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The Cypress House [Paperback]

Michael Koryta
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 12 2011
Arlen Wagner has seen it in men before-a trace of smoke in their eyes that promises imminent death. He is never wrong.

So when he awakens on a train one hot Florida night and sees death's telltale sign in the eyes of his fellow passengers, he abandons the train with 19-year-old Paul Brickhill. Soon, they stranded at the Cypress House-directly in the path of a hurricane. There are much deadlier threats than the storm in this place, and Arlen's eerie gift warns that they'll never leave. From its chilling beginning to terrifying end, The Cypress House is a story of relentless suspense from "one of the best of the best" (Michael Connelly).

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Review

"Gangsters, a silent but heroic drifter with second sight, and a whopper of a Florida hurricane. How can you go wrong?"—Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly

"The Cypress House is a unique and entertaining blend of noir and paranormal suspense, with a tightly controlled supernatural thread as believable as the gunplay. Mr. Koryta is at the start of what will surely be a great career. He's now on my must-read list."—Dean Koontz, author of Lost Souls

"The Cypress House is a dazzling blend of suspense, the supernatural, and superb storytelling. What a gifted writer. Michael Koryta is the real deal."—Ron Rash, author of Serena

"Michael Koryta is one of our new dynamos in the world of books, and in The Cypress House he spreads his range, wedding suspense with the supernatural in the eeriness of 1930s Florida. He uses the psychology of place to penetrate the human heart and delivers his tale of hurricanes and love and hauntings with great narrative force. Koryta's becoming a wonder we'll appreciate for a long time."—Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone

"Michael Koryta has fashioned a great character in his reluctant prophet, Arlen Wagner, a good man who ends up with an awful lot of blood on his hands before the denouement of this deliciously dark tale. Koryta is a fantastic storyteller, and the many admirers of his previous novel, So Cold the River, will find similar chilly pleasures awaiting them here."—Scott Smith, author of A Simple Plan and The Ruins

"Michael Koryta's command of story, character, and language put him in an elite group of writers at work today: Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly and Lee Child to name a few. He is one of the very best writers out there. Don't try to label him, or stick him in a genre; that would be a disservice. Just read him, and soon you'll be saying Michael Koryta is among the best there is. And even that praise falls miserably short."—Ridley Pearson, author of In Harm's Way

About the Author

Michael Koryta (pronounced ko-ree-ta) is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, most recently THE PROPHET. His last three novels, THE RIDGE, THE CYPRESS HOUSE, and SO COLD THE RIVER were all New York Times notable books and nominated for several national and international awards. In addition to winning the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, his novel ENVY THE NIGHT was selected as a Reader's Digest condensed book. Koryta's work has been translated into more than twenty languages. A former private investigator and newspaper reporter, Koryta graduated from Indiana University with a degree in criminal justice. He currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Bloomington, Indiana.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars tightly woven suspense July 22 2011
By Novel Girl TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This is the first book I've read from this author although he has written 6 other books before it.
I decided on this one from a book review I had read from the San Francisco chronicle. The reviewer had singled out this book as being a "scary good ghost story". She also indicated some of his previous books were crime/mystery novels.
Some of the acclaim for this book on the dust jacket refers to the super natural , so I didnt know what to expect.

From the first chapter you learn our main character Arlen has within him a power to see death in people before it happens. Through his prediction he ends up in a coruptly ruled town in the Gulf Coast at The Cypress House. Arlen along with his traveling partner Paul find their destiny and path change from that point on. I dont want to give away any more of the story. This is a very well written tightly unfolding story keeping you guessing and continuing to read. It is suspenseful, redemptive, and creepy at times. The characters are very well developed, and you get to understand them with background stories as you read along. The only concern for me was the story didnt specifically indicate that this novel takes place in the 1930's. Not that it changes my feeling of this book, but for me I would have liked to learn this earlier on.
This is an excellent book with good twists all throughout and a rewarding ending. Would definitely read another from this author.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love Lingers and Helps March 2 2012
By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Without a doubt, Tate McGrath is the most loathsome character I have ever met within the confines of a book. He is very comfortable lurking in the tangles of the mangrove swaps of Corrider County, Florida. Arlen Wagner never imagined that he would have to go head to head with a man of such ilk.

Arlen and his young traveling companion, Paul Brickhill, had planned to continue on to the Florida Keys to seek work on the planned highway linking the Keys. Instead, they dis-embarked after Arlen saw a most frightful image of all the men on the train as walking skeletons. He had seen this during the war, and in every instance, that man died. He wasn't going to let himself and Paul die if he could prevent it.

This string of events eventually led to Arlen and Paul staying at the Cypress House Inn and boarding house in Corrider Country. A country where Judge Solomon Wade has a finger in every thing that happens and even further reaching ties. With the help of the local Sheriff, it isn't long before Wade has threatened Arlen and made it clear that it would be best if he minded his own business and left town.

I listened to the audio version of this book. 11 hours 51 minutes. Robert Petkoff did a wonderful job of narrating. His portrayal of the women characters was excellent, which I've found is difficult for some male readers, though Robert is probably the best I have listened to so far. There were also some unique sound effects that greatly enhanced the spookiest scenes in the book.

During first couple of chapters I will admit to feeling a bit lost. I am not familiar with this time period, approximately 1935, nor am I familiar with any area of Florida. I decided to keep listening and was slowly pulled deeper and deeper into the story.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  92 reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will leave you wanting more from this author Jan. 17 2011
By Holly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Michael Koryta has turned into a thinking man's suspense writer. The first novel that I read by him was "So Cold the River" (4-stars from me) and what drew me to that particular book was the location - I was familiar with the southern Indiana locale and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it enough to pick this book up and found a novel that I think is even better.

This is a combination of historical fiction and suspense with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. Set in the time of the Great Depression, our protagonist is a World War I survivor with a special gift - he can tell by looking at someone if they are going to die. While traveling by train to the Florida Keys with a younger friend, partway into the trip he discovers that they must exit the train or die. What unfolds from there is their journey and then the evil that surrounds Cypress House, the Gulf Coast inn where they ultimately land.

This is a story filled with interesting characters, good writing, a sense of place that brings it all alive, and not so far removed from reality that it allows the reader to image just what having this gift would be like. Once I got started reading, it was almost impossible to put down. As I said in my review of "So Cold the River", I would hate for people to ignore this latest effort since it has been classified as horror in some places. Much more full of intrigue and suspense than horror, a book that will keep you racing through the pages to find the resolution to the tangled web of lies, deception, small-town corruption and supernatural powers. Fans of Chris Boyjalian should definitely give this a try.

Bottom line: Outstanding.

(I did receive a free e-book copy furnished by The Hachette Group through NetGalley. There was no other compensation and no requirement of a positive review. I have reviewed many other "free" books and have no hesitancy to rate a book low if that is what I think it deserves.)
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Lingers In So Many Ways Jan. 17 2011
By wbentrim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

This is a story of the great depression, the despair and the illicit means some used to survive. It is a love story in many ways as well as a crime and violence filled occult tale of how people can be trapped in situations beyond their control.

Michael Koryta is an artist. His characters have such life that it is simplicity itself to visualize them and their surroundings. I read the book while in Florida and found myself looking around for some of the scenery or characters.

The story was set in a time of depression and post war trauma. That setting resonated with today's recession and returning veterans. War changes people and Koryta captured that essence of humanity.

I also liked how he showed a love between two unrelated men that had nothing to do with gender bias or sexual preference. Sometimes the depth of friendship is love that has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality. That type of relationship seems practically taboo in contemporary fiction.

Arlen Wagner's skepticism of his own talent promoted belief in what he experience, much more than a simple presentation of that talent.

This the second of his books I have read and I will be actively seeking out the rest.

I highly recommend the book.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ghosts of the past will not scare you as much as the demons from the present Jan. 14 2011
By Mary J. Gramlich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Arlen Wagner did not speak to the dead but he could see the dead walking among the living. When death was about to happen Arlen saw smoke rising out of the living and knew that someone's time was up. This ability to understand the consequences of having such a gift had gotten his father killed and made Arlen's life a nightmare. But he knew how to manage the curse and even through WWI he was able to fight when he needed to and walk away. Arlen was aware that for some of the enemy soldiers he was not going to die today by Arlen's hands.

When the war is over and he is working his way around the country trying to scrap a living together he finds himself on a train bound for Florida. When again Arlen sees the smoke signals of death rising he jumps off the train that he finds out later was bound to collide head on with a hurricane. Thinking he and his traveling partner Paul have been saved Arlen settles in someplace he never wanted to be again - a small town with corrupt law enforcement. Through a strange set of circumstances Arlen finds himself in a backwater town in Florida repairing a hurricane ravaged tavern wishing he were anywhere but there. The police are turning up bodies that Arlen and Paul are getting blamed for and the corrupt judge is putting on a show for everyone with him as the puppet master.

Arlen knows he should leave and wants to leave but is drawn to Rebecca, the woman running this broken down place. His friend Paul thinks she can be won over but fails to realize that Arlen has already gotten the prize and Rebecca is playing hard-to-get for a reason. But Rebecca has a lot of secrets she is not sharing and the danger she dances around is making Arlen very nervous. He knows everyone has their past but believes Rebecca's past is going to end their future together.

When Arlen figures out who the players are and he knows what is really going on in this town he figures out who needs to be removed and Arlen puts a plan into action. Arlen never expected to have someone turn on him but figured out early in life that everyone is not your friend but love does linger if you grab onto it and don't let go regardless of what you have to do to keep it.

I thought Mr. Koryta's last book So Cold the River was scary but it is nothing in comparison to this book. I kept the lights on and the shades drawn for fear of what was creeping around in the night. Both Arlen and Rebecca have such complicated pasts you don't think there is enough time to explain it all but the author does and gives so much more than just character development he gives you Goosebumps. Great book and while this is a standalone every reader should pick up all other books by this author they are great.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Little House of Death Jan. 26 2011
By Michael Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A 'cypress house', as Michael Koryta tells us in his new thriller by the same name, was at one time a common euphemism for a coffin; in other words a death house, constructed of long-lasting cypress boards, a most durable wood, built to hold a corpse for quite some time. It's also the name of the gulf coast roadhouse, where Arlen Wagner and Paul Brickhill find themselves near the start of the story; not such an advantageous foreboding.

But foreboding seems to be Arlen's cup of tea. At the outset of The Cypress House, he and Paul, along with a number of other job hungry men, are sharing a compartment on a train bound for Miami. From there they plan to travel on to the Florida keys where Roosevelt's CCC labor program promises plenty of work. But fate has other plans for them.

As they near their destination, Arlen, a World War I veteran, begins to have gruesome visions. Smoke billows from men's eye sockets, flesh evaporates from their hands revealing only bleached white bone. To Arlen, these hallucinations, which first appeared to him in Europe during the Great War, can only portend death; but not certain death, as we will later learn. At the next station, he warns the men to stay off the train, but only Paul, an eager and talented young engineer, who Arlen has seen fit to take under his wing, heeds the warning. Arlen and Paul hit the road instead, embarking on an adventure they may just regret.

Thrillers with a tinge of the paranormal seem to be a Michael Koryta's specialty. His last book, So Cold The River, which was an amazon.com pick of the month, employed a mystical liquid called Pluto Water as the catalyst for the drama. After a gulp of the enigmatic potable, the main character starts having dreamlike visions, which aid him in solving the novel's central mystery. Extreme weather also plays a part in that story as it does, although to a lesser degree, in The Cypress House.

The Cypress House succeeds wonderfully in evoking a particular time and place: Gulf coast Florida in the 1930's. You can feel the humidity, smell the decay, taste the liquor. The dialogue is pitch perfect and the characters, though some minor ones border on caricature, are well developed and make unobvious choices. Things go wrong for Arlen and Paul right off the bat, but the story is not a cookie cutter thriller. It is more reminiscent of the 1950's crime noir novels of Jim Thompson.

Koryta delivers here, as one would expect, with suspense, romance, and mystery. But by delving deeper into his character's past, he enables them to grow and change with purpose. Near the end of the book, Arlen, after re-examining his dubious roots, uncovers a painful hidden truth. Facing this pain enables him to develop his curse of portent into a transcendent power that in turn, allows him to take control of his fate. It is this discovery of purpose that frees The Cypress House from the brand of the average thriller.

~Book Jones~ 4.0 Stars
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cerebral Thriller Feb. 21 2011
By Rick Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When I read the reviews and the blurbs about this book I wondered if it would be for me. There were words like "supernatural" and "paranormal". Do not be off put by these descriptions. The main character has premonitions, yes, but the supernatural and the paranormal are not major themes of the book.

This is not the kind of thriller that has a gun shooting or a knife fight or a body found every other page. There is great build up. With about 100 pages to go, I knew the end was near, I just didn't know how Koryta was going to get us there. Whoops! Didn't see that twist coming that changed everything!

Set in the Great Depression, a WWI vet gets hooked up with a young mechanical genius in the CCC camps. The youth wants to go and build the bridge in the Keys, but he is not eligible. He enlists Wagner, the old vet, to help him get on the crew. About midway through Florida they get off the track (literally and figuratively) and get swept up in chilling and violent events. A love story is mixed in just for flavor.

The characters are all very good. Wagner is the main focus and his cynical eye sees the world with a dark wisdom. Once they get to Cypress House where the action really takes shape they meet the extraordinarily corrupt sheriff and judge who are well drawn diabolical bad guys. The woman who runs the place is quietly withdrawn and intense, yet steamy.

There is a lot of dark tension from the outset. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat with rising pressure. Highly recommended, especially for those who enjoy and appreciate long tense build-ups.
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