read an Excerpt

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 avoid this 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.


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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Envy the Night 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
jenforbus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Frank Temple III grew up never having to wonder if his dad loved him. His father, Frank Temple II, was supportive and present and loving. The only problem: he was also a hit man, a murderer for hire. When the FBI finally cornered Frank II, he committed suicide, leaving behind the younger Frank, conflicted and lost. Frank III was only seventeen and society had deemed his father a monster. Frank knew his father to be different, but then how do you reconcile the father with the hit man? Especially when you're seventeen?Frank knew his father had done bad things, but he still vowed that, given the chance, he would kill the man responsible for turning in his father to the authorities, Devin Matteson. Seven years later when he receives a call from Ezra Ballard announcing Devin's return to Wisconsin, Frank packs up his few belongings and heads for the lake house that contains all his cherished family memories.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. He somehow manages to accomplish that fete.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. And he didn't miss a beat. I enjoyed the way the limited view changed, allowing for some insightful thoughts to be revealed from various characters. It also helped to heighten the theme of the novel, life is mostly an area of gray - very rarely is it ever as easy as black and white.That theme comes through in EVERY character. Koryta has a gift with characterization and that gift seems to heighten with every novel. One factor I always look for in "great" characters is depth. Characters who know everything and somehow have the skills to fit every situation - they have no depth; they are simply flat characters; the superhero character has been done to death. Give me a REAL character. One who has flaws like the rest of the human race; one who has doubts and concerns and conflictions. Those are the characters you see in Koryta's novels. Frank Temple II is a prime example of this. I couldn't help but think of the character Michael Sullivan in the movie, The Road to Perdition. Many people said that the reason you liked Sullivan in the movie was because America just can't dislike Tom Hanks. But I don't think that's true. Instead I think the same dilemma came into play that does with Frank Temple II: the character had admirable qualities; he wasn't completely evil. Both characters truly loved their families, and that's admirable. A lot of times it is easier on a reader for the character to be flat. Then you aren't faced, like Frank, 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 from every angle. Another prime example of this is Jerry, the crotchety old guy working for Nora Stafford. As his character is being built up, he fits every stereotype of the chauvinist pig. Jerry constantly gives Nora a hard time, and he resents working for a woman. But, when he discovers that some out-of-towners roughed Nora up, he does an about face and a devoted friend shows up in his character. Koryta shows the reader, through Jerry, that it's easy to pass judgment superficially, but when you see inside the character, it isn't so easy to completely dislike - or love - him/her. Koryta sums up his theme with a great phrase, "consideration before conclusion."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. By this, Koryta's fourth book, I should know better than to think I can figure out the ending mid-way through. Koryta had me chasing my tail on this one; that's for sure. While I couldn't believe he'd be blatant about what the outcome was, it seemed
johnbsheridan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An award winner in 2008 for LA Times Mystery fiction and shows its quality in setting a searing pace right from the outset and the momentum never lets up much. Leaving aside the cast of characters with which Koryta established himself in particular PI Lincoln Perry. Featuring Frank Temple III the son of a war hero turned hitman who has been taught the tricks of the trade by his father since his youth and then misled by the FBI into thinking he was sacrificed by another of his former army colleagues to save himeself from prosection. When he hears that the man who turned his father in is returning to their hometown he decides it time to relinquish his nomadic lifestyle in favour of a final showdown. Unfortunately fate intervenes and instead of bunping into his archenemy he finds himself facing some mafia hitmen, the local cops and the FBI as the bodycount rises.. but at least he has his fathers training to fall back on.
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edofarrell More than 1 year ago
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.