So Cold the River Review
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When I first picked up my copy of Michael Koryta’s So Cold the River, I’ll admit that I had my reservations. After all, at just over 500 pages long, it’s a bit of a beast—and few authors can keep the suspense building for that long. More often than not, the result is a long, dull read. But there’s nothing dull about So Cold the River—an intense thriller that solidifies Koryta as a suspense-writing force to be reckoned with.

When struggling filmmaker Eric Shaw is hired to make a documentary about 95-year-old millionaire Campbell Bradford, it seems like the dream gig. Since letting go of his Hollywood dreams, he’s been making videos for the weddings and funerals of Chicago’s wealthy. But this job requires more than just setting snapshots to music. Bradford’s daughter-in-law, Alyssa, has agreed to pay his expenses for two weeks of filming in a small Indiana town—and she’s given him a mysteriously cold old bottle of mineral water to help him begin his research.

From the start, though, there’s something strange about the project. And once Eric checks into the opulent West Baden Springs Hotel, he begins having strange visions of a man in a bowler hat. He’s not the only one having visions, though; Josiah Bradford is having them, too. And while Eric tries to find people who can help him with his research, Josiah sets out on a mission to reclaim his family’s greatness.

It’s certainly rare to find a book that will hold your attention for more than 500 pages—but So Cold the River will do just that, thanks to Koryta’s relentless suspense. You’ll feel it from the beginning—that eerie, foreboding tone that’s usually found only in Stephen King’s best paranormal thrillers. It’s subtle but persistent—and the deeper you get into the book, the more you’ll feel it. Gradually, it builds—until it squeezes at your heart with an ominous feeling of dread (and fear) of what’s to come.

Only adding to the appeal of this haunting novel is its sympathetic main character. Eric is a mess—a promising filmmaker who made a big, career-killing mistake. Since moving to Chicago, he’s taken his frustrations and self-loathing out on everyone else—from his successful father-in-law to his devoted (and now estranged) wife, Claire. He’s desperate to prove himself—to get a chance to return to the business that he’s passionate about—and he’s convinced that this job could be his ticket back to Hollywood. He’s so desperate, in fact, that he refuses to give up—even when things get deadly. Though he makes some bad decisions, you’ll understand his desperation—and you’ll root for him to get his life back in the end.

The story so absorbing—and so haunting—however, that the conclusion struggles to live up to its build-up. And after more than 400 pages of gripping suspense, it seems almost anti-climactic. But the unexpected thrills along the way still make it well worth the journey.

It may weigh down your beach bag a bit, but don’t let that scare you away. So Cold the River will give you chills on the hottest summer day—and it’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your favorite lounge chair.

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