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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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  • Performance
  • Story

A lively and even handed thriller/horror

Solid narration brings the listener on a journey to the dark past and the dire future. An interesting and compelling read that manages to bring the horror and history of the tale to life without being bogged down in unnecessary details or descriptions which allows the story to move along at a satisfying clip. Well worth a credit investment

  • Overall
  • Vicki
  • Clinton, OK, United States
  • 11-04-10

So Cold the River

After reading the description of this book I was intrigued and looking forward to reading it but, I had to frankly make myself finish it. I found it boring and wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Eugenia
  • Chatsworth, CA, US
  • 10-23-10


I really enjoyed "So Cold The River" and I nominate it for absolutely the best title! It caught my attention when I was browsing for books.

I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Petkoff's reading/narration. I loved that the lead character was flawed---and then how he evolves at the end---a beautifully done character arc.

And a terrific premise about the waters like some magical heroin. Wonderful writing.

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Very good listen

I ran across this as a recommendation from Stephen King. I don't always agree with his choices but this one did not disappoint. Great reader and interesting story. If you like a historical education with your stories then you will not be disappointed. I remember when the French Lick resorts were first restored and I always found it interesting that they would restore a resort out in the middle of nowhere. Now I have a better appreciation for the history and the place. It makes me want to go there next time I am through Indiana but it isn't cheap!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Amy
  • clinton, NY, United States
  • 08-21-10


This book got me right out of the gate and never let go. I don't feel like it ever lost momentum and I was disappointed when it was over. Since finishing up a couple series I've been listening to since joining Audible over 2 years ago, I seem to have a hard time finding new books to check out. I'm very glad I stumbled upon this one. As has been said, the narration and production, incl. the music, were fabulous. There's nothing worse than bad narration to completely ruin what may have been a good story! I highly recommend this book.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kristy
  • Fort Worth, TX, United States
  • 07-24-10

Not what I was expecting

Although this book was not what I was expecting, it was worth the time and money. I recommended it to a friend and forewarned her it was totally different than anything I had listened to before, and to beware that it takes a strange and crazy turn right out of the chute! It was a book I won't soon forget.

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  • Dianne
  • Dallas, TX, United States
  • 10-01-10


If you are going to write a "twilight" style book, I think you have an obligation to warn people. I hate that type of book, but on the Promo from audible wasted one of my credits on this book.

3 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • jaye
  • GREENWICH, CT, United States
  • 01-09-13

this was not my kind of book

Would you try another book from Michael Koryta and/or Robert Petkoff?

i don't think so. it was too far out.

What was most disappointing about Michael Koryta’s story?

the way all the strangeness was explained.

What about Robert Petkoff’s performance did you like?

good preformance and good sound backgrounds too.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

i don't think i would care for the story. if someone found a better way to explain the strangeness i mite have liked the book. it was a disappointment.

Any additional comments?

the book had parts that were finally getting interesting but then, it got wierd again. and i still don't understand the mystery. i admit i had a hard time concentrating on the story as it could not hold my interest.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


There's not much to say for this book. There's just not much there.

The villain is built up as being a man of pure evil but we never see him be anything but the dullest kind of thug. We are never given any reason why a curse from him should be taken seriously or why he's special enough to manage to come back from death. The author tells you that there is magic every other paragraph but he never shows you any beyond water caused hallucinations.

The only promising aspect of this tale is the connection between the main character and the personality of the secondary villain. But it's never fulfilled or brought fully out.

It reads like it was meant to be on the inside of a hotel brochure. Judging by the author's note this is the spirit in which is was written as well.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful