THROWBACK THURSDAY: THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD By Michael Koryta (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014)
With the cinematic release of Those Who Wish Me Dead being very imminent, I thought that I would revisit Michael Koryta’s novel before heading to the theatre to see the Angelina Jolie movie.
Those Who Wish Me Dead was released in 2014 and is simply a superb thriller that kept me riveted to the page until the emotional end.
At its core, Those Who Wish Me Dead is basically a dual chase novel with a young teenage boy, with the brave assistance of three adults, trying to keep one step ahead of a pair of psychotic killers and a growing firestorm. Jace Wilson is a witness to a professional murder involving the police, and has been hidden under a new name in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens in the remote Montana mountains. The coordinator of the program, Ethan Serbin, does not know which of the boys is Jace. All that he knows is that a pair of highly professional killers are on Jace’s trail and that the authorities cannot be trusted. What Ethan does not know is that the killers are very close and when he heads off into wilderness they are following. With a large bushfire flaring up, it is up to Ethan, his wife Allison and a troubled park fire spotter, Hannah Faber, to try and keep Jace safe.
Around this simple premise Koryta has crafted a powerful and exciting novel that twists and turns its way to a very tense climax. The plotting is clever, and repeatedly outsmarts the reader as the suspenseful chase through the mountains proceeds. The action is reasonably frequent and very violent, and there are some marvellous set pieces, especially an early one involving Allison and the killers. The story is also very textured and Koryta explores issues about overcoming grief and trauma and the lasting impact of childhood experiences, without slowing the story too much.
One of the book’s main pleasures are the finely crafted characters. They all grow and change with the story and the reader readily becomes caught up in their challenges. Even the two killers, the Blackwell brothers, are memorable and credible creations that would not be out of place in an Elmore Leonard novel. They are scary and lacking a moral centre, but are also darkly humorous at times. They are terrific villains who also cast a slight shadow over Koryta’s subsequent novel If She Wakes.
Rounding out the novel are some evocative descriptions of the Montana countryside and lots of interesting wilderness survival tips. The descriptions of the bushfire is also exceedingly good. My only very slight reservations relate to an unlikely plot twist and the occasional lapse in pace.
For me, Those Who Wish Me Dead is very close to being five out of five stars! Read the book, before seeing the movie!