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Editorial Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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I liked it

Great story. told well. I enjoyed listening to the narrator. he distinguished a reconizable differents between each character, witch I like.

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Melody of Terror

This book has enough twists and turns to keep interests peaked throughout! Along with a solid storyline, this audio production is supported by great narration and subtle soundtracksthat enrich the story. Highly reccomended.

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So Good the Performance

Petkoff, pantastic (not a typo, attempt at humor), again...story was good not great as some elements did not feel cohesive or explained. Why is Eric so whiny and immature; the couples problems could not be more odd, unexplained.I still did not understand the explanation of the water completely, left me unsettled. Its easy to pick parts out of stories and be critical and while this was better than "Last Word' it was not as good as the Prophet. I am now curious as to the other 3, not including the second book after Last Words. The Ridge and Cypress House, Those that wish me dead. Those are the other 3. I recommend this book. I did enjoy the music and effects. well played.

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Narrator really built the story!

Great story. I have just discovered this writer. Will be purchasing more of his books within the hour.
In this case, the real kudos goes to the narrator. Phenomenal job. Voices were awesome!
Could have been a bit longer break sometimes between the scene changes. A couple of times that first sentence or two after what should've been a longer pause disoriented me slightly. I am confident that was more in the editing end of things.
Really enjoyed it!

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  • Sharon
  • South Riding, VA, United States
  • 10-23-15

Interesting twist on a modern day ghost story

The story is a modern day mystery, historical fiction, and ghost story all combined into one. The character development is very good and relevant as the story unfolds. I enjoyed the imagery of these real life places.

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great read

This was captivating from the start. .. easy to get into and entertaining throughout. The narrator does an excellent job and it's obvious the setting was well researched. Enjoyed it from start to finish!

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Great listen for a long drive

If you disregard the complete suspension of belief required to buy the genesis of this story, it gets much better as it goes along. I was able to do that, but my husband (who works in the water field) could not as we listened to this book during a 12-hour road trip to California. The unlikely possibility of a man deliberately drinking out of a decades-old, murky-looking bottle of (maybe) water with sediment floating in it ruined it for him right away. Him drinking out of it a SECOND time after being so VIOLENTLY ill from the first try almost ruined it for me. But past that, the story gets intriguing and the narration is flawless. That's why I gave it 4 stars. Less of long-suffering Claire would have been welcome (years-long-suffering wives who keep coming back for more being particularly tedious), but Anne and Kellan were great characters. And don't forget that superb narration.

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If you like ghost stories

I don't normally like ghost and or paranormal stories, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Great mystery and great narrator!
Highly recommend

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What a beautiful production

What was one of the most memorable moments of So Cold the River?

Anne putting on heels on her way to see . . . can't spoil it!

Which scene was your favorite?

The one mentioned above, along with the curious interview Eric has with the bedridden elderly gentleman early in the book - again, no spoilers here.

Who was the most memorable character of So Cold the River and why?

Anne, so graceful in her old age and so brave in the face of her losses, threats of violence, and primal fear of storms. She'll stay with me.

Any additional comments?

This is a really good ghost story made even better by the unique location and well-drawn characters. Very different than the other books I've read by Koryta, and what a difference a reader makes. (I wish Petkoff read the Lincoln Perry series as well - I get tired of Scott Brick very quickly). Anyway this was extremely well read and the unusual production integrated music and sound effects beautifully, in a way that greatly enriched my experience of the story. Also must mention the poignant violin piece "Short Trip Home" played by Josh Bell which haunts the reading throughout. I had to download it from Itunes as soon as it was identified in the authors' acknowledgments. I became a fan of Koryta's with "Those Who Wish Me Dead" and this one sealed the deal.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amy
  • Cadiz, KY, United States
  • 03-09-13

Enthralling read!

Where does So Cold the River rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I really think this is one of my favorite books of all time. I have had it for quite a while, and I often go back to it to listen again. This story drew me in like no other has (except maybe Stephen King's The Cell or Mark Tufo's Spirit Clearing). I am very familiar with the setting of this story, and have stayed in both the West Baden and the French Licks hotels long before finding this novel. I always thought Pluto was a haunting creature, and you can feel the spirits among you.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Eric - He is totally convinced he knows what he is doing, and he forges through in spite of all the elements against him.

Which scene was your favorite?

I loved the scene where the little old lady is taken captive. She's quit spunky.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, but it was way too long to listen in one sitting.

Any additional comments?

Get it. If you like entertaining, spiritual and supernatural elements, you will love it.