Title: The Cypress House
Author: Michael Koryta
Release Date: January 24, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Arlen Wagner can see dead people. Except his “gift” comes with a twist – he can see it on living people that are fated to die. When he sees the entire trainload of men he is traveling with turn to bones, he knows he has to exit the train immediately. Arlen convinces the young man he has been traveling with, Paul, to join him. Together, they find themselves in Corridor County, Florida at an inn called Cypress House and accused of murder, and Arlen knows that nothing will ever be the same.
I’ve never read Michael Koryta, but I’ve heard some amazing things about his books. The term I’ve always seen used to describe his works is “supernatural thriller,” but I’m not sure that really even fits. To me, The Cypress House was a complex, southern gothic novel with elements of a thriller, a mystery, and a character driven story that I couldn’t help but keep reading.
I was really impressed with The Cypress House. From the beginning, the novel had this sense of foreboding, this doom surrounding it. The atmosphere only heightened once Arlen and Paul arrived at The Cypress House. It’s clear that the proprietress of the establishment, Rebecca Cady, is hostile to them and wants them to move along, but at the same time, it’s clear that she’s in over her head. The question behind Rebecca’s behavior is what drives the book, as Koryta unfolds layer after layer of complexity.
Arlen is a difficult man to get to know. He holds everyone, including the reader, at arm’s length, not trusting anyone enough to reveal the deepest parts of himself. Still, the reader knows that he has seen horrors and the fact that he hasn’t been able to save everyone whose death he’s foreseen haunts him. As the novel progresses and Arlen reveals more of himself to the reader, it’s easy to get lost in the story as they root for himself to find a way out of a no-win situation.
I’ve said this before, but I can’t emphasize enough how atmospheric The Cypress House is and how much it does for the story. On their own, the twists and turns of the story would be interesting, but with Koryta’s amazing writing ability and scene setting, the entire thing really just blew me away. I was riveted by this novel, desperate to uncover the truth behind Rebecca’s situation and anxious because I just couldn’t see any way for things to turn out positively.
The Cypress House was an impressive book that left me completely satisfied. I loved the intricacy, the mystery, and the wonderful gothic atmosphere. I can’t wait to see what Koryta does next, but in the meantime, I’ll be going back and checking out his previous books.