The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

July 18, 2009


SYNOPSIS: PI Lincoln Perry isn't happy about his latest client, a murderous ex-con who did 15 years in prison but has been free for the past 13 years. The client, Parker Harrison, wants Perry to find a woman named Alexandra Cantrell who, along with her husband, disappeared a year after Harrison was paroled into their care. Matters aren't helped when Perry finds out that his client has knowledge of the husband's death. Out of state cops, an inexperienced PI and an aging FBI agent all find their way to Perry's door, wanting answers Perry doesn't have and doesn't want to have, because among the many people beating a path to his door in Harrison's trail, is one Dominic Sanabria, a mobster of the old school and the brother of Alexandra Cantrell. Lincoln Perry is not stupid enough to try and cross Sanabria, and he wants out of this case fast. But everyone else seems determined to make him a player. People should be careful what they ask for.

REVIEW: There are so many things good and right about this book that it feels like quibbling to say that this is not Michael Koryta's best work. And yet it's something of a relief to know that he's as fallible as other writers.

What's good: Koryta continues to build and develop and mature Perry's character, and in the process makes this one of his most emotionally memorable books. Perry himself is fallible but he's lucky enough to have friends who will point out his flaws for the purpose of self-improvement, but who will also support him just because he is who he is, warts and all. Throughout this case, Perry finds himself trying to learn whether his work will define him or destroy him. Koryta never lets Perry off the hook; the consequences of his decisions affect not only Perry and his clients but also his friends, lover, and partner. The untried PI, Ken Merriman, and client Harrison also are characters of depth and interest and it is crucial that the reader sees them as such because without them, without the sympathetic nature of their problems and mysteries, the story would lack momentum.

That's where the not-so-good comes into play. Much -- a little too much, I think -- of the mystery is unraveled as Lincoln interviews people or studies files. The beginning of the book hooks the reader early on, with the mystery of the loving couple who disappeared from their eerily beautiful home, an otherworldly place that carries its own epitaph by the front door. In the last section of the book, Perry begins hooking all the clues together and the story gathers steam for its final (and almost only) action sequence. The middle section of the story, aptly titled Cold Trail Blues, is where the story sags. Raymond Chandler (I think it was he) once said something about when the story falters, have a man come in with a gun. In the middle section I kept waiting for a man to come in with a gun. Mostly what happens is Lincoln listens to a lot of reminiscences and tries to sort out truth from lies. The information in that mid-section is necessary to build the story, but the presentation lacks drive. The energy that ran through Envy the Night, Koryta's previous book, start to finish, is missing from the midsection of The Silent Hour.

And yet, having said that, the emotional wallop of this book is so powerful that it's easily worth the reader's patience to get the answers to all the mysteries; to understand the ripple effect, on people and across time, of one's decisions; to understand how it is often our weaknesses that inform our decisions instead of our strengths; and the never-good results of allowing one's work, however well-intentioned, to devour one's soul. No, this may not be Koryta's best work, but it's still pretty damned good, and will probably please most of his fans and garner some new ones as well.

Here's an excerpt, an exchange that takes place at Lincoln's home, between Lincoln and mobster Dominic Sanabria:
"Who hired you?"

I shook my head.

"You've been around," he said. "You understand that people can eventually be convinced to share information."

"I've also seen how stupid and wasteful all that convincing becomes when it doesn't produce any information of value. I've seen the problems that can arise as a result of the effort."

"You were a cop."

"I was."

"Cops tend to feel safe. Off-limits, protected. That sort of thing."

"I've been to a few police funerals. Enough to know better."

"Still you refuse me."

"The name can't help you, Mr. Sanabria. My client is a nobody.
Was a nobody."

"Maybe you like me," he said. "Maybe you like having me around, want me to drop in again. That must be it, because here you have a chance to send me away for good, and you're refusing that."

"I like you fine. You're terrific, trust me. Even so, I sure as shit don't want you around."

"You sound a little uneasy there."

"I am."

"You sound, maybe, even afraid," he said, and there was a bite in his voice. a taunt.

"I'm afraid of my own stupidity," I answered. "There are people I'd rather not be involved with, at any level, at any time. You are one of those people."

"That could be viewed as an insult."

"It should be viewed as a statement of fact. I don't want anything to do with you, and I don't know anything that can help you. Where we go from here, I guess you will decide and I'll deal with."

He nodded his head very slowly. "Yes. Yes, I guess I will decide."

Another pause, and then he got to his feet and walked toward me.


  1. Since I enjoyed Tonight I Said Goodbye, I plan on getting through the series, and this one. LP is a likable PI character and I'm looking forward to get back into this. But, Envy the Night will be the next Koryta. Thanks for the good review, Corey.

  2. How did you get the book already? I thought it wasn't out until August?

    I'm definitely going to buy it in hardback. Great review! I'm so glad that Koryta is still going strong after Tonight I Said Goodbye and Envy the Night.

  3. CT, Minotaur sent me the book and I didn't even ask for it. Go figger. And I think I read that Jen at Jen's Book Thoughts is also reading it right now.

  4. Yes, I'm about to finish it as soon as I finish your Monday Mystery Backlist post for tomorrow, Corey! :)

    Last night I got through section 2 getting a little irritated with LP for feeling sorry for himself. I'm waiting to see what Koryta does with that in the final leg. And that's not to say that I'm not loving the book. I would get irritated with Elvis at times in connection with his relationship with Lucy, too. Getting irritated with a character simply says to me, I'm emotionally vested in the character. And THAT is the sign of a good book. I did want to point out that a man DID come in with a gun in the second leg, Corey. The problem was, he left it locked in the glove box! ;)

    Reviews like this are exactly why you got my vote for best reviews in BBAW. Thanks Corey!! :)

  5. Section two definitely sagged. Yeah, all the guns were offstage in section two. Contrast this case against the one Elvis worked in Chasing Darkness. The cases are similar in that they are cold cases, and the PI has to cover old ground and interview witnesses already interviewed by others. The middle of Chasing Darkness could easily have sagged but I think Crais got more variety out of the witnesses Elvis spoke to, they weren't all cops or mobsters, and there was a lot of emotion and conflict coming out of some of those witnesses (the Repko family). And between interviews, Crais didn't bring in a gun but he did let Elvis get trapped and thumped on by the Repko brothers. I would have welcomed a little action like that in the mid-section of TSH.

  6. Oh, and thanks for the vote, Jen.