The Prophet – Michael Koryta

Adam and Kent Austin had a little sister. One night, instead of getting a lift from Adam, because he was otherwise engaged with his girlfriend, she walked home. She never made it.

Haunted by that tragic past, each brother has grown older and tried to deal with the murder of their sister in their own way. Kent is the high school football team coach, and Adam is a bail bondsman. They live in the same town, but are distant and apart. Kent is the one the community looks up to. Adam is the one keeping his sister’s memory alive – as he would have it – by maintaining her bedroom as a kind of shrine, and confiding in her.

Now, twenty years on, a young girl comes to Adam for help. This sets off a chain reaction that tears apart the world of both of the brothers, and their community of Chambers, Ohio.

The author’s characterization, especially of the brothers, is top notch. The story telling is excellent, with one caveat: I enjoyed the American Football sequences. But a reader with no interest in that sport will be derailed temporarily. It may have been better to cut these, or to, er, tackle them in a different manner. The author does explain, in a note at the end, the significance of the football content, and it works for me. But it will not work for everyone.

While I remember, in reading the book I got a good sense of the community the author was describing. I thought his portrayal of family connections and strains was realistic and sharply observed. He did not waste time in clever asides, but the thoughtful reflections of his characters never seemed indulgent nor out of place.

Do not be misled, though, for this is a real page turner. While the plot is neither complex nor tortuous, there is a great big ball of dark, dark atmosphere hanging over and around you as you read it. There’s action and violence and at least one sharp twist of the author’s knife. Indeed, the author skilfully plays on your heart strings and delivers the sure fire mark of a good read: I was sad to get to the end.

I know little of the author’s other work beyond So Cold the River, but this raising of the standard will set me looking. I can hear my Kindle getting ready as I type this!

In short, recommended.

Score: 7/10