The Cypress House by Michael Koryta: Book Review

Mar 12, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Books & Tales, Christopher Lewis, Every Other Book, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Christopher Lewis

If you like Dean Koontz, you’ll love Michael Koryta’s latest book, The Cypress House. This book is written in a style reminiscent of Koontz’s earlier days but also has a freshness that is all Koryta’s own. Michael Koryta is a more recent addition to the best-selling novel scene, but he is not a novice. In some of his previous novels, he has established himself in the mystery/thriller genre with his Lincoln Perry series, which has earned him nominations for the Edgar, Shamus and Quill awards and won the Great Lakes Book Award. He also won the Los Angeles Book Prize for best mystery/thriller with his bestseller, Envy the Night.

With his latest book, he has taken a foray into Koontz’s field by writing a supernatural thriller about a man who sees death before it happens in the eyes of its victims. Arlen Wagner is one of thirty-four laborers on a train headed toward a work camp in the Florida Keys during the Great Depression. As the train hurtles toward its destination, Arlen becomes convinced that the true destination of everyone on that train is death. He sees a trace of smoke in the eyes of every passenger and knows what it means because he has seen it many times before, especially during his days as a soldier in the First World War. He knows that this always means that the victim is going to die, but he also knows that the destiny is not an absolute certainty, that it sometimes can be changed if he can figure out a way to change the situation.

He gets off the train and takes Paul Brickhill with him. Paul is a nineteen-year-old he befriended at a previous work-camp. He’s determined to save the young man’s life, even though the boy refuses to believe him at first when he tells him about his unusual gift. He tries to warn everyone on the train, but nobody else will listen. Only he and Paul remain at the side of the train as the rest of the passengers continue toward their destination.

He has successfully saved himself and Paul from certain disaster in the Keys. However, they are far from safe from danger. As they continue south, they end up stranded at the Cypress House, a boardinghouse run by the beautiful Rebecca Cady. The house is in the direct path of an approaching hurricane, but even the hurricane is the least of their worries. The isolated house is under the control of an even deadlier force that engulfs the whole county and Arlen desperately wants to escape its control before it is too late. However, things are further complicated by the fact that both he and Paul seem to be falling for Rebecca, and neither of them wants to leave her to face the coming danger alone.

How will they face the mysterious forces about to engulf them? Will a developing love-triangle complicate matters further, making it impossible for them to remain unified in the face of their common enemy? And what will Arlen do when he looks in the mirror and sees smoke in his own eyes? This book will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, and its ending will leave you longing for more from Michael Koryta.

Learn more about the author on his website.

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Christopher Lewis is an ongoing contributor to our Helping Hands section, and currently serving as interim pastor at Mountain Valley Community Church in Squaw Valley.



  1. Mystery Summer Reading Reviews of The Ridge & The Worst Thing | Kings River Life Magazine - [...] Check out KRL’s review of another of Michael Kortya’s books, The Cypress House. [...]

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