Michael Koryta manages to make Indiana the coldest place on earth in his new novel LAST WORDS. The setting of this compelling story is Garrison, Indiana during the winter and Koryta describes every ice-chilling aspect in full detail as he hauls Investigator Markus Novak across this countryside. Novak is answering the summons of a man who doesn’t know if he did or didn’t kill a seventeen year old girl some ten years ago. Now that is an original premise and Koryta makes the most of it.
Novak is a man adrift in his life due to the murder of his girlfriend. He has tried to solve the murder with no success. In doing that investigation he made some decisions that were not ultimately in his best interest. Now his boss has sent him north from his Florida home in hopes this new case will give him some perspective. He gets him out of town quickly which results in Mark being in Indiana in the winter without only his Florida clothes on his back.
Once he arrives in Indiana he is plunged headfirst into the mystery of the murder of a girl. She was discovered by a man named Ridley Barnes. He found her in the depths of an underground cave system. Barnes does not recall how he found her or if he murdered her there before he brought her out. He hopes Novak can discover the truth whatever it is.
Koryta uses the elements of the winter in Indiana to add chill to his story. Then he overlays that with any reader’s feeling of claustrophobia by taking Novak deep down into the bowels of the earth. These isolated areas of tight space and total darkness play to all of our darkest fears. If Koryta wasn’t such a good writer these scenes would not be as intense, but he knows how to provide the words that make the experiences more and more horrible.
The author places his story in a unique landscape and creates a tale of drama, passion and darkness. Each and every character he creates is a fascinating one and each reveals his or her own special relationship which is key to the solving of the mystery. Leading it all is Novak, a man interesting enough to be the subject of many books to follow.
LAST WORDS is published by Little Brown. It contains 448 pages and sells for $26.00.
Jackie K Cooper