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THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD by Michael Koryta: Book Review

It all starts with a simple dare.  Fourteen-year-old Jace Wilson, fearful of heights, is challenged by a fellow student to jump from the Rooftop quarry into the water below, a sixty-five-foot drop.  Not only is there one hundred dollars riding on the challenge, money that Jace couldn’t pay if he lost the bet, but he would be shamed in front of the other students, particularly the girls.  No, he’d rather face death, or so he thinks, than let that happen.

So Jace dives into the water and hits a body, an even worse outcome than the rocks he feared.  Frantic, he looks around for the best way to exit the water and call for help when he hears a car’s motor.  Looking up, he’s relieved to see three men, two in police uniforms; he’s just about to shout out when he notices a third man, in handcuffs and wearing a hood.  Jace manages to slip into a crevice and is thus hidden when he sees the uniformed men push the handcuffed one into the water.

Ethan Serbin is a Montana mountain guide who has worked with the military to train people to survive extreme conditions.  Now he runs a program for troubled teenage boys, taking them on treks in the wilderness to turn them away from a life of crime.   Jamie Bennett, who was one of his students when he was working with the armed forces, drives through a blizzard to reach him and ask for his help in adding Jace to his summer program.  She tells Ethan that she has a witness to a horrendous crime and he needs to be “off the grid” until the trial begins after the summer.  Ethan agrees to add him to the program, not knowing which of the seven boys in this year’s summer program is Jace.

Hannah Faber is beginning work at a fire-tower cabin after a horrendous experience on Shepherd Mountain the previous year.  A member of a Hotshot Crew, a team of professional firefighters who work in the hottest spots of wildfires, Hannah is the survivor of a fire that killed fellow members of her crew as well as the family caught in the blaze.  Now too traumatized to continue as a hotshot, she’s taken a job as a lookout in search of fires.  It’s less stressful, but Hannah has brought her stress with her.

The novel is told in the third person from various points of view–Jace’s, Ethan’s, Hannah’s, and the two men who are looking for Jace in order to make certain that he doesn’t testify against them.  The men, remorseless killers who leave a number of bodies in their wake, are somehow getting closer each day to Jace, despite Jamie’s assurance to Ethan that she is “one hundred percent” certain that the murderers will never be able to locate the teen.

Michael Koryta has written a spellbinding page turner, the kind of book that you should not start before bedtime.  His characters are realistic, his plot will hold your interest to the last page.

You can read more about Michael Koryta at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


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