Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta: a book review

those who wish me dead

If you could find that and hold it there within yourself, a candle of self-confidence against the darkness, you could accomplish great things. He knew this. He’d been through it.

Fourteen year old Jace Wilson witnesses a murder-for-hire near his home in Indiana. Witness protection will not help, for the system has been compromised. U.S. Marshals appear to be involved. At the suggestion of an executive bodyguard, Jace’s parents send him to the Wyoming-Montana border, to the wilderness survival school for troubled youth that Ethan Serbin, a retired military survival expert teaches. Once he is in the wilderness, away from computers and cell phones, Jace will be safe, right?

Of course not. Even as Jace, who has been fearful all his life, begins to learn about trusting himself, about building confidence as he learns to build a fire with flint and steel, the killers, Jack and Patrick Blackwell, relentless sociopathic brothers, are  close behind. To hide the murder of a local sherif, the Blackwells set a hillside on fire that burns out of control and into the mountains where Ethan and his young charges are camped.

Realizing they’ve found him, Jace slips away by himself. Killers and searchers, Ethan and his injured wife, Jace and Hannah, a guilt-ridden fire lookout whose lover died in a wildfire saving her, struggle to survive mountain thunder storms, each other, and a fire that grows to monster size as it races into the high country.

I’ve reviewed three of Koryta’s books, including So Cold the River (2010), perhaps my all time favorite thriller. This one is just as good; I devoured it in less than two days. In Those Who Wish Me Dead, the author serves up a near perfect blend of sympathetic protagonists, villains who are fascinating in their complexity, and tension that is finely tuned, neither too loose nor too tight. There really aren’t that many books that I literally cannot put down, but Those Who Wish Me Dead was one.

Michael Koryta

Michael Koryta

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2 Responses to Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta: a book review

  1. Wow. This sounds like a perfect summer read. I will definitely check this out. With such a young protagonist, would you call this a tween book? Thanks for telling me about this. I’m looking forward to getting and reading it.

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    • I would not call it a tween book in that Ethan is of equal importance. Although it is definitely a coming of age tale for Jace, the dynamic reminds me of Jung’s idea of the youth and elder as dyad. I think you’ll find it riveting.

      Like

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