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The Ridge Hardcover – June 8, 2011
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In an isolated stretch of eastern Kentucky, on a hilltop known as Blade Ridge, stands a lighthouse that illuminates nothing but the surrounding woods. For years the lighthouse has been considered no more than an eccentric local landmark-until its builder is found dead at the top of the light, and his belongings reveal a troubling local history.
For deputy sheriff Kevin Kimble, the lighthouse-keeper's death is disturbing and personal. Years ago, Kimble was shot while on duty. Somehow the death suggests a connection between the lighthouse and the most terrifying moment of his life.
Audrey Clark is in the midst of moving her large-cat sanctuary onto land adjacent to the lighthouse. Sixty-seven tigers, lions, leopards, and one legendary black panther are about to have a new home there. Her husband, the sanctuary's founder, died scouting the new property, and Audrey is determined to see his vision through.
As strange occurrences multiply at the Ridge, the animals grow ever more restless, and Kimble and Audrey try to understand what evil forces are moving through this ancient landscape, just past the divide between dark and light.
The Ridge is the new thriller from international bestseller Michael Koryta, further evidence of why Dean Koontz has said "Michael Koryta's work resonates into deeper strata than does most of what I read" and why Michael Connelly has named him "one of the best of the best."
Hamilton: You broke in the same way I did, through the St. Martin's Press/Private Eye Writers of America contest. That first book, Tonight I Said Goodbye, went on to be nominated for an Edgar Award. How did you handle such sudden success at such a young age?
Koryta: Well, the positive side of being 20 when the book won the contest and 21 when it was published was that I knew absolutely nothing about publishing. I was an undergrad, working two jobs. Between all that and writing, I didn’t have time to worry, I just kept my head down and got work done.
Hamilton: You did two more Lincoln Perry novels after that first one, then broke out of the series to write Envy the Night. That’s a fairly early departure from a series. Were you conscious of the risk you were taking?
Koryta: You know, I didn’t think of it as a risk. I thought it was a better book than what I’d done before and therefore a wise move. That was the book that had to be written. I didn’t feel as if I had much choice in the matter. You’ve got a limited number of shots, so the only risk I see is in letting those slip past for stories you’d love to tell.
Hamilton: You returned to the series for one more Lincoln Perry book (The Silent Hour). Now, these were all very well-received, well-reviewed books. You were definitely on most everyone’s short list of favorite private eye writers. Any sane, normal person would have kept going down that same road. But you? Not so much. Please explain yourself.
Koryta: Again, we come back to the idea of the story you’ve just got to write. I’d been entranced with the folklore and history behind So Cold the River for years, and I just couldn’t put the brakes on. I went off to write a 500-page ghost story, and it prompted a change in publishers, but that book also ended up selling better and getting better publicity than anything I’d done before. So sanity, schmanity, says I!
Hamilton: Seriously, no matter what anyone says now, it was a radical departure for you to try something so different. You probably don’t like categories any more than I do, but you’re probably going to find So Cold the River on the “Horror” shelf in many bookstores, right next to Stephen King. (King, Koryta--okay, maybe Dean Koontz is in the middle there.) The thing that makes this so amazing to me is that just a few years ago, the horror genre was essentially left for dead. You had to know this. And yet here you are, breathing new life into it. What on earth made you decide to attempt such a leap?
Koryta: Ironically, it found me shelved in “fiction and literature” instead of either mystery or horror. I never considered it all that different from my past work. To me, it was still suspense, just with a supernatural thread. But of course I knew some people would feel differently. I tried to take comfort in knowing that other writers--King, Koontz, Matheson, Levin, McCammon, Straub, Bradbury--had done just fine by focusing on writing well. And Joe Hill! Before he got any bump from being King’s son, he got a lot of attention simply for writing a great book. Heart-Shaped Box was an encouragement for me, a reminder of how much fun a writer should be having at his craft. You can feel how much fun he’s having.
Hamilton: You’ve kept working in this same vein, with The Cypress House and now with The Ridge. As good as your crime fiction was, I can’t help but think that you’re really hitting your stride now. Does writing a story with paranormal elements give you a better opportunity to do something truly original and amazing?
Koryta: It opens things up a great deal. I think of Hitchcock, who always created suspense, but delivered it in a lot of different ways. Any writer who’s interested in putting a real squeeze of tension around the reader’s heart probably considers a spooky tale at some point, and I’m surprised more don’t chase the impulse. I find that it allows me to wrestle with larger issues thematically and symbolically. Now, that’s a personal experience. But the past three books feel bigger to me in those ways.
Hamilton: Any plans to return to crime fiction (or for that matter, to Lincoln Perry)?
Koryta: Absolutely! The next book is going to be a traditional crime novel, a story I’ve been kicking around for years, about two brothers who lost a sibling to violent crime and grew up coping with that tragedy in radically different ways. It’s also a football book--one of the brothers is a high school coach in Ohio, where high school football is a very big deal. As for Lincoln, we’ll wait and see.
"A man in love with the woman who shot him. Who could possibly resist that story? Not me. Read on, and discover one of the scariest and most touching horror tales in years."―James Patterson
"From page one of The Ridge, Michael Koryta has the reader leaning forward, racing down the page, driving deeper and deeper into his creepy, pulpy tale to find out what bad thing is going to happen next. As in So Cold the River, Koryta delivers a midwestern ghost story based on place--another roadside attraction from his haunted heartland. Reader, heed my advice: hold his hand tight. You don't want to get caught out here alone in the woods, in the night, in the dark."―Stewart O'Nan, author of Emily, Alone
"Red alert for mystery and thriller fans who like a touch of the supernatural: Michael Koryta walks this line better than anyone else I know. Fine, gripping writing that's firmly grounded in police work and the lives of real people, but with Lovecraft-ian overtones, and that whispering fear always lurking."―Neil McMahon
"Michael Koryta is an immensely gifted storyteller, and this new novel confirms that he gets better and better with each new book. Once I started The Ridge, I couldn't put it down."―Ron Rash, author of Serena
"A rural Kentucky community becomes the unlikely focal point for a series of enigmatic and terrifying events in Koryta's subtle supernatural thriller...Koryta matches an original and complex plot line with prose full of understated menace."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Koryta...gets deep inside the minds of his protagonists, and the story is intriguing and...spooky. It's a good book, effectively blending crime and horror...this one will definitely cross over to fans of both genres."―David Pitt, Booklist
"Koryta delivers another supernatural thriller with punch....Part ghost story, part murder mystery, all thriller, this fast-paced and engaging read will have readers leaving the night-light on long after they have finished the book."―Library Journal (starred review)
"The choice is simple: Kill or be killed....Koryta, whose affection for the big cats and those who care for them is contagious, has produced a supernatural thriller that will raise goosebumps the size of golf balls."―Kirkus
"A chilling supernatural thriller by [a] rising literary star"―Alexandra Alter, The Wall Street Journal
"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 (on The Cypress House)
"A freshly imagined and elegantly constructed variation on the dead-of-night ghost story.... [an] eerie tale... readers are swept along by Koryta's narrative voice, which is surprisingly soft and low and poetically insinuating."―Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
"Another supernatural thriller with punch....Part ghost story, part murder mystery, all thriller, this fast-paced and engaging read will have readers leaving the night light on long after they have finished the book."―Colleen S. Harris, Library Journal (starred review)
"This sounds an odd set-up for a whodunnit, but if you know Koryta's splendid style, you know he's in the right place. The Ridge is a classically good mystery that's also regionally fascinating... Koryta's tales stand out because of the quirks he spins in--a haunted piano, a too-conveniently-located rural tavern, a closed paper's newsroom--quirks that add up to that rarest of things: a summer mystery that's both spooky and incredibly funny."―Cole Louison, The New Yorker's "Book Bench"
"Particularly powerful when revealing the telling details of those who are isolated--by profession, by geography, by temperament. It's admirable to attempt a ghost story that can withstand the cynical scepticism of our time while engaging the reader with characters who struggle with all-too-real dilemmas. Here, Koryta has created a vivid world that's hard to shake for days after the book is finished. In The Ridge, he has delivered a nuanced supernatural thriller worthy of the praise he's received and that is surely yet to come."―Paula L. Woods, Los Angeles Times
"The Ridge by Michael Koryta is a strange and intense novel that has a touch of Stephen King thrown in for good measure...a fascinating study of good vs. evil...At one moment it is a legitimate drama and in a flash it becomes something supernatural. That is where the Stephen King influence shows its face. Koryta takes the drama then adds the supernatural...and when one portion begins to unravel the story beneath is an amazing one. Michael Koryta is a name that is growing in stature with each new novel he releases. The Ridge indicates he will keep getting better and better. This is a chilling story that will have you burning the midnight oil and wishing you had a lighthouse to ward off any dark presence around you."―Jackie K. Cooper, The Huffington Post
"An eerie tale... a dark and compulsively readable story.... Koryta doesn't just craft an absorbingly creepy plot; he also makes effective use of setting and local history (as he did in So Cold the River and The Cypress House). His prose is observant and streamlined, and his characters are believable and complex...Reading The Ridge is a fine way to chill down a hot summer night. But you'll want to leave the lights on."―Colette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times
"A new suspense novel that's sure to send a few unseasonable shivers down the back of your neck...In addition to being a spooky thriller, the book is about a lot of different kinds of loss and love."―Linda Wertheimer. NPR
Top customer reviews
In "The Ridge", old eccentric Wyatt French tends a lighthouse in an isolated part of Kentucky known as Blade Ridge--a lighthouse with no apparent purpose since there is nothing to monitor and alert in this inland forest, or is there? When Wyatt commits suicide in his beloved lighthouse, a series of photos and research are found that ultimately lead Chief Deputy Kevin Kimble and former journalist Roy Darmus into an uneasy alliance investigating the inordinate number of deaths occurring on Blade Ridge over a long period of years.
There is something strange and not quite right about that lighthouse and the troubled area surrounding it but the evilness harbored there can only be imagined. Audrey Clark is moving 67 large wild cats (lions, tigers, panthers)into a new sanctuary that she and her late husband developed near the lighthouse and the cats are quick to anonounce their unhappiness with the area, especially at night. What is out there? What is disturbing them? What prompts the largest and rarest cat of all to escape into the surrounding wilderness?
"The Ridge" is at once an enduring love story, a character study of commitment to a cause, and a tale of the supernatural. Yes, the reader does have to suspend his/her sense of disbelief to fully ride Koryta's thriller but it is well worth the effort. The people are believable, the locations are crystal clear, and the dialogue is spot on. Even some of the great cats are given personalities that will bring a smile to animal lovers out there. I highly recommend "The Ridge" as I do all of Koryta's work.
The Ridge is a good solid supernatural mystery, but I would have liked a bit more of the supernatural. Since Koryta's earlier work fell more into the mystery/investigation drama, I'm assuming that's definitely where he gets his strong points from.
We begin with a small town in Kentucky where a large cat refuge has just set up camp on Blade Ridge, next door to the town drunk who built a bizarre lighthouse on his property and has been investigating odd deaths/murders that have taken place on the ridge. A series of accidents and events, including one escaped rare black cougar, quickly set up the plot for the charactes and the reader.
We are led by Kimble, chief deputy, in love with a female inmate who shot him and who also suffered from an accident at the ridge. When some of the cat refuge workers also fall victim to strange events, and the lighthouse owner takes his life, the investigation turns to a strange blue ghost light and the dark history surrounding a trestle that overlooks the ridge. Throw in an aging reporter whose newspaper has just shut down and you've got quite a cast of interesting characters.
Like I said, the whole supernatural element is neat, but I just wanted a bit more of that after having read authors like King and Koontz. I didn't shiver like I wanted to! It was more of the mystery elements and the "who-dun-it" plotlines that really solidified Koryta as being an author I will definitely read again.
Koryta adds more oddball characters. A newspaperman who lost his job when the paper folds is the next to get a call from the owner of the lighthouse. He lets him know that he is going to end his life, but wants both the Deputy and the reporter to investigate his death.
What I liked: Koryta does a good job with the Southern Gothic but does not quite pull off the supernatural thriller part. The characters are quirky, but something is lacking because I found that despite the great premise the middle lagged and I did not really feel anything for most of them.
I will read more from this author, but he just missed it somehow with The Ridge.