Monday, June 20, 2011

THE RIDGE - Michael Koryta

First line: "Kevin Kimble made the drive before dawn, as he always did, the mountains falling away as dark silhouettes in the rearview mirror."

Kevin Kimble is the deputy sheriff in Blade Ridge. It's a quiet little town for the most part, but it claims a significant oddity: Wyatt French and his lighthouse, in the middle of the forest. The quiet little town starts to come apart at the hinges about the time Audrey Clark begins moving her big-cat sanctuary in near the lighthouse. In order to serve and protect his town, Kimble has to face challenges he hasn't seen the likes of since he was shot on duty years ago.

I've been a fan of Michael Koryta's almost as long as I've been reading crime fiction. When Koryta branched out to try his hand with the supernatural, I followed despite the fact that it wasn't my cup of tea. His work in this area intrigued me and captivated me, due in large part to the qualities that make him such a fabulous crime writer as well. He tells a superb story with fascinating, well-developed characters. However, when asked what my favorite work of his was, I always went back to his second crime novel, SORROW'S ANTHEM, followed closely by ENVY THE NIGHT. Until now.

THE RIDGE is the work of an exceptionally talented story teller coming into his own. The richness of the characters, the depth of the symbolism, the strength of the atmosphere all combine to suck the reader into Koryta's world. You fall down his rabbit hole and land in a world you logically know doesn't exist, but the reality of what you experience convinces you otherwise.

Whether writing in first person, or as in THE RIDGE from third person, Koryta allows his reader to intimately understand the mind of his protagonist, which in turn helps a bond form between reader and character. Now the reader is invested. Kevin Kimble is no different. What makes THE RIDGE different is Koryta's inclusion of the big cats and their roles as characters. Each cat is distinct with its own personality. Symbolically, those cats begin to have parallels to their human counterparts.

The lighthouse, featured prominently on the novel's cover, is also an important symbol. Koryta plays tug-of-war with good and evil - light and dark, leaving both sides covered in the mud of ambiguity.

With these elements of depth, the plot can't help but be multi-layered. Surfacely, Koryta had constructed an entertaining plot with well-timed twists and exciting action. Below that is a look into the human condition. The phrase "bound by balance" is repeated throughout the novel, and Roy Darmus, a reporter, tells Kimble, "You must be able to believe in a great evil." These underlying symbols and themes lodged themselves in my brain and still tumble around, demanding me to pay attention.

There are so many incredible strengths to this novel, but the one I believe holds them all together, like a tendon in the body, is Koryta's beautiful demand of the language. So often I will stop and simply marvel at the construct of a sentence, at how a simple compilation of words can create such a powerful effect:
"She took her seat again, and he pulled up a plastic chair that screeched coming across the floor and sat beside her. Not all the way at the opposite end of the table, but not too close either. Purgatory distance."
I was caught off guard the first time I read this passage, having to re-read it several times. But it wasn't until I came back to the passage after finishing the book that I could appreciate all the nuances and meaning packed into it. Koryta is an author who demands re-reading to completely appreciate everything nestled into his work.

Koryta has built upon his strengths in THE RIDGE, making this his most powerful novel to date. Now when people ask me what my favorite book of Koryta's is, I'm going to have to answer THE RIDGE.

THE RIDGE is available in hardcover from Little, Brown (ISBN: 978-0-316-05366-2) and on audio, narrated by Robert Petkoff from Hachette Audio (ISBN: 978-1-609-41234-0).


jenclair June 20, 2011 at 9:37 AM  

Excellent review--I'm adding The Ridge to my list!

Kay June 20, 2011 at 10:23 AM  

I'm really fascinated by the whole idea of a lighthouse in a place that seems foreign. Why is it there and I love the whole symbolism concept. Looking forward to reading this one, Jen. You've done a good job whettig the appetite! LOL

le0pard13 June 20, 2011 at 10:41 AM  

Robert Petkoff is turning into MK's regular audio reader, which is good news. Fine review, Jen! Thanks.

bermudaonion June 20, 2011 at 11:23 AM  

I was hoping to have this one read by now, but haven't had a chance to get to it yet. Koryta has never let me down, so I'm looking forward to it.

Jen June 20, 2011 at 8:58 PM  

Jen and Kay, thank you so much. I wanted to do the book justice. I think it's amazing!

Michael, Petkoff is becoming synonymous with Koryta's work, isn't he? I think he's an outstanding narrator. Excellent match-up!

Kathy, you know I'm a Koryta groupie, so I think it says a lot that this book finally overtook my consistent favorite! Hope you enjoy it, too!

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