Brooding, grainy-voiced Shakespearean stage actor Robert Petkoff narrates So Cold the River, mystery novelist Michael Koryta's icy, supernatural ghost story set in a rural Indiana town built on Pluto Water, a bottled mineral laxative of the early 1900s rumored to cure headaches, indigestion, even alcoholism. Petkoff haunts as cynical, broken Eric Shaw, a failed Hollywood documentary filmmaker who slumps home to Chicago, gets dumped by wife Claire, and starts stringing together freelance photo chronicles for weddings and funerals: "Video life portraits, that's what he called them, an attempt to lend some credibility to what was essentially a glorified slide show." Oh, and Eric also connects with dead peoples' personal belongings.
Evil snarls from the grave when grieving Alyssa Bradford hires Eric to shoot an homage to her secretive, dying 95-year-old billionaire father-in-law, Campbell. First assignment - capturing Campbell's humble roots near sparsely populated French Lick, Indiana, where Eric lodges at the improbably located luxury West Baden Springs Hotel (a real registered national historic landmark). But not even its soaring atrium dome can shade him from the rotten-egg stench of sulfur. As Eric keeps digging, an 80-year-old bottle of Pluto Water from Campbell's collection frosts, turning murky, while weather patterns predict a violent storm. He takes a sip of Pluto, and the hallucinations spin - shadows in rumpled suits, railroad trains, and violin strains pouring from a piano. At least Claire believes him.
Petkoff softens Eric with undercurrents of grit and exhaustion, so even when he's hysterical with foreshadowing, he's still grounded. The character of Anne McKinney, octogenarian widow and de facto Pluto historian, studies barometric pressure. Fittingly, her voice guides the book's emotional climate. Practical yet nostalgic, Anne nurses a daily gin and tonic at the local bar. Petkoff recognizes she's a creature of habit and tracks her quirky moods with the same steady hum. Eventually the rituals of her chuckles and her leisurely breaks and pauses stop making a difference as the past fades the present into black. - Nita Rao
It started with a documentary.
The beautiful Alyssa Bradford approaches Eric Shaw to unearth the life story of her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old billionaire whose childhood is wrapped in mystery. Eric grabs the job, even though the only clues to Bradford's past are his hometown and an antique water bottle he's kept his entire life.
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.
©2010 Michael Koryta (P)2010 Hachette
"A cataclysmic finale will put readers in mind of some of the best recent works of supernatural horror, among which this book ranks." (Publishers Weekly)
"This book builds like a summer storm. Beautiful to watch until it shakes the house and knocks out the lights, leaving you alone in the dark. Another masterful work from Michael Koryta, So Cold the River is guaranteed to put the cold finger down your spine." (Michael Connelly)
This is an author I was not at all familiar with, but this book seemed to be so highly recommended that I took a chance. I am very glad that I did! The writing is so descriptive that it grabs your imagination in the first sentence, and keeps you captive to the very end. The narration is very well done, and the background sound effects tasteful. I live in Ohio and have visited French Lick many times. I will look at it differently next time. This is an author that I will add to my list of favorites. He reminds me a bit of Stephen King with a little of the mystery of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes tossed in. It's one of those books you can't put down, and know that it is also one you will read again. Fantastic!
I listened to this book after seeing all the high ratings. It was worth listening to, but in the end it wasn't great. The narrator is good, and the book starts off quickly. I was really enjoying it until about half way through. The story just kind of dies, and becomes predictable. The bad guy wasn't in the story enough to be really scary, and the end seemed to be rushed, fixing all the questions at the very end. Worth a listen, but not the best book out there.
I generally don't read this genre, but I enjoyed the author's previous books. Michael Koryta takes writing to a new level. The narration was one of the best I have listened to in all my years of audible. The descriptions were crisp with memorable characters. At 13 hours, I thought there would be some slow parts, but the pacing was brisk with great suspense. If you like Stephen King, you will love an author who has nudged himself into the elite. He has a tremendous imagination. Enjoy!
S. J. Swan
This was a very good book. Although it is a fiction book, it is historically accurate. I grew up in this area and have heard some of the same stories about an energy in that place. The hotels are described in exact. Whether you are a Hoosier or not you will enjoy this story.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I enjoyed this book for what it is - a good ghost story. It's not quite the 5 star level that I have experienced with other Michael Koryta books, mainly because the main character was a little less appealing (although I have always liked that Koryta's characters are a bit flawed), and the the ending left a couple of things not very well explained - won't spoil by elaborating. Overall I liked the spookiness and I did like many of the characters as written, especially Ann - I was rooting for her all the way. It's not perfect, but it's worth the credit.
retired litigation lawyer; I read history; historical fiction; literary fiction. Narrator ++ important. Story equally so
I agree with the other positive reviews. I am a fan of the "old" Stephen King ( with the exception of " Under the Dome, that is, great book) and it is somewhat like that, the old King but even better.Like King, the appeal is not in the horror (there is little of that) or ghost story ( a bit more) as much as the character driven story - characters you begin to care about, whose dialogue is real. I listened to the whole thing in @ 4 days I was so interested, and, as a treat, you get 5 minutes of his new book to come in Jan 2011 ( which I will immediately download). Superb narration, wonderful. 5 stars!
I find Koryta novels, as well as his writing style, original and different with each book. You never know what kind of fiction you are going to get. This novel is centered around a documentary being made regarding a small town's history, which includes a mysterious little bottle of water that is believed to do amazing things. Original storyline and well written. Petkoff is excellent, as always. There is a lot of talent in this audiobook.
I listen to novels for distraction and entertainment and rate them on the experience, not literary merit. I prefer to read good literature.
I'll begin by telling you that the only thing that kept me from abandoning 'So Cold the River' at about the halfway mark was Robert Petkoff's superb narration. Despite Koryta's mastery of no-scene-wasted construction, I kept feeling as though the story was meandering. While the story has an excellent plot, sub plots and themes which Koryta ties up into a satisfying resolution, I kept wanting to shake him, "get on with it, willya???"
While I enjoyed the experience, listening to 'So Cold the River' never really grabbed me.
The story was wonderfully suspensful and never boring. The narration is one of the very best I have heard in an audio book. The background music in significant parts of the narration just added to the mystery and suspense of the story. Could not stop listening!
Creepy without being gory or actually scary, kind of like the old Twilight Zone shows. I consider this a good thing. This one is not as good as The Cypress House or The Ridge, but worth a listen. The narration is excellent.
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