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The Cypress House Hardcover – January 24, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 136 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

After making his name with five strong crime novels, Koryta started adding chills to the thrills in the horror-tinged So Cold the River (2010). In this one, battle-hardened WWI veteran Arlen Wagner can foretell others’ deaths. With the Great Depression crippling the country, he works in the Civilian Conservation Corps and keeps his demons at bay with hard work and a flask full of whiskey. He and young friend Paul Brickhill are traveling by train to a new CCC camp in the Florida Keys when Arlen’s supernatural sense tells him they have to get off the train if they want to stay alive. They find themselves at Cypress House, a strangely empty fishing resort on the Gulf Coast run by beautiful but taciturn Rebecca Cady—and right in the middle of a vipers’ nest of small-town corruption and misery. Koryta is superb with mood and setting, and, if a bit too much of the plot is revealed in stories the characters tell to each other, the simmering tension erupts into a rolling boil by the bloody, spooky, and satisfying ending. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Koryta’s stock has only risen since his Edgar-nominated first novel. His first crossover supernatural thriller evoked comparisons to Stephen King and Peter Straub; a big promotional push this time will extend that momentum still further. --Keir Graff

Review

Praise for THE CYPRESS HOUSE

"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

"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

"Koryta is superb with mood and setting...the simmering tension erupts into a rolling boil by the bloody, spooky, and satisfying ending."―Keir Graff, Booklist

"Following up his acclaimed gothic, So Cold the River, Koryta blends gritty noir and ghostly visions in a novel that seems custom-designed for Nicolas "Ghost Rider" Cage. Arlen Wagner, a survivor of bloody battles in Europe, is on a train headed for a work camp in the Florida Keys when he sees smoke coming from the eyes of passengers and skeletons instead of bodies....the novel builds to a richly satisfying climax...A commanding performance in the field of supernatural noir."―Kirkus

"Koryta's masterful follow-up to So Cold the River effectively combines supernatural terror with the suffocating fatalism of classic American noir....Koryta excels at describing both scenery and his characters' inner landscapes. It's hard to think of another book with equal appeal to Stephen King and Cornell Woolrich fans."―Publishers Weekly

"You'll be hooked from the first sentence of this haunting thriller that twists like a water moccasin through the swamplands of Depression-era Florida, drenched in rain, blood, and evil. Jim Thompson noir with Stephen King spookiness."―Neil McMahon, author of Lone Creek and L.A. Mental

"An enthralling novel that easily melds mystery fiction, the supernatural and just a touch of the old-fashioned western and historical novels without losing the conventions of each genre. Yet The Cypress House is so grounded in reality that no plot turn or character rings false. The Cypress House works as a novel about post-war stress, small-town corruption and the dusty Great Depression. Koryta dredges up the dread that festers below the surface of the characters who reside at The Cypress House.... As he did in last year's supernatural-tinged So Cold the River, Koryta again shows his affinity for incorporating varied genres into a cohesive story and, along the way, stretching the boundaries of each."―Oline H. Cogdill, The Olympian, The Modesto Bee , The Sacramento Bee, The Lexington Herald Leader , The Bellingham Herald, and the Kansas City Star

"Michael Koryta is mining Stephen King territory [in The Cypress House] and carving out a spot all his own."―Sarah Weinman, Women's World

"There is an otherworldly quality to the Depression-era South in Michael Koryta's The Cypress House, and not just because the hero, Arlen Wagner, knows when people are going to die...The depiction of Florida's panhandle, an overgrown back-woods years before developers arrived, and the isolated inn on the gulf Coast beach where Arlen ends up with young Civilian Conservation Corps co-worker Paul Brickhill, are equally eerie....Deftly blending all genres, Koryta balances the scary violence of Judge Solomon Ward and his tame sheriff-a nightmare of despotic small-town lawmen peculiar to a later South-with the sexual currents stirred up among the three people effectively trapped in the house.... However counterintuitive, he makes this curious mix of supernatural prescience and gothic-noir work with a seamless atmospheric certainty."―P.G. Koch, Houston Chronicle

"A gripping noir thriller-ghost story."―Colette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times

"An enthralling novel that easily melds mystery fiction, the supernatural and just a touch of the old-fashioned western and historical novels without losing the conventions of each genre. Yet The Cypress House is so grounded in reality that no plot turn or character rings false. The Cypress House works as a novel about post-war stress, small-town corruption and the dusty Great Depression. Koryta dredges up the dread that festers below the surface of the characters who reside at "The Cypress House."... Koryta again shows his affinity for incorporating varied genres into a cohesive story and, along the way, stretching the boundaries of each.... Koryta's powerful storytelling depicts believable characters and a view of Old Florida that is seldom seen outside of old postcards."―Oline H. Cogdill, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"Michael Koryta grabs readers with tales of gripping suspense and just enough touches of the supernatural to keep them nervous on two levels...Koryta does match King for storytelling, and he creates characters who come alive for readers...Koryta, who made the jump for crime writing to crime writing with a twist, knows how to build suspense. He paints dark and dangerous times with hurricanes and murderers threatening Wagner, Brickhill and Rebecca. His thriller is graced with masterly descriptions of the area and the pending storm that is another killer the trio must survive. In his taut and atmospheric story, Koryta keeps readers guessing right up to the end on how things will turn out, especially when Wagner begins to see the signs of death in his own face."―Mary Foster, Associated Press

"The second half of The Cypress House picks up steam, building to a seriously tense and twisted final act. With its evocative Gulf Coast setting, the book makes for a warm beach read in midwinter."―Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

"A healthy helping of noir crime novel, a swirl of supernatural horror, a spoonful of historical fiction, a dollop of old-time Western and a dash of finely tuned observation of the natural world. But Koryta isn't simply following a recipe. He's a creative chef, capable of crafting a dish greater than the sum of its ordinary parts. As in last year's So Cold the River, he cooks up a suspenseful treat without a lot of empty calories in The Cypress House....when it comes to plot and suspense, he knows what he's doing. He paces the novel masterfully, allowing it to steam for a while, simmer as threads from the past are added to the mix, then come to a rolling boil for the last 100 pages. When violence enters the picture, and it often does, Koryta lets the horror speak for itself rather than exploiting it. His knowledge of the Gulf Coast landscape helps with the novel's credibility but never intrudes on the action....The Cypress House proves that So Cold the River wasn't a one-hit wonder. Koryta... is quickly taking his place among the top American writers of supernatural suspense."―Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch

"The last scenes in the novel...verify Koryta's knack for putting a supernatural spin on the angst depicted in classic noir fiction."―Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

"The Cypress House begins with pulse-racing promise....[a] delicious setup....sprinting to a filmic, white-knuckled finish."―Andrea Simakis, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (January 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316053724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316053723
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Holly TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 17, 2011
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.)
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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.
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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.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael Koryta.

This was not entertaining or fun. I was not surprised or delighted. I liked the beginning, but the longer I read the more annoyed and frustrated I felt. The biggest problem was subject matter. The second problem was people keeping secrets for no good reason.

SECRETS:
Secrets were used to create mystery and conflict. They did not make sense. Some were stupid. Several times I wanted to shake a character and say "tell them."

Arlen loves Paul like a son and does things to help and protect Paul. At the end of the book, Paul has been given a gift from an anonymous source. Arlen is the source but does not tell Paul he did it. Why keep that secret? It was the end of the book and I was ready for some happy feelings, but instead I get another secret. I was annoyed.

Many of the secrets were Rebecca not telling Arlen what was going on. Arlen also kept secrets from Paul. I liked Envy the Night by this author. In that book characters didn't tell all they knew, but it fit their motivations.

SUBJECT MATTER - METAPHOR STYLE:
Two guys are looking for work and accidentally walk into a nest of poisonous snakes. Instead of running away like sane people, they stay because of a pretty girl. The leader of the snakes tells the girl he will kill her brother if she doesn't do what he wants. The brother is tied up. She thinks as soon as he gets untied they can leave. But when he is no longer tied, he wants to stay. She doesn't tell him the snakes are poisonous. And she continues to NOT tell him. Most of the story is about snakes threatening good guys.
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