BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE PROPHET by Michael Koryta

Michael Koryta The Prophet

I became a fan of Michael Koryta’s work when he was doing his Lincoln Perry mystery series. He’s a good writer and knows his stuff when it comes to detective work because he’s worked as a private detective. What surprised me was his next move to the horror genre and the depth of emotional complexity he brings to times and characters that he could not have experienced. Read The Cypress House and you’ll know what I mean.

In The Prophet, Koryta carves out a new piece of the writing landscape by incorporating so much football into his story. In the afterword, I learned that he’d spent time with a local high school football team, so that explained the knowledge, but there’s a lot of love on the pages too.

The characters in the novel are full-bodied, deeply etched of hard emotions and pain, and turned in such different directions that I didn’t know how Koryta was going to make it all work. But he does, and the book is a bittersweet concoction of family ties and how they operate.

Over twenty years ago, Adam and Kent Austin’s sister Marie was kidnapped, raped, and killed. That event shattered the Austin family and sent the brothers spiraling out of control, at odds with each other so that they haven’t spoken in years.

Adam is a hardnosed bail bondsman in love with an old flame married to a guy he helped put in prison. Kent has become the town’s football coach and a religious leader, a man everyone admires.

Then another girl is murdered who knew both the brothers, and that murder spins Adam’s guilt out of its cage and onto a trail of vengeance that gradually envelops his brother Kent.

The pacing is a hard grind that makes putting the book down difficult. It’s a big read, with lots of twists and turns and reverses. Every time I thought I had things figured out, Koryta found a new way to shove the story into a new orbit that grew wilder and wilder, while at the same time become a noose for everyone involved.

I will fault the resolution a little because although everything lines up at the end, I didn’t feel I had a good shot at figuring out who the ultimate villain was. That person comes out of left field to a degree and I was somewhat dissatisfied. Ultimately, though, there was no real way to give readers that chance without ripping away the tension.

The Prophet is an excellent character study that plays out through the pages, and it’s a white-knuckled read. In addition to the chase, Koryta writes some excellent football scenes and I’m wondering if he’ll do more writing in the sports arena for his next book.

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