The Cypress House Review
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With his 2010 thriller, So Cold the River, author Michael Koryta stirred up quite a buzz—and deservedly so. It was a noteworthy release—a haunting and quietly suspenseful novel with an eerie supernatural twist. And fans will be thrilled to find that his follow-up, The Cypress House, is even better.

For the last couple of decades, Arlen Wagner has been running from his past—and from who he really is. But, no matter how much whiskey he drinks, he’s never been able to escape it.

While he’s traveling with a group of workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps, heading to a new camp in the Florida Keys, Arlen has a vision of death—one that makes him convince his young friend, Paul Brickhill, to get off the train.

Desperate to escape the fate that awaits the men in the Keys, Arlen accepts a ride across the state with a former bootlegger. He and Paul soon find themselves at the Cypress House, a deserted Gulf-front resort owned by stunningly beautiful Rebecca Cady. Their stay at the Cypress House is supposed to be brief, but they soon find themselves stranded there, caught up in a dangerous web of politics and corruption.

Like So Cold the River, The Cypress House is an intriguing blend of genres. This time, it’s gripping suspense with a touch of gangster-era noir and a supernatural twist. And that unusual combination is guaranteed to keep readers guessing—because it defies the typical formulas. The story has touches of noir, but it doesn’t fit neatly into the noir box—so it doesn’t play out as you might expect. In the same way, it has touches of the supernatural, but it isn’t really a supernatural story. For the most part, it’s a story about gangsters and moonshiners and a couple of guys who just want to make a living. But one of those guys just happens to have supernatural abilities.

Arlen is the perfect noir hero—a mysterious man with a troubled past. He’s seen things that no man should see—and not just because he served in World War I. To put it plainly, Arlen sees dead people—but he sees them before they’re dead. He has visions that help him predict death—and, in some situations, even prevent it. He doesn’t understand these strange supernatural abilities that he’s been given—and, really, he’d rather not have them—so he tries to drink them away. But his personal battles—as well as the way they play out in his interaction with others—make him a fascinating character.

The Cypress House isn’t a fast-paced, high-energy thriller. It’s a haunting and suspenseful novel that’s perfectly comfortable taking its time. But that doesn’t mean that it’s dull. Not at all. Instead, it has a dark and foreboding feeling that’s evident from the first page—and, like the eerie music that plays during the most suspenseful scenes in a horror movie, it builds and grows until it’s almost suffocating. Even when very little is happening, you’ll have a hard time setting the book aside—because you’ll know that something big is coming. And, this time, the conclusion is worthy of the build-up. The result is a satisfyingly spine-chilling read that no suspense-loving reader should miss.

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