The Cypress House by Michael Koryta
Published by Little, Brown, and Company, an imprint of Hachette
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Arlen Wagner can see death. When he sees the smoke in a person’s eyes, he knows that death is coming for them in the near future, and he has never been wrong. So when he is traveling by train, heading to Key West, Florida, and sees smoke in the eyes of every passenger on board, he immediately gets off, taking 19-year-old Paul Brickhill with him. While they wait for alternative transportation, they end up at Cypress House, a boarding house run by the gorgeous but strange Rebecca Cady, and they quickly learn that the house is in the path of a potential hurricane. In addition to the danger of the storm, there are some other scary things happening in the Gulf Coast town where Cypress House sits, and while Arlen is determined to get out as soon as possible, Paul wants to stay with Rebecca, dragging Arlen into the dangers that surround them.
Many bloggers I respect have raved about Koryta’s novels, so when I noticed that his latest was available on NetGalley I couldn’t resist. I tend to like my mystery novels to be more on the literary side, and I found The Cypress House to really fit exactly what I was hoping for. The novel is creepy, atmospheric, and very well-written to boot.
From the first few pages, where Arlen sees death in his fellow passengers’ eyes, I knew I was in for an exciting and wild ride with this novel, and I was absolutely not disappointed. The book kept me on my toes the entire time and I really appreciated how much suspense Koryta provided for me. I never once knew what would happen, nor did I have any idea what to even suspect, and I loved that. The book kept me riveted every minute I was reading, and I loathed having to put it down.
Michael Koryta proved to me that not only can he spin a tale of mystery and suspense, but he can really write, too. The writing was exactly what this kind of book needed – very tight, no extra words, etc., while at the same time being very spooky and creating that perfect nerve-wracking atmosphere for the reader. In addition, the characters were extremely well drawn. The “bad guys” were creepily bad, the “good guys” (such as Arlen himself) were good but tortured, and those in the middle – such as Rebecca – were absolutely perfect. I loved how Koryta created Rebecca’s character to be sort of ambiguous – the reader never really did understand whether she was telling Arlen the truth or keeping secrets from him, and she was impossible to trust. She was probably my favorite of everyone in this novel.
I really enjoyed The Cypress House and would definitely recommend it. Even if you don’t typically read mystery novels, I would encourage you to give this book a try because it’s so well-written as well as being suspenseful. Michael Koryta definitely earned my respect with this book and I will be reading more from him in the near future.